The Great American Read: Vote Now on the Top 17 Books

Great American Read Book Collage

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 the top 17 books across all four categories .  Voting closes on Sunday, Oct. 7, at 11:30 p.m.

Learn More About This Project

 

The Classics
The Classics

Gone with the Wind
Jane Eyre
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Vote now in the poll above. The poll below shows previous results this round, which ended early due to an error. The results of these two polls will be combined.

The Classics, Round of 17

Gone with the Wind
Jane Eyre
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Due to a tie last round, both Jane Eyre and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer advanced.

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.

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 Classics, Round of 17

Pride and Prejudice
Little Women

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.

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.

 

Mid-Century
Mid-Century, Round of 17

Grapes of Wrath
Charlotte’s Web

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.

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.

 

Mid-Century, Round of 17

To Kill a Mockingbird
Catch 22

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.

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.

 

Late Century
Late Century, Round of 17

The Color Purple
The Joy Luck Club

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Celie has grown up poor in rural Georgia, despised by the society around her and abused by her own family. She strives to protect her sister, Nettie, from a similar fate, and while Nettie escapes to a new life as a missionary in Africa, Celie is left behind without her best friend and confidante, married off to an older suitor, and sentenced to a life alone with a harsh and brutal husband. In an attempt to transcend a life that often seems too much to bear, Celie begins writing letters directly to God. The letters, spanning twenty years, record a journey of self-discovery and empowerment.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Forty years later the stories and history continue.

 

Late Century, Round of 17

The Pillars of the Earth
The Wheel of Time (series)

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known…of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect-a man divided in his soul…of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame…and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.

The Wheel of Time (series) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs–a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts– five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

 

Contemporary
Contemporary, Round of 17

The Da Vinci Code
The Help

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
A mind-bending code hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. A desperate race through the cathedrals and castles of Europe. An astonishing truth concealed for centuries… unveiled at last. While in Paris on business, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon receives an urgent late-night phone call. The elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum, a baffling cipher found near the body.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who’s always taken orders quietly, but lately she’s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She’s full of ambition, but without a husband, she’s considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town.

 

Contemporary, Round of 17

Harry Potter (series)
The Book Thief

Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable muggle aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own destiny.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist-books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

 

Results – The Classics, Round of 32
  • Gone with the Wind (69%) defeated Frankenstein (31%)
  • Jane Eyre (50%) tied The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (50%)
  • Pride and Prejudice (63%) defeated Anne of Green Gables (37%)
  • Little Women (62%) defeated The Great Gatsby (38%)

 

Results – Mid-Century, Round of 32
  • Grapes of Wrath (54%) defeated 1984 (46%)
  • Charlotte’s Web (69%) defeated The Catcher in the Rye (31%)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (62%) defeated Lord of the Rings (series) (38%)
  • Catch 22 (55%) defeated The Outsiders (45%)

 

Results – Late Century, Round of 32
  • The Color Purple (71%) defeated The Clan of the Cave Bear (29%)
  • The Joy Luck Club (60%) defeated Outlander (series) (40%)
  • The Pillars of the Earth (53%) defeated The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (47%)
  • The Wheel of Time (series) (59%) defeated The Handmaid’s Tale (41%)

 

Results – Contemporary, Round of 32
  • The Da Vinci Code (72%) defeated White Teeth (28%)
  • The Help (66%) defeated A Memoirs of a Geisha (34%)
  • Harry Potter (series) (81%) defeated The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (19%)
  • The Book Thief (52%) defeated The Hunger Games (series) (48%)

 

The Bracket
Click the image to view a larger bracket (then click “View full size”)
Download a PDF of the bracket

 

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