The Great American Read

Did you want The Great American read on PBS?  I missed it the night it came out but caught it online.  Here’s a link if you want to learn more about it.  We have a Roku for streaming and watching shows so I downloaded the PBS app and was able to watch it from there.  Kelli watched it with me.

The premise of the show is to pick the favorite book of all times….wow, that’s a monumental task.

I enjoyed listening to the show as I picked up on a few books that I’d like to read and also came out with another take.  I want to go back and read some of the books.

Who had to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in high school….ME!  I did.  I remember reading it and liking it.  I remember Aunt Polly and whitewashing the fence but I don’t remember everything else from it.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer cover

I also remember reading 1984 in high school…also required reading….  We graduated in 1984 so the English teachers having us read it was almost a necessity.  I remember “Big Brother”…but again, not a lot else.

1984 cover

…and Grapes of Wrath… I remember all of us making jokes about how in the opening in takes pages and pages for the turtle to cross the road.  I don’t remember a lot more than that.

The Grapes of Wrath cover

Some I read on my own as a teen…and loved them so much I read them again as an adult….Anne of Green Gables, I read the whole series.

Anne of Green Gables cover

The Outsiders.  Oh my I loved that book.  I learned that the author was in high school when she wrote the book…Oh I wanted to be her.  I still love this book.

The Outsiders cover

I read Flowers in the Attic and remember trying to keep it away from my mom so she didn’t know….

Flowers in the Attic cover

..and a list of mine wouldn’t be complete without To Kill a Mockingbird.  Again..I’ve read this several times.

To Kill a Mockingbird cover
I was an English major in college…I was required to read so many books….  I have little to say about any of them.  We were required to read them over the span of about 4 days each.  There was no time to “enjoy” them.  No time at all.  I think I read more of the “Cliff Notes” version than I read of the books.  This kind of makes me sad.

Jane Eyre cover

Wuthering Heights cover

The Picture of Dorian Gray cover

Some I read to my kids and love myself….the Hatchet series.  YES please!!
Hatchet (Series) cover

Some I read as an adult…..

The Lovely Bones cover

The Help cover

The Hunger Games (Series) cover

Gone Girl cover

and this one I just read and reviewed here on the blog.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time cover

Kelli was watching with me and was a little miffed about some of the selections like…
Fifty Shades of Grey (Series) cover

I explained to Kelli that for some people, this is one of the only books they’ve read.  I also explained that at the time The Adventures of Tom Sawyer came out, it was probably the most popular book.  We’ve just gone a little down hill as a society in terms of what we think is literature.

I did find some I want to read….

Looking for Alaska cover

Their Eyes Were Watching God cover

A Prayer for Owen Meany cover

But…in the end, there is always my forever favorites….two books.A Tree Grows in Brooklyn…

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn cover
and Gone with the Wind.

Gone with the Wind cover

After looking at the list cone thing I did come to realize is that I love books with a strong woman character.  I love books that make me think.  I love books that are “coming of age” stories.  There were quite a few fantasy books on the list and they have never been something I like.  Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia are just not something I enjoy.  I like predictable and normal.  I’ve never been a fantasy girl and remember cringing all the way through The Hobbit.

One thing I do know…I am going to be looking for a few of these books and adding them to my reading list.  Many of them are actually books I read back a long time ago….Like Where the Red Fern Grows and Call of the Wild and 1984.  I am curious to know what I’d think of them as an adult.  During the show one of the authors they interviewed said that books can touch us in different ways and at different times as we travel through life.  I wonder if I read that passage about the turtle crossing the road in Grapes of Wrath if I might understand why the author put it in the book…at the time, I thought is was ridiculous.  I also know that I’d love to read The Great Gatsby again….I did like that one the first time around.

Ah…Books, books, books.  I do love them.  My daughter Kayla happened to have written a blog post about the same show, “The Great American Read”.  You can check out her take on it by going to her blog Pin’s Needles.  You can also keep up with her saga of her dog Tony who has been having a tough time of things lately.  She’s been blogging often now so you might want to check that out.

Did you watch the show?  How did you feel about the books that made the list?  Me…I’m off to vote.  At the end of the summer they will be doing another show and reveal America’s favorite book.

12 thoughts on “The Great American Read”

  1. Barbara Willoughby

    I love “The Mitford Series” (8 books so far) by Jan Karon. Also, a long time ago, A Walk Across America and The Walk West by Peter Jenkins.

