The American Idol of Books

Kasey Cox
Bookmatchmaker. Lover of cats, old quilts, ugly sweaters. Proud wife, sister & auntie, daughter.

Jun 05,2018

On May 22, PBS launched an 8-part TV series to explore and celebrate the power of fiction books. The first episode will be a 2-hour special, reviewing the list of 100 books chosen for “The Great American Read.” The last episode will air in October 2018, revealing the winner chosen through the summer voting process.

Here at our bookstore, when I tell people about the crazy cross-section of books on the GAR list, I usually explain it like this: this list features 100 books that have made the greatest impact on American culture. So the list has award-winners and classics, but it also has the books you saw on the rack at the local drugstore, next to every beach towel, and hidden under your wife’s side of the bed. There are books you had to read for freshman comp and books that were made into huge movie franchises. The list includes every genre and spans from 1605 (the original edition of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote — for GAR, the books must have been translated into English) to 2016 (Jason Reynolds’ book for middle readers, Ghost).

To include as many books as possible, each author is limited to one book, unless that author’s series was chosen. Hence, there is only one title from Kurt Vonnegut, Jane Austen, or Nicholas Sparks. A series represents only one entry on the list. There are 14 series included, ranging from Patterson’s Alex Cross mysteries to Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter to E.L. James’ steamy ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.

PBS hopes to demonstrate the power of reading, as this series engages people across all different platforms, and encourages lively discussions on the titles selected — and those not selected — for this list.

People can vote once a day from each form of media for their favorite book on the list. Voters can use one email address, one Facebook account, one telephone call, and one vote through PBS’s website, per day, to vote for their favorites. Voting has already begun. One friend recently joked that this is ‘the American Idol of fiction books!’

We suggest that readers (and potential voters!) print the Great American Read list from the PBS website; check of all the books they have already read (even if it was more than a decade ago); and then choose two or three books they’ll read before October. These titles are great ideas for required summer reading, for book clubs, or for something different to take on vacation this year.

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