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Books, Books, Books

Updated: Oct 30, 2018

By Ms. Hedges


When the grand finale episode of the eight-part PBS series, The Great American Read, aired on October 23 2018, the title of America’s favorite novel was announced. Before the series started in May 2018, a list of 100 of America’s favorite novels was compiled through a “demographically and statistically representative national survey of 7,200 individuals.” From there, the most frequently named books were narrowed down by experts in the field to the final 100 favorites. The 100 best-loved titles represent a range of time periods, genres, characters, conflicts, settings, and themes. This abundant variety reflects the beautiful diversity of our lives and interests, and reminds us how stories impact readers and connect communities in profound ways. Throughout the series, viewers were encouraged to peruse the list and vote for their favorite book as many times as they wanted.

The novels were grouped into five categories that were explored by authors, actors, celebrities and ordinary people in each episode of the series. The self-affirming influence of coming of age stories was considered in the first segment, “Who Am I?” Titles included prized works like Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Ghost, by Jason Reynolds, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

In “Heroes,” guests talked about the lasting effects of brave characters who fight to better their worlds in Orwell’s 1984, The Help, by Katherine Stockett, Ellison’s Invisible Man, The Giver, by Lois Lowry, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, childhood favorite Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White, and the oldest book of the top 100, Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

“Villains and Monsters” featured many favorites, like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, The Stand, by Stephen King, Melville’s classic Moby Dick, and, of course, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling. Each episode included interesting tidbits about the selected books. For example, 20 years after its first publication, it is estimated that one in fifteen households around the world has a copy of Harry Potter.

The episode “What We Do for Love,” highlighted treasured romance and relationship novels. New works, like Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and John Green’s Looking for Alaska, made the cut, along with classics like Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Alcott’s Little Women, and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Other Worlds, the last category, included “fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction and stories of spiritual realms.” Popular favorites were discussed, including Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, and Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and more recent titles, like Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, and The Martian, by Andy Weir.

The grand finale episode included a countdown from 100 to America’s best-loved novel. In the 149 days of the campaign, four million votes were cast, and the number one title started at number one and remained there the entire time. The top five winners in descending order are The Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, the Harry Potter series, the Outlander series, and, America’s favorite novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

To start a conversation about the favorite novels of the Point Loma Community, I asked a few staff members what books top their lists: Mr. Compagnone, Sometimes a Great Notion, by Ken Kesey; Ms. Love and Mrs. Mariana Hedges, Rain of Gold, by Victor Villasenor; Mr. Wells, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, The Hobbit, by Tolkien, and anything by Kurt Vonnegut; Ms. Beltran’s favorite recent read, Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens; Mrs. Cooper loved The Ashfall trilogy, by Mike Mullin. Mr. Moss and Mr. Posternack shared A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole; Mr. Posternack also added Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5; Mr. Becker confessed that he’s more of a non-fiction reader but admitted he couldn’t put down summer reads The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl; Ms. Graham weighed in with E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View; and Mr. Richard loves Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.

Let’s keep the dialogue going, Point Loma. Ask friends, family, neighbors, and PL staff members to talk about their favorite books, check out The Great American Read’s top 100 books at PBS the-great-american-read, and pick up a copy of the 2018 “One Book, One San Diego” selection, March: Book One, by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell.

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