  2. Oh Jo! A Prayer for Owen Meany changed my whole life in college: as did A Handmaid’s Tale. I think I read The Hobbit 3 times in 8th grade and have been meaning to get back and read it again. I have loved every book that Adriana Trigiani has written, I am just finishing Kiss Carlo as my commute audio book. Jenny Lawson’s books on her struggles with mental illness have changed my perception and understanding of people in my community. My job as a MS librarian is to hopefully help students find the book that lets them escape reality and hooks them on the pure bliss that a good book can bring. I will have to go see if I can watch the show.

  3. I was exposed to books and reading at an early age so I love books, the idea of holding one in my hands and turning the pages makes me a happy soul. I have tried books on tape, reading on my tablet etc but I still prefer a book. I will have to check out this on PBS and see what I may have missed.

  4. Yes I saw the show too. Some books I read, some I knew about but didn’t read , some titles were new to me. I have to update my reading list.

  5. When my son was in high school, he had to read Huckleberry Finn. It’s written in the vernacular of the time and even I had trouble understanding it. We downloaded the audiobook and he read along with it. Otherwise, he’d never have finished it.

  6. Janet Melanson

    A tree grows in Brooklyn is also a favorite of mine and as a Canadian from the Maritimes I have read ALL of LM Montgomery ‘s books….I would recommend The Blue Castle as a favorite

  7. Parade Magazine had the list of America’s 100 favorite books, so I counted through them and found I had read about 30 of them. As I looked them over to see what book I would choose as America’s favorite book, I thrilled to A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. That book has something in it for every age and person. That is my choice.

  8. Great post, Jo!
    I have always loved to read, and still go through periods of time when I read almost every day. One book that I have read many times is The Christmas Quilt, by Jennifer Chiavarini (spelling of the last name is probably not correct!)…. I know it is not a classic, and there are plenty of classics on my favorites list, but for some reason this book just speaks to me. I read it every fall…
    A number of years ago, my husband gave me a Nook eReader. At first, I thought I wouldn’t enjoy having it because I have always loved that “turning the page” thing that another commenter mentioned. But I couldn’t imagine not having it now…..I still go to the library on a regular basis, but having the Nook makes it so easy to take books with me when we travel. I have about 300 books loaded, and can just pop the Nook in my purse …. I have a whole inventory of books at my fingertips!!
    Sorry….didn’t mean to go on and on!! But reading is my other favorite hobby, along with quilting!!
    I am going to see if I can access the show on PBS, through On Demand….sounds like a show I definitely want to watch!
    Thanks again for a great post!

  9. “A Prayer For Owen Meany” is one of my favourites. Both my husband and I have read all of John Irving’s books. We love them all, and can’t wait for the next to come out!

  10. Some of my favorites as a kid were The Box Car Children series and Encylopedia Brown series. My all time favourite book is Gone with the Wind. Angela’s Ashes is another adult favorite! I absolutely must read books and not ebooks! I love the smell of a book and love to turn the pages! My husband will now only read ebooks!

  11. Jo, if you haven’t read Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver I truly loved that book. When I finished it I went back to the beginning and read it again. For nonfiction both my husband and I loved River of Doubt by Candice Millard–engrossing story of one of Teddy Roosevelt’s adventures. Right now my book group is reading Personal History, Katharine Graham–very good too.

  12. In short, I am super excited when there’s a reading campaign with a prayer of getting nonreaders interested in reading. I believe in the power of books. A good book and a little imagination can take you anywhere! I haven’t had a chance to finish watching the episode yet, but I took the quiz and printed the list of books. I’ve read over a third of them (that I can recall; if I wasn’t sure, I didn’t give myself credit for it). I don’t think literary quality was a criterion for a book getting on the list; I think it is just a favorite books list. Many of the books are clearly books from school reading lists, and for nonreaders, those books, being the few they’ve read, would qualify as “favorites.” I’m all for anybody reading anything just so long as they are reading, so while Fifty Shades of Grey has never been on my reading radar, it certainly was popular there for a time and several nonreaders I know actually read it. As for voting for a favorite, my all-time favorite, Silas Marner by George Eliot, isn’t on the list, so I’ll probably vote for Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None as representative of one of the best examples of my favorite genre.

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