What is Your Favorite Novel? (03:09)
“The Great American Read” is a campaign to choose the most beloved novel from a list of 100 selected by survey respondents. TV personality Meredith Vieira hosts. Morgan Freeman, Neil deGrasse Tyson and other celebrities discuss the power of reading.
"Game of Thrones"
The search for America’s favorite novel begins with George R.R. Martin’s popular fantasy series, “A Song of Fire and Ice.” The author discusses favorite novel, J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings,” a great influence on his own work.
Vote Early and Often (01:36)
Musician Will Wheaton, actress Gabrielle Union and others comment on the thrill of reading and their favorite books. Journalist and presidential daughter Jenna Bush Hager raves about “The Book Thief,” while actress Diane Lane prefers “Clan of the Cave Bear,” and Ming-Na Wen recommends “The Help.”
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (01:42)
Many Missourians are likely to cast a vote for their home state hero, Mark Twain. He educated himself in the library and traveled the world, producing dozens of short stories and 16 novels along the way. Among them were “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”
"Things Fall Apart" (02:14)
“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” was translated into dozens of languages, as was the signature novel of Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, which has sold more than 15 million copies globally. It follows the tragic fall of Okonkwo, village hero who stands up against 19th century Christian missionaries.
Hogwarts Rules! (04:01)
One in 15 homes has a copy of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (which counts as a single book, according to voting rules.) Among the fans of the series is presidential daughter Chelsea Clinton. The books inspired Chicago’s Eliyannah Amirah Yisrael to create her own web series.
"Great Expectations" (02:55)
Rowling, John Steinbeck, Stephanie Meyer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and William Paul Young all greatly increased their station in life by publishing signature works. Among the greatest rags to riches stories is Charles Dickens, who used elements of his own life to create his iconic character, Pip.
"Cather in the Rye," YA Fiction (04:31)
J.D. Salinger had six chapters of his best-known novel in his pocket when he landed at Normandy on D-Day. This seminal work of young adult fiction follows a troubled youth, Holden Caulfield, as he tries to make sense of the world.
Teen Writes Classic, Pen Names (05:00)
Tulsa native Susan Hinton is best known for “The Outsiders,” a novel she finished when she was just 16. Rapper Danny Boy of House of Pain is a big fan of this story of rival gangs, the Greasers and the Socs.
"Gulliver's Travels," Presidential Daughters (02:31)
Jonathan Swift is the author of an iconic, satirical travelogue that lampooned many of his contemporaries, especially in the scientific community. It is astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s favorite novel. "Sisters First" authors Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush discuss their love of reading.
Tales of Absurd Quests (02:20)
There are pairs of books on the best loved list that seem to be linked across time. For example, writer Walter Isaacson describes John Kennedy Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces” as “’Don Quixote’ set in New Orleans.”
Alice Walker's Signature Novel (04:12)
Published in 1982, “The Color Purple” is the first novel by a woman of color to win the Pulitzer Prize. Actress Gabrielle Union explains why she loves the book, which tells the story of Celie, a rural sharecropper’s daughter growing up in rural Georgie in the 1930s.
Wilson Rawls (02:50)
Some polls rank Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” second in popularity among Americans behind only the Bible. It features one of the most powerful and provocative female lead characters in American literature.
Clinton's Favorite (02:37)
Chelsea Clinton discusses her love of Wilson Rawls’s “Where the Red Fern Grows.” Survey participants would not have gotten to vote for the book had Rawls not rewritten it after burning the original manuscript. Mario Puzo, Tim Haye, Jerry B. Jenkins, Ayn Rand, and Tom Clancy were also published against the odds.
Sci Fi Touchstone (04:09)
Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” the bestselling science fiction novel of all time, was originally released in serial form by a publisher that was better known for auto repair guides. The book depicts a deadly conflict over a limited natural resource—the spice.
E.B. White's Classic (03:17)
Authors Jason Reynolds, Gillian Flynn, Nicholas Sparks, and Diana Gabaldon provide insight into their creative process. Kids from Brooklin, Maine discuss what they have gotten out of “Charlotte’s Web,” a classic written by one of the town’s most famous native sons.
Addressing Moral Questions (02:47)
John Irving addresses the basis for religious belief in “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” the story of a lifelong friendship between two boys. One of Irving’s biggest fans, Pastor Tim Suttle, puts the author’s words to work in Olathe, Kansas.
