Segments in this Video

Introduction: Heroes (02:50)


Comedian Seth Meyers, tennis champion Venus Williams and other celebrities define what it means to be a hero. Many of the books on the “Great American Read” list centers around inspiring heroes, as series host Meredith Vieira explains.

Katniss Everdeen (06:51)

Hero stories teach us something about ourselves and reveal what we value as a society, says “Untangling Heroism” author Ari Kohen. The “Hunger Games” trilogy and other books on the list feature ordinary people who become special in the face of adversity.

Alex Cross (03:16)

James Patterson says most of the people he writes about are everyday heroes. The protagonist of “Along Came a Spider” has gone on to star in one of the most successful book series of all time, with 24 installments and counting.

Aibileen Clark (02:18)

“The Help” is among the stories on the favorite books list that are set during significant periods in American history. The novel is set in Jim Crow-era Mississippi where its protagonist peels back the curtain to reveal what it is like to work as a maid.

Cold War Hero (03:34)

CIA analyst Jack Ryan is the hero of “The Hunt for Red October” and other Tom Clancy novels. In “Red October,” one of the Soviet Union’s best submarine captains attempts to escape to the United States in a stealth submarine.

Lois Lowry's Everyday Hero (03:11)

“The Giver” is a selection for the nationally acclaimed Free Minds Book Club, which caters to prison inmates in Washington, DC. The novel follows 12-year-old Jonas, who lives in the Community, a seemingly perfect society with dark secrets.

Eight-legged Hero (04:43)

Charlotte, the titular character of E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web,” is among the tragic heroes included on the Great American Read list. It is the classic story of a pig named Wilbur whose life is saved by a friendly spider.

Tragic Hero of "1984" (04:53)

George Orwell’s novel, published in 1949, presents a dystopian vision of the future. Its protagonist, Winston Smith, navigates a word scarred by perpetual war and the totalitarian rule of Big Brother. Rev. Katrina Fosters speaks on the novel’s lasting relevance.

Ralph Ellison's Narrator (04:14)

“The Invisible Man” follows a black man who lives the life as a model citizen as he navigates a gauntlet of discrimination. Its author originally sought to write a war novel but changed direction when the phrase “I am an invisible man” came to him.

Don Quixote (04:23)

Miguel de Cervantes’s iconic story is the most published and translated story in the world; it is often referred to as the first modern novel. It follows an aging nobleman who declares himself a knight and embarks on a quest to defend the helpless.

Ignatius J. Reilly (03:15)

Professor Walter Isaacson of Tulane University draws parallels between Don Quixote and the protagonist of John Kennedy Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces.” This unlikely hero is an obese, 30-year-old scholar who lives in New Orleans with his mother.

John Yossarian (03:18)

Seth Meyers is a big fan of Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22.” It follows a U.S. Air Force captain who has one wish: to survive World War 2. He attempts to escape combat by declaring that he is insane with ironic results.

Christopher John Francis Boone (04:54)

Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” follows a 15-year-old English boy who exhibits signs of autism as he attempts to solve the murder of a canine. Mickey Rowe has played the lead in stage adaptations of the novel.

Credits: Heroes (00:26)

Credits: Heroes

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Part of the Series : The Great American Read
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



We examine books on America’s list that feature heroic characters. Celebrities, literary experts, authors and everyday book lovers discuss why our favorite heroes are complex and relatable, from the everyday hero to the tragic and unlikely or anti-hero.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: FMK191948

Copyright date: ©2018

Closed Captioned

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