Introduction: What We Do for Love (02:49)
Many of the books chosen for top 100 novels list explore the lengths people will go to for love. What would we do for the sake of our nearest and dearest? Why do classic tales of romance still thrill us?
Romance Gone Wrong (02:06)
This episode will explore literary love in all its forms, from the platonic to the physical, the innocence of puppy love to obsession and destructive passion. Show host Meredith Vieira explains that many of the novels on the list are about unrequited or destructive love.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's Iconic Love Story (04:38)
The danger of obsessive love is at the heart of “The Great Gatsby.” Its protagonist, Nick, is swept up in a life of parties and romance in 1920s Long Island. He befriends Jay Gatsby, whose obsession with a married woman sparks a catastrophic series of events.
Unrequited Love Story (02:27)
Miles Halter, the protagonist from John Green’s “Looking for Alaska,” is infatuated from the moment he meets the beautiful and mercurial Alaska Young at boarding school. But no amount of love can save this one-sided romance from its tragic end.
Nigerian Love Story (04:05)
“The Notebook” author Nicholas Spark, actress Gabrielle Union and others discuss the power of first love. It is a theme in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah.” Its protagonist is Ifemelu, a transfer student who has to leave behind her childhood love, Obinze.
Louisa May Alcott's Classic (04:17)
The 1868 novel, “Little Women,” is among the books on the list that highlight the importance of family. First Lady Laura Bush would read this to daughters Jenna and Barbara. The story follows the March sisters as they grow up around the time of the Civil War.
Paternal Love (02:39)
Family love also speaks to the concept of legacy and how it affects the course of a child’s life. This is one of the central ideas of Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead.” The book is written as a series of letters from a dying preacher to his son.
Mothers and Daughters (04:18)
Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club” explores the relationships between Chinese immigrant mothers and their Chinese-American daughters. They are drawn closer together through a mahjong club. It became a bestseller upon its publication in 1989. Actress Ming-Na Wen sees her own experience in this story.
Mob Love Story (03:25)
Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather” features familiar tropes of familial love, loyalty, betrayal and forgiveness, but with a twist. Michael Corleone, the youngest son of a mafia boss, finds that his family loyalty draws him into a life of crime, despite his best intentions.
Two Timeless Romances (09:01)
The New Yorker’s Joshua Rothman and author Maya Rodale discuss the appeal of romantic tales. Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” and Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” have stood the test of time because they change the way we look at courtship and feature strong, female protagonists.
Enduring Love Story (04:20)
Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook,” Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild,” and L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” reflect the many kinds of love that stay with us throughout our lives. Sparks discusses the unbreakable bond between his characters, Noah and Allie.
Man's Best Friend (02:32)
Presidential daughter Chelsea Clinton recalls reading Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild,” despite it being considered a book for boys. The story follows a dog name Buck that is kidnapped and later saved through the love of prospector John Thornton.
"Anne of Green Gables" (04:56)
L.M. Montgomery’s series embodies all the themes explored on this episode of “The Great American Read.” The story begins when an elderly spinster and her brother decide to adopt a boy to help on their farm. Instead they get an unruly, unpredictable girl with a heart of gold.
Credits: What We Do for Love (00:25)
Credits: What We Do for Love
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