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 1 of the Mid-Century quadrant. Voting closes on Sunday, Aug. 26, at 11:30 p.m.
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
Constant is aided by another tycoon, Winston Rumfoord, who, with the help of aliens, has discovered the fundamental meaning of life. With the help of Salo – an alien robot overseeing the alien race, the Tralmafordians (who also feature in Slaughterhouse-Five ) – Constant attempts to find some cosmic sense and order in the face of universal malevolence. Constant and Rumfoord deal with the metaphysics of “chrono-synclastic infundibula” and the interference of the Tralmafadorians. The novel is pervaded by a goofy, episodic charm which barely shields the readers (or the characters) from the fact of what seems to be a large and indifferent universe.
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.
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.
Another Country by James Baldwin
Set in Greenwich Village, Harlem, and France, among other locales, Another Country is a novel of passions–sexual, racial, political, artistic–that is stunning for its emotional intensity and haunting sensuality, depicting men and women, blacks and whites, stripped of their masks of gender and race by love and hatred at the most elemental and sublime. In a small set of friends, Baldwin imbues the best and worst intentions of liberal America in the early 1970s.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The novel tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society. The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
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.
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.
Foundation (series) by Isaac Asimov
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. Only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future–a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save humanity, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire–both scientists and scholars–and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations. He calls this sanctuary the Foundation.
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.
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will probe the family ties that bind and rend him, and he will discover himself in the magical secrets of the pagan past-a mythic legacy as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world…and will nurture the birth of his soul.
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.
Atlas, Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Who is John Galt? When he says that he will stop the motor of the world, is he a destroyer or a liberator? Why does he have to fight his battles not against his enemies but against those who need him most? Why does he fight his hardest battle against the woman he loves? Atlas Shrugged , a modern classic and Rand’s most extensive statement of Objectivism–her groundbreaking philosophy–offers the reader the spectacle of human greatness, depicted with all the poetry and power of one of the twentieth century’s leading artists.
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 Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Godfather is an extraordinary novel which has become a modern day classic. Puzo pulls us inside the violent society of the Mafia and its gang wars. The leader, Vito Corleone, is the Godfather. He is a benevolent despot who stops at nothing to gain and hold power. His command post is a fortress on Long Island from which he presides over a vast underground empire that includes the rackets, gambling, bookmaking, and unions. His influence runs through all levels of American society, from the cop on the beat to the nation’s mighty.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious “U. N. Owen.” “Nine . . .” At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead. “Eight . . .” Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one . . . as one by one . . . they begin to die. “Seven . . .” Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?
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.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
After a brief prologue, the story begins with a terrifying experience of the hero’s high school days, moves quickly to the campus of a Southern Negro college and then to New York’s Harlem, where most of the action takes place. The many people that the hero meets in the course of his wanderings are remarkably various, complex and significant. With them he becomes involved in an amazing series of adventures, in which he is sometimes befriended but more often deceived and betrayed–as much by himself and his own illusions as by the duplicity of the blindness of others.
- Call of the Wild (96%) defeated Dona Barbara (4%)
- Frankenstein (67%) defeated Heart of Darkness (33%)
- Don Quixote (58%) defeated The Sun Also Rises (42%)
- Jane Eyre (61%) defeated The Count of Monte Cristo (39%)
- The Picture of Dorian Gray (56%) defeated Gulliver’s Travels (44%)
- Anne of Green Gables (58%) defeated Crime and Punishment (42%)
- Wuthering Heights (52%) defeated Their Eyes Were Watching God (48%)
- Great Expectations (87%) defeated The Pilgrim’s Progress (13%)
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (72%) defeated Siddhartha (28%)
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