This week, PBS began The Great American Read, a summer-long event kicked off with a list of 100 favorite books collected from a nationwide survey of more than 7,000 readers. The first of an eight-part PBS series aired this past Tuesday night, two hours of kids, adults, celebrities and others who love to read talking about their favorite books that are on the list and celebrating the power of reading. The list functions as a ballot, and from it we all have the chance to vote for our favorites among the 100. You can vote as often as you like. Then, on October 23, 2018, PBS will reveal the book that got the most votes and announce America’s best loved book. You can access the list and learn more about it on The Great American Read PBS website, including how the books were chosen and how the list was narrowed to 100.
If you haven’t already seen the list, keep in mind when you comb through the 100 titles these are favorite books, not the modern classics everyone should read. A favorite is the one book that you loved, for whatever reason. Maybe it transformed your life. Maybe you read it over and over again every year, immersed in the lives of beloved characters. Maybe the book is a favorite because it inspired you or gave you hope when you needed it most. I know someone who rereads The Hound of the Baskervilles every year. And on WOSU All Sides Weekend Books a few years ago, one person called in to share with us that he rereads Memoirs of Hadrian every year.
What is your #1 favorite book? Is it on The Great American Read list? If so, that makes it easy for you to vote. If not, what do you do? Mine isn’t on the list, but some close runners-up — Jane Eyre, Rebecca and The Chronicles of Narnia — are. I’ve just finished rereading Rebecca and plan to reread a few others that are on the list, while picking up some I haven’t read (Another Country and Frankenstein). Likely I’ll discover new favorites. Meanwhile, below is my #1 favorite that didn’t make the list (Humboldt’s Gift) and then two additional favorites I wish were on it. Each of these books holds a special place in my reading heart for what they meant to me when I first read them.