PBS wrapped up its summer-long Great American Read project this Tuesday, with a special unveiling the final rankings for the 100 favorite novels and crowning one America’s most-loved. There were definitely surprises, and as the special explained, a few upsets and photo-finishes, but mostly this was a fun opportunity to get to hear and talk about books, and I hope PBS is able to follow-up with some similar programming.
Back in May, I did a post highlighting my top picks, and I’m pleased to report that voters seemed to agreed with me on their value. Here are some of the results:
The Top 5:
- To Kill A Mockingbird – As if winning wasn’t impressive enough, this novel took the lead from the first week of voting, and never left the top spot!
- Outlander – I haven’t read this one, nor have I watched the TV series based on it, so maybe that explains my confusion as to how it not only ranked so high, but even beat out the behemoth Harry Potter fandom.
- Harry Potter (series) – I was pretty certain this one would crack the Top 5. Honestly, I was afraid it might run away with the title just because it’s such a cultural presence right now and the fandom is so widespread.
- Pride & Prejudice – I expected this one to make Top 20, but I wasn’t sure how high it could go with such stiff competition. How wrong I was to doubt it!
- Lord of the Rings (series) – I know the fandom is strong for this one, but even so I was surprised to see it crack Top 5. While I like the idea of the story, I tried reading it in middle school but couldn’t get through it.
Where My Picks Landed:
- #9 The Chronicles of Narnia (series) – This is my absolute favorite and I’m so happy it cracked Top 10!
- #19 And Then There Were None – I’m excited but also surprised that this one made Top 20 with so much competition.
- #44 The Giver – I’m not surprised to see this one in the middle of the pack. Though I first read it as a class assignment, it’s not old enough for previous generations to have had that opportunity, nor prevalent enough that every student has been exposed to it yet, though I heartily recommend they give it a try.
- #31 Where the Red Fern Grows – It made my heart happy to see my first “real” read made the top third of the list. I knew it was a classic then, and this just proves it!
- #15 The Great Gatsby – As a common required reading in high school (and probably the one most completed by students due to its brevity), and with two movie versions made in the past 20 years, I’m not surprised this one did well in the ranking.
Also of Note:
- My mom’s favorite, Little Women, came in at #8, beating all of my picks except Harry Potter. It apparently held the #8 position for the duration of the vote, which is impressive.
- Like me, my dad picked Where the Red Fern Grows (#31), but his next choice would have likely been The Call of the Wild, which landed at #37.
- War and Peace came in at #50, exactly halfway on the list, which I feel is pretty perfect. It’s one of those books that you want to say you’ve finished it and you want to say you liked it, but it’s an enormous undertaking, so not many actually do. I can only say I’ve watched the mini-series version.
- I’m kind of surprised that Game of Thrones (series) came in at only #48. I thought its cultural presence right now would push it higher.
- According to the special, Rebecca (#25) and The Stand (#24) were in a very tight race at the end, as were The Book Thief (#14) and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (#13).
- The special often referenced statistics about voting in each state, but I can find no full information on that. I would love to see PBS put out a map listing the top 10 books by state and how that compares. Can someone make this happen?
If you’re curious about how the other books did, or maybe just need a refresher on what else was on the list, you can read the full rankings here. Anything you find especially surprising or gratifying? Let me know what your favorites were and where they ranked in the comments!