E.B. White or S.E. Hinton?
"Gone Girl" or "Gone With the Wind"?
Harry Potter or Holden Caulfield?
The Great American Read, a PBS initiative that celebrates the joy of reading, is urging readers everywhere to explore a list of 100 beloved novels or series, read the selections — as many as they care to tackle, anyway — and vote for their favorites.
"It's creating a conversation around books," said Sarah Bagby, owner of Watermark Books and Cafe in Wichita. "And that's always good."
New displays at Watermark and the Wichita Public Library are promoting the project with posters, bookmarks, stickers and checklists that trumpet its provocative catchphrase: "100 books. 1 winner."
KPTS, Wichita's local public broadcasting station, has teamed up with the Wichita Community Foundation to promote the campaign and sponsor displays at 75 libraries in south-central Kansas, said Jennifer Keller, marketing director for the station. The station also plans to broadcast brief interviews with local librarians and others about their favorite books from the list.
According to PBS, the list of America's 100 favorite novels was selected through a demographically representative national survey conducted by YouGov. The chosen books span five centuries, from "Don Quixote," which was published in 1603, to Jason Reynolds' "Ghost," a middle-grade novel published in 2016. Authors from 15 different countries are represented.
Selections include classics such as "1984," "Pride and Prejudice" and "Great Expectations;" young-adult novels such as "A Separate Peace," "The Giver" and "Looking for Alaska;" fantasy series such as Harry Potter and "A Game of Thrones;" mysteries such as "And Then There Were None" and "The Da Vinci Code;" and modern bestsellers such as "Twilight," "The Shack," and "Fifty Shades of Grey."
Voting began following a two-hour broadcast last month that featured interviews with celebrities, authors, superfans and everyday Americans explaining how particular books have influenced their lives or popular culture.
Over the summer, participants can vote once a day at pbs.org/greatamericanread or through hashtag voting via Facebook and Twitter using #GreatReadPBS. The PBS series will resume in September, with seven episodes leading up to a finale in October that will reveal "America's best-loved novel."
Sarah Kittrell, collection development manager for the Wichita Public Library, said local library branches have 1,182 copies of Great American Read titles, and about 32 percent were checked out as of Wednesday.
Sheryl Esau, an avid reader from Wichita, said she was "embarrassed" to discover she had read fewer than 20 books on the list, so she promptly set out to read more. Since the list was published she has read "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Ghost."
"There are a lot of books I have been planning to read anyway, so this moved them up the list," said Esau, 54, a maintenance engineer at Textron Aviation. Two more novels she'd like to get to quickly: "The Outsiders" and "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Esau said she goes online every day to vote for her two favorites — "A Prayer for Owen Meany" and "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," both of which she read within the past year.
She also participates in the Great American Read Facebook book club. Esau posted a question there recently asking for recommendations for a Stephen King novel, because she'd never read anything by King. (She considered reading "The Stand," she said, but it's nearly 1,200 pages, so she'd prefer to start smaller.)
The Great American Read, like the Wichita Eagle #ReadICT Challenge group, "gives readers a way to connect to each other," Esau said.
"I think a lot of readers are somewhat loners," she said. "So this is a great way to get together in person or online and talk about what we're reading. I also think it's getting people to read more."
