THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.
The television series features entertaining and informative documentary segments, with compelling testimonials from celebrities, authors, notable Americans and book lovers across the country. It is comprised of a two-hour launch episode in which the list of 100 books is revealed, five one-hour theme episodes that examine concepts common to groups of books on the list, and a finale, in which the results are announced of a nationwide vote to choose America’s best-loved book.
The series is the centerpiece of an ambitious multi-platform digital, educational and community outreach campaign, designed to get the country reading and passionately talking about books.
Frequently Asked Questions
How were the top 100 books chosen?
PBS and the producers worked with the public opinion polling service “YouGov” to conduct a demographically and statistically representative survey asking Americans to name their most-loved novel. Approximately 7,200 people participated.
How did you narrow that list to the top 100?
The results were tallied and organized based on our selection criteria and overseen by an advisory panel of 13 literary industry professionals. The criteria for inclusion on the top 100 list were as follows:
- Each author was limited to one title on the list (to keep the list varied).
- Books published in series or featuring ongoing characters counted as one eligible entry on the list (e.g. the Harry Potter series or Lord of the Rings)to increase variety.
- Books could be from anywhere in the world as long as they were published in English.
- Only fiction could be included in the poll.
- Each advisory panel member was permitted to select one book for discussion and possible inclusion on the top 100 list from the longer list of survey results.
What books are included on the list?
The list contains a broad range of fictional titles, authors, time periods, countries, genres and subject matter. The list includes books from as far back as the 1600s and as recent as 2016. From beloved world literature to contemporary best sellers, many categories are represented: 20th century American classics, thrillers, young adult novels, sci-fi/fantasy, adventure, historical fiction, romantic stories, and books that represent the human experience told from a diverse range of perspectives.
Why are there only fiction books included? Why aren't religious works included?
THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is searching for the country’s best-loved novel. While we recognize the broad categories of books available, we chose to narrow our focus to works of fiction because it would be impossible to cover them all over the course of an eight-part series. .
How does the voting work?
Voting will open online and on social media with the launch of the two-hour premiere episode and continue throughout the summer, leading up to the finale in October 2018. Over the summer, viewers can vote online and through hashtag voting via Facebook and Twitter. In the fall, viewers will also be able to cast their votes by using SMS and toll-free voting.