Segments in this Video

Introduction: Other Worlds (02:58)


Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, journalist Lesley Stahl and scholar Henry Louis Gates discuss being transported to exotic worlds by literature. Show host Meredith Vieira explains that Americans love books that take them to the future, to parallel universes and elsewhere.

Mirroring Our World, Magical Hook (02:18)

Authors can use alternate worlds to make a statement about the one that we live in. Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, literary critic Marie Arana, and others discuss the appeal of fantasy fiction.

Deconstructing Middle Earth (03:55)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy features one of literature’s most beloved and fantastical worlds. “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin admires the novels, which follow a party of adventurers who seek to destroy a powerful ring in the fires of Mount Doom.

Exploring Narnia (02:40)

Tolkien’s contemporary, C.S. Lewis, wrote a seven-book fantasy series that was published over six years, beginning in 1950. It follows a group of children who are evacuated to the English countryside during World WarII only to find themselves in a magical kingdom.

Jonathan Swift's Strange Satire (03:18)

Some of the most popular fantasy novels reflect our world in a tongue-in-cheek way, i.e. “Gulliver’s Travels,” which was first published in 1726. It follows Lemuel Gulliver and his encounters with strange people and beasts. It is Tyson’s favorite novel.

Funny Sci-Fi (03:17)

Like Swift, Douglas Adams takes a sardonic view of contemporary society in his “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Through his hapless hero, Arthur Dent, Adams lampoons bureaucracy and closemindedness. Dent worries about his house being bulldozed before his entire planet faces the same fate.

Classic of Speculative Fiction (04:00)

Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” series is among the books on the top 100 list that reflect Americans’ fascination with the future. Audiobook narrator Scott Brick describes the plot, which follows protagonist Hari Seldon’s quest to save the Galactic Empire 15,000 years in the future.

Sci-Fi Touchstone (04:11)

Alongside “Foundation,” Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series stands as a pillar of science fiction. His story was initially rejected by more than 20 publishers before going on to become the bestselling sci-fi series of all time.

Inside the Oasis (02:34)

Inhabitants of the world that Ernest Cline depicts in “Ready Play One” use virtual reality to tune out their bleak reality. The plot follows Wade Owen Watts who plays a game that allows its winner to control the virtual world it exists in.

Solar Rescue (02:38)

Astronaut Leland Melvin discusses how speculative fiction inspires scientists. Author Andy Weir transports millions of readers to the Red Planet with his bestselling debut novel, “The Martian.” Its story follows astronaut Mark Whatney, who gets stranded on Mars.

Triumph of the Individual (03:11)

A different vision of survival is presented in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” Her 1957 masterwork extolls the virtues of individualism and reason as the means of living the truest life. It is the story of Dagny Taggart, a railroad executive who lives in a dystopian near future.

Cowboy Adventure (04:17)

Larry McMurty’s “Lonesome Dove” and Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” are among the historical novels to make the top 100 reads list. The former is set in the 1870s, and it follows retired Texas Rangers Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call on a cattle drive.

Borrowing From Historical Record (03:18)

“Outlander” writer Diana Gabaldon explains what drew her to historical fiction. Her debut novel spawned a successful series that has sold more than 28 million copies. It is the story of Claire Randall who is transported to 18th century Scotland.

Mystical and Spiritual Realms (04:22)

W.M. Paul Young’s “The Shack” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” transport readers to worlds where the dead never really die. Young originally printed just 15 copies of his self-published novel to give as Christmas presents to family and friends.

Classic Magical Realism (04:39)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is an allegorical tale of biblical proportions. The novel chronicles the rise and fall of a mythical town called Macondo and multiple generations of the Buendia family who helped create it.

Credits: Other Worlds (00:26)

Credits: Other Worlds

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Other Worlds

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



Many novels on America’s list of 100 favorites take us to other worlds. From fantasy to science fiction, historical fiction to stories of spiritual realms, what do these books tell us about our own world? We examine how these novels help us think about real-life and present-day issues.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: FMK191951

Copyright date: ©2018

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