Ahead of Their Time (01:48)
Some authors on the favorite books list were dead and gone long before their works saw any success. They include Joseph Conrad and Zora Neale Hurston. The latter’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” might have faded into obscurity if not for the efforts of Alice Walker.
American Shakespeare (02:43)
Herman Melville died believing his most famous novel, “Moby Dick,” was an absolute failure. Scholar Mary K. Bercaw Edwards praises the epic tale, which follows mad Captain Ahab’s quest to slay the White Whale that bit off his leg.
AKA "First Impressions" (02:44)
A member of the Jane Austen Society of North America praises Austen’s magnum opus, “Pride & Prejudice.” The story centers around Elizabeth Bennett, the second of five sisters in a family of excellent reputation but little means.
Novels and War (03:18)
Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca” and Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” both have ties to World War II. Ralph Ellison’s only finished novel was meant as a war story, but instead it detailed black Americans’ battle for equality and self-determination.
Sympathetic Monster (02:48)
Novelist Christopher Bollen, the Bush sisters and others discuss the appeal (or lack thereof) of horror. Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is considered both a classic horror tale and the first science fiction novel. Actress Allison Williams finds herself strangely identifying with the monster.
Master of Fear (04:19)
In Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic horror-fantasy novel “The Stand,” a super-virus is accidentally released from a military facility, resulting in the end of civilization. Fan Gerald Winters describes how the novel impacted his life; he owns a bookstore that is devoted to the author.
Belief and Hermann Hesse Classic (02:22)
Tennis player Venus Williams loves C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Novels about faith scored big on the survey; among them were “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” “Mind Invaders,” “This Present Darkness,” and “Gilead.” Comedian George Lopez says he is not the same person as before he read “Siddhartha.”
Banned Books (07:33)
Rudolfo Anaya’s “Bless Me, Ultima”was pulled from library shelves after Arizona passed a law banning Mexican-American studies. Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale” depicts a world in which a religious sect fobids women to read. “Catch-22” was banned in Strongsville, Ohio.
From Old West to Tragic Past (02:25)
Larry McMurty’s “Lonesome Dove” follows a group of retired Texas Rangers who try to revive the excitement of their youth with a cattle drive. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as did Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” which tackles the horrors of slavery.
Landmark of Gay Literature (01:32)
Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” was first published as a serial in a San Francisco paper in 1976. Maupin describes the context in which the book was written, “a world that told gay people to sit down and shut up.”
Great Literary Escapes (04:26)
Actor Cynthia Nixon believes Lewis Carroll’s iconic fantasy tale, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” is as captivating as when it was first written in the 19th century. Astronaut Leland Melvin praises Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince.” Freeman prefers Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.”
Autistic Character, Children's Stories (01:32)
Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” was published in separate editions for adult and young readers. The story is narrated by a 15-year-old amateur sleuth with symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. Actor Mickey Rowe relates to this protagonist.
Dramatic Career Shifts (02:55)
Haddon was best known for his children’s stories before “Curious Incident,” but he is not the only author on the list whose career has taken twists and turns. Oscar Wilde, for example, was a playwright and poet before venturing into fiction with “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
Bestselling Author at Home (01:38)
Author James Patterson gives a tour of his home. He highlights books that have influenced his writing and explains the circumstances that led to him becoming an author. He says his favorite novel is Gabriel Garcia’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
"To Kill a Mockingbird" (05:25)
Harper Lee is a giant of American literature, though she had only one published novel for most of her career. Lawyer Bryan Stevenson and his client, Anthony Ray Hinton, discuss the story of a black man who is on trial after being falsely accused of raping a white woman.
"Joy Luck Club" (02:31)
Amy Tan’s debut novel tells the story of four sets of Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters. Actress Ming-Na Wen discusses how the novel conveys the immigrant and Asian-American experience while telling a universal story about family.
"Another Country" (03:23)
Author James Baldwin once described himself as “an unwilling instrument of truth.” Bill T. Jones, the artistic director or New York Live Arts, explains why he loves the author’s third novel. Its story is set in New York and Paris in the 1950s, and it revolves around jazz musician Rufus Scott.
Final Book (04:01)
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is the tale of a Midwesterner who falls in with a group of New York socialites at the height of the Roaring Twenties. Newly minted millionaire Jay Gatsby is desperate to win the affections of Daisy, a married woman.
Credits: Launch (00:41)
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