THE GREAT AMERICAN READ was an eight-part series that explored and celebrated the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey)*. It investigated 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 featured entertaining and informative documentary segments, with compelling testimonials from celebrities, authors, notable Americans and book lovers across the country. It was comprised of a two-hour launch episode in which the list of 100 books was revealed, five one-hour theme episodes that examined concepts common to groups of books on the list, and a finale, in which the results were announced of a nationwide vote to choose America’s best-loved book.
The series was the centerpiece of an ambitious multi-platform digital, educational and community outreach campaign, designed to get the country reading and passionately talking about books.
*PBS does not endorse any titles on the top 100 list. For more information on how these titles were selected, please see our FAQs below.
"Launch Special" (Premiered May 22, 2018) Watch Now
"Fall Kick-off" (Premiered September 11, 2018) Watch Now
"Who Am I?" (Premiered September 18, 2018) Watch Now
"Heroes" (Premiered September 25, 2018 8/7c) Watch Now
"Villains and Monsters" (Premiered October 2, 2018) Watch Now
“What We Do For Love” (Premiered October 9, 2018) Watch Now
“Other Worlds” (Premiered October 16, 2018) Watch Now
"Grand Finale" (Premiered October 23, 2018) Watch Now
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.