Ingram Blog

Everything You Need to Know About the Great American Read

Ann Cox, MLS, Collection Development Librarian
Are you caught up in The Great American Read fever yet? It seems that no matter where I look, everyone has an opinion on the 100 books that made the list, let alone what book should be the top pick for America’s favorite fiction title. (Sorry, nonfiction fans: they weren’t considered for this list.) Kicking off on May 22, the eight-part PBS series will include interviews with authors, celebrities, notable Americans, and regular book lovers across the country, all advocating for their favorite book. Themed episodes explore the concepts behind the books, how readers are affected by these stories, and what their status in the American psyche says about us as a diverse nation with a shared human experience. Voting will take place throughout the summer and fall, leading up to the final episode to reveal the results of nationwide voting and crown America’s best-loved novel.

As librarians, we’re sure to have thoughts about the books that made the list, whether to cheer on our favorite titles or lament some of the poll’s choices. The 100 titles represent a vast array of reading tastes, from classics such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to popular bestsellers such as I, Alex Cross by James Patterson. Children’s and teen literature is well represented, with expected mainstays such as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery competing against classroom favorites like Ghost by Jason Reynolds. Genre classics such as Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and Dean Koontz’s Watchers will go up against literary fiction like White Teeth by Zadie Smith. With this list, anything is possible: The Pilgrim’s Progress and Fifty Shades of Grey are both in the running. The range of novels truly shows the disparate opinions of a country full of readers.

Libraries across the country can get in on the fun by participating in the discussion and creating events that encourage customers to talk about the books on the Great American Read list. PBS sponsored grants to 50 American libraries for books and series-focused programming. Their events include book clubs, trivia nights, advance screenings of the series, author talks, crafts, storytelling events, art contests, and more.

Even if your library wasn’t among the lucky few chosen for a grant, you can easily incorporate The Great American Read into your summer and fall programming. Explore the website for links to social media, downloadable posters, and ways to share readers’ own stories. Set up a voting display to find your community’s best-loved novel or use the existing list and let your patrons decide which book they would rank at the top. A companion book, The Great American Read: The Book of Books, releases on August 21 and is sure to have plenty of useful information for libraries, including author profiles, material on each novel’s significance, little-known facts, and film and television adaptations. Goodreads is also hosting a massive summer reading challenge, sponsored by The Great American Read, with lots of ways to try new books and find some new favorites.

Which ones are your favorites? This summer get excited about talking books with your friends, family, and patrons. Champion your favorite and listen to what your neighbors enjoy. We’re a united nation of readers!


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