The Great American Read list
Here is the full list of America's 100 favorite novels, according to PBS, in alphabetical order by title:
- "1984," George Orwell
- "A Confederacy of Dunces," John Kennedy Toole
- "A Prayer for Owen Meany," John Irving
- "A Separate Peace," John Knowles
- "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," Betty Smith
- "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," Mark Twain
- "The Alchemist," Paulo Coelho
- "Alex Cross" mysteries (series), James Patterson
- "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," Lewis Carroll
- "Americanah," Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- "And Then There Were None," Agatha Christie
- "Anne of Green Gables," L.M. Montgomery
- "Another Country," James Baldwin
- "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand
- "Beloved," Toni Morrison
- "Bless Me, Ultima," Rudolfo Anaya
- "The Book Thief," Markus Zusak
- "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," Junot Diaz
- "The Call of the Wild," Jack London
- "Catch-22," Joseph Heller
- "The Catcher in the Rye," J.D. Salinger
- "Charlotte's Web," E.B. White
- "The Chronicles of Narnia" (series), C.S. Lewis
- "The Clan of the Cave Bear," Jean M. Auel
- "The Coldest Winter Ever," Sister Souljah
- "The Color Purple," Alice Walker
- "The Count of Monte Cristo," Alexandre Dumas
- "Crime and Punishment," Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- "The Curious Incident of the Dog int he Night-Time," Mark Haddon
- "The Da Vinci Code," Dan Brown
- "Don Quixote," Miguel de Cervantes
- "Dona Barbara," Romulo Gallegos
- "Dune," Frank Herbert
- "Fifty Shades of Grey" (series), E.L. James
- "Flowers in the Attic," V.C. Andrews
- "Foundation" (series), Isaac Asimov
- "Frankenstein," Mary Shelley
- "A Game of Thrones" (series), George R.R. Martin
- "Ghost," Jason Reynolds
- "Gilead," Marilynne Robinson
- "The Giver," Lois Lowry
- "The Godfather," Mario Puzo
- "Gone Girl," Gillian Flynn
- "Gone with the Wind," Margaret Mitchell
- "The Grapes of Wrath," John Steinbeck
- "Great Expectations," Charles Dickens
- "The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald
- "Gulliver's Travels," Jonathan Swift
- "The Handmaid's Tale," Margaret Atwood
- "Harry Potter" (series), J.K. Rowling
- "Hatchett" (series), Gary Paulsen
- "Heart of Darkness," Joseph Conrad
- "The Help," Kathryn Stockett
- "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," Douglas Adams
- "The Hunger Games" (series), Suzanne Collins
- "The Hunt for Red October," Tom Clancy
- "The Intuitionist," Colson Whitehead
- "Invisible Man," Ralph Ellison
- "Jane Eyre," Charlotte Bronte
- "The Joy Luck Club," Amy Tan
- "Jurassic Park," Michael Crichton
- "Left Behind" (series), Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
- "The Little Prince," Antoine de Saint-Exupery
- "Little Women," Louisa May Alcott
- "Lonesome Dove," Larry McMurtry
- "Looking for Alaska," John Green
- "The Lord of the Rings" (series), J.R.R. Tolkien
- "The Lovely Bones," Alice Sebold
- "The Martian," Andy Weir
- "Memoirs of a Geisha," Arthur Golden
- "Mind Invaders," Dave Hunt
- "Moby-Dick," Herman Melville
- "The Notebook," Nicholas Sparks
- "One Hundred Years of Solitude," Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- "Outlander" (series), Diana Gabaldon
- "The Outsiders," S.E. Hinton
- "The Picture of Dorian Gray," Oscar Wilde
- "The Pilgrim's Progress," John Bunyan
- "The Pillars of the Earth," Ken Follett
- "Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen
- "Ready Player One," Ernest Cline
- "Rebecca," Daphne du Maurier
- "The Shack," William P. Young
- "Siddhartha," Hermann Hesse
- "The Sirens of Titan," Kurt Vonnegut
- "The Stand," Stephen King
- "The Sun Also Rises," Ernest Hemingway
- "Swan Song," Robert R. McCammon
- "Tales of the City" (series), Armistead Maupin
- "Their Eyes Were Watching God," Zora Neale Hurston
- "Things Fall Apart," Chinua Achebe
- "This Present Darkness," Frank E. Peretti
- "To Kill a Mockingbird," Harper Lee
- "The Twilight Saga" (series), Stephenie Meyer
- "War and Peace," Leo Tolstoy
- "Watchers," Dean Koontz
- "The Wheel of Time" (series), Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
- "Where the Red Fern Grows," Wilson Rawls
- "White Teeth," Zadie Smith
- "Wuthering Heights," Emily Bronte
This content was created with support from Impact Literacy, a strategic initiative of the Wichita Community Foundation.