The Great American Read, presented by Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), is exploring the power of reading with an eight-episode series where viewers will vote for the top book from a list of 100 of the most-loved novels. And our community is participating in this national celebration of reading!
The Reston Regional Library is one of 50 libraries nationwide to receive a grant from the American Library Association and PBS to host programs around the television series. We have also partnered with our local PBS station, WETA TV 26, which will air the series. To supplement the PBS show, we want you to vote in a series of polls from the same list to determine Fairfax County’s favorite book.
The 100 books have been placed into a bracket and divided into quadrants based on the years they were published: The Classics, Mid-Century, Late Century and Contemporary.
This week, voting is open for Round 2 of the Classics and Mid-Century quadrants. Voting closes on Sunday, Sept. 16, at 11:30 p.m.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Widely considered The Great American Novel, and often remembered for its epic film version, Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the red hills of Georgia. A superb piece of storytelling, it vividly depicts the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life.
Call of the Wild by Jack London
Jack London takes readers on an arduous journey through the forbidding Alaskan landscape during the gold rush of the 1890s. Buck, a rangy mixed breed used to a comfortable, sun-filled life as a family dog, is stolen by a greedy opportunist and sold to dog traffickers. Buck soon finds himself on a team of sled dogs run ragged in the harsh winter of the Klondike. In a climate where every day is a savage struggle for survival, the last traces of Buck’s soft, pampered existence are erased as his dormant primordial urges — deeply embedded for generations — are brutally awakened.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
In his private laboratory, Dr Henry Frankenstein experiments with the scientific forces behind the creation and preservation of life. Finally, with the help of his assistant, Frankenstein assembles a living being from parts of unearthed corpses. But the dire and terrifying consequences of giving it life are beyond his imagination in this chilling, Gothic tale of a creature that inflicts murder on the human race.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Widely regarded as the world’s first modern novel, Don Quixote chronicles the famous picaresque adventures of the noble knight-errant Don Quixote de la Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they wend their way across sixteenth-century Spain. Milan Kundera calls Cervantes “the founder of the Modern Era and Lionel Trilling “observes that it can be said that all prose fiction is a variation on the theme of Don Quixote.”
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The saga of Captain Ahab and his monomaniacal pursuit of the white whale remains a peerless adventure story but one full of mythic grandeur, poetic majesty, and symbolic power. Filtered through the consciousness of the novel’s narrator, Ishmael, Moby-Dick draws us into a universe full of fascinating characters and stories, from the noble cannibal Queequeg to the natural history of whales, while reaching existential depths that excite debate and contemplation to this day.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Orphaned and subjected to cruelty at Lowood charity school, Jane nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. The story of how Jane becomes governess at Thornfield Hall, meets and loves Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than that traditionally accorded to her by Victorian society.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
This irresistible tale of the adventures of two friends growing up in frontier America is one of Mark Twain’s most popular novels. The farcical, colorful, and poignant escapades of Tom and his friend Huckleberry Finn brilliantly depict the humor and pathos of growing up on the geographic and cultural rim of nineteenth-century America. Originally intended for children, the book transcends genre in its magical depiction of innocence and possibility, and is now regarded as one of Twain’s masterpieces.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life, indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a succes de scandale . Early readers were shocked by its hints at unspeakable sins, and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Set against the sweeping panoply of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, War and Peace –presented here in the first new English translation in forty years–is often considered the greatest novel ever written. At its center are Pierre Bezukhov, searching for meaning in his life; cynical Prince Andrei, ennobled by wartime suffering; and Natasha Rostov, whose impulsiveness threatens to destroy her happiness. As Tolstoy follows the changing fortunes of his characters, he crafts a view of humanity that is both epic and intimate and that continues to define fiction at its most resplendent.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Anne starts out as a mistake. The elderly Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert had planned on adopting a boy to help Matthew with the chores on their Prince Edward Island farm. What are they to do with the red-haired, high-spirited girl who arrives instead? Anne Shirley, with her boundless imagination and heart, slowly brings joy into the narrow lives of those around her, and into the lives of readers.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A tale of hasty judgments, heartache, scandalous behaviour and, finally, true love. Stylish and teen-friendly, Bloomsbury Classics bring a cool, contemporary appeal to some of the most exciting books ever written. Each title has a foreword by a top children’s author that explains “Why You Should Read This Book.” Plus, a fun “newspaper” at the back of each book is packed with interesting facts and details – including a brief author biography, details on the fashions and music of the times, and a gossip column about key figures of the day.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Heathcliff, an orphan raised with favor by Mr. Earnshaw, father of Hindley and Catherine. Hindley’s hatred festers for Heathcliff as Catherine’s love grows. When Mr. Earnshaw dies and Hindley inherits Wuthering Heights he brutalizes Heathcliff, forcing him to work as a hired hand. Soon Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights. Catherine becomes friends with the neighboring Linton family and Mrs. Linton begins to teach her to be a ‘proper lady’. Catherine becomes attracted to and eventually marries Edgar Linton. After three years Heathcliff returns a wealthy gentleman and marries Isabella Linton only to become cruel and abusive to her. His objective is to enact revenge on Hindley and Edgar Linton and soon gains ownership of Wuthering Heights and then the Linton estate, Thrushcross Grange.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Lovely Meg, talented Jo, frail Beth, spoiled Amy: these are hard lessons of poverty and of growing up in New England during the Civil War. Through their dreams, plays, pranks, letters, illnesses, and courtships, women of all ages have become a part of this remarkable family and have felt the deep sadness when Meg leaves the circle of sisters to be married. The novel chronicles Jo’s struggle to become a writer, Beth’s tragedy, and Amy’s artistic pursuits and unexpected romance.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Pip doesn’t expect much from life . . . His sister makes it clear that her orphaned little brother is nothing but a burden on her. But suddenly things begin to change. Pip’s narrow existence is blown apart when he finds an escaped criminal, is summoned to visit a mysterious old woman and meets the icy beauty Estella. Most astoundingly of all, an anonymous person gives him money to begin a new life in London. Are these events as random as they seem? Or does Pip’s fate hang on a series of coincidences he could never have expected?
