Introduction: Fall Kick-off (03:39)
The fall kickoff of “The Great American Read” begins with a montage of Gayle King, Neil deGrasse Tyson and other celebrities discussing their love of reading. Host Meredith Vieira explains how America’s Bookshelf, a list of 100 popular books, was compiled.
Iconic Boy Heroes (05:26)
The series revisits Mark Twain’s iconic novel, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and Harry Potter, the protagonist of J.K. Rowling’s bestselling fantasy series. Fans of the latter, which include presidential daughter Chelsea Clinton, explain why that series is so special.
Reading Recommendations (02:04)
Musician Will Wheaton, actress Gabrielle Union and other celebrities encourage people to read some of their favorite books. Authors Jason Reynolds, Gillian Flynn, Nicholas Sparks and Diana Gabaldon provide insight into their creative process.
E.B. White Classic (02:06)
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 residents. It is the story of a pig that is saved from slaughter by the eponymous spider.
"Another Country" (03:26)
Author James Baldwin’s third novel is set in New York and Paris in the 1950s. It revolves around a bisexual jazz musician named Rufus Scott. Bill T. Jones, the artistic director or New York Live Arts, explains how the book taught him about a wider world.
Tales of Faith (02:14)
“The Pilgrim’s Progress,” “Gilead” and other novels that explore spiritual and religious themes scored big on the reading survey. Tennis player Venus Williams explains why C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” inspires her. Comedian George Lopez describes how reading “Siddhartha” changed his perspective.
Nigerian Classic (01:58)
Chinua Achebe’s "Things Fall Apart" has been translated into more than 50 languages and sold more than 15 million copies. It follows the tragic fall of a village hero who stands up against 19th century Christian missionaries.
Jane Austen’s magnum opus, "Pride & Prejudice," follows Elizabeth Bennett, the second of five sisters in a family of excellent reputation but little means. This literary classic is celebrated by Huntington Beach, California’s Jane Austen Society of North America.
Great Reads for Young People (01:39)
Chelsea Clinton discusses her love of “Where the Red Fern Grows,” suggesting that readers keep a hankie handy. Others share their favorite young adult novels, which include Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games,” Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and Sister Souljah’s “The Coldest Winter Ever.”
Down the Rabbit Hole (03:02)
Actress Cynthia Nixon recalls getting a vintage copy of Lewis Carroll’s classic fantasy, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” from her grandfather. "Sisters First" authors Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush discuss their longtime love of reading. Astronaut Leland Melvin praises Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince.”
Popular Crime Writers (02:50)
Novelist James Patterson cites influences that range from Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” to Gabriel Garcia’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” Agatha Christie’s bestselling mystery is “And Then There Were None.” She strayed from popular characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple to write it.
Female Writers and Characters (03:41)
Amy Tan’s debut novel follows four sets of Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters. Other female authors on the popular novels list include Zadie Smith, Stephanie Meyer and Margaret Atwood. Books with strong female heroes include “The Lovely Bones,” “Dona Barbara” and “Americanah.”
Prize Winners, Ahead of Their Time (02:25)
There are several prize winners on the list, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s “Americanah” and Toni Morrison’s tragic “Beloved.” Zora Neale Hurston, Joseph Conrad and others died long before their most iconic works of fiction were widely recognized.
Fantastic Voyages (03:13)
Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” is about a mad captain’s quest to kill the whale that bit his leg off. Other books on the list detail fantastical adventures, including Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels,” the favorite novel of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
"Fear is the Mind Killer" (03:56)
Frank Herbert’s “Dune” may be the bestselling science fiction novel of all time, but it had humble beginnings as it was serialized by a publisher that was better known for auto repair guides. Its hero is Paul Atreides, who leads a rebellion against the evil Harkonen.
Real Ghost Writer (05:12)
Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” was first published as a serial in a San Francisco Bay area newspaper in 1976. Maupin discusses the context in which the book was written and what it meant to gay readers.
Love in the Roaring Twenties (02:28)
“Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin recalls the impression that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” made on him in his 20s. It is the story of newly minted millionaire Jay Gatsby, who is desperate to win the affections of Daisy, a married woman.
Credits: Fall Kick-off (00:26)
Credits: Fall Kick-off
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