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Invited to an extravagantly lavish party in a Long Island mansion, Nick Carraway, a young bachelor who has just settled in the neighbouring cottage, is intrigued by the mysterious host, Jay Gatsby, a flamboyant but reserved self-made man with murky business interests and a shadowy past. As the two men strike up an unlikely friendship, details of Gatsby’s impossible love for a married woman emerge, until events spiral into tragedy.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The story centers on Alice, a young girl who falls asleep in a meadow and dreams that she follows a White Rabbit down a rabbit hole. She has many wondrous, often bizarre adventures with thoroughly illogical and very strange creatures. Often changing size unexpectedly (she grows as tall as a house and shrinks to three inches), Alice encounters such characters as the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat, the Duchess, the Mad Hatter, the Mock Turtle, and the Red Queen.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family-and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream. A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what it undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into haves and have-nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.
The Chronicles of Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels by C. S. Lewis. Set in the fictional realm of Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals, the series narrates the adventures of various children who play central roles in the unfolding history of that world. The books span the entire history of Narnia, from its creation in The Magician’s Nephew to its eventual destruction in The Last Battle.
1984 by George Orwell
George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984—the title derived by reversing the last digits of the year of its completion—is a dystopian novel depicting an oligarchical, collectivist society. Winston Smith, the protagonist, practices “thoughtcrime”—he lets his mind wander in ways the government would disapprove of—and it is through him that we discover the atrocities of the society. 1984 has been particularly influential, and one of its creations, “Big Brother,” has found a prominent place in pop culture. Ironically, the book has, at times, been challenged for being intellectually dangerous, even to the point of being banned. Its influence, however, remains unmatched and its message unforgotten.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten–a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house’s current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim’s first wife–the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The hero-narrator of the novel is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
An American classic and great bestseller for over thirty years, A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to World War II. Set at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte’s Web, high up in Zuckerman’s barn. Charlotte’s spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur’s life when he was born the runt of his litter. E. B. White’s Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Billy has long dreamt of owning not one, but two, dogs. So when he’s finally able to save up enough money for two pups to call his own–Old Dan and Little Ann–he’s ecstatic. It doesn’t matter that times are tough; together they’ll roam the hills of the Ozarks. Soon Billy and his hounds become the finest hunting team in the valley. Stories of their great achievements spread throughout the region, and the combination of Old Dan’s brawn, Little Ann’s brains, and Billy’s sheer will seems unbeatable. But tragedy awaits these determined hunters–now friends–and Billy learns that hope can grow out of despair, and that the seeds of the future can come from the scars of the past.
The Lord of the Rings (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins. In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilboentrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
From the moment she entered the world, Francie needed to be made of stern stuff, for the often harsh life of Williamsburg demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior–such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce–no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father–a crusading local lawyer–risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women—brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul—this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends–true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up on “greasers” like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect–until the night someone takes things too far.
The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
An aviator whose plane is forced down in the Sahara Desert encounters a little man from a small planet who relates his adventures searching for what is really important in life. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behavior through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Set in Italy during World War II, this of Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy–it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. If he makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
- White Teeth (58%) defeated The Coldest Winter Ever (42%)
- The Martian (76%) defeated Looking for Alaska (24%)
- Memoirs of a Geisha (78%) defeated The Shack (22%)
- The Help (83%) defeated The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (17%)
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (87%) defeated Ghost (13%)
- The Lovely Bones (80%) defeated Left Behind (series) (20%)
- Ready Player One (58%) defeated The Intuitionist (42%)
- The Book Thief (87%) defeated The Notebook (13%)
- Gilead (52%) defeated Americanah (48%)
Click the image to view a larger bracket (then click “View full size”)