The Great American Read Premiere on PBS

There’s Something About The Great American Read.

If you were tuned into PBS last night (May 22nd) around 8pm, you caught the beginning of the Great American Read premiere. Hopefully you stay tuned for the two hours, or, if you were like me, watched until the live Facebook feed cut out around 9:15.

If you had been scouring the list of America’s 100 best-loved novels, participating in the discussions in the Book Club Facebook group, adding to your TBR list, and voting for the past few weeks, I hope the premiere was as satisfactory to you as it was to me.

If you’ve read this far and you’re wondering what I’m talking about (and wondering how you missed the exciting Great American Read news), here is a quick explanation of the series from the PBS website, and if you want to learn all the details, click here.

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.

So, back to last night’s premiere. Host Meredith Vieira narrated the show, thus introduced the first interviewee and the first two books from the list of the best-loved novels: Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings (series count for one book total). George R.R. Martin talked wonderfully about his best-loved author, J.R.R. Tolkien, which provided such a powerful start the show. It really set a beautiful tone for the entire two hours (or, again, in my case, the one hour and fifteen minutes, since as of this writing I have not finished watching).

Following this first interview, a variety of citizens, scholars, authors, and book lovers took to the screen to talk about their favorite(s) from the list of 100 books, why reading and storytelling are such vital parts of our humanity, and how their favorite characters and/or authors have inspired them to take action in their life and communities. Yes, while each story was exceptional, tear-summoning, and heartwarming, I did have a handful of favorites (again, from what I saw). I’m only going to mention the person’s name and the book they chose as a favorite, as you should really watch all the interviews from the show.

  • Gabrielle Union – The Color Purple (Alice Walker)
  • Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden – Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)
  • Schoolchildren from Brooklin, Maine – Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
  • John Irving and Pastor Tim Suttle – A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)

In addition to the depth of stories, the graphics in the show are spellbinding – I needed to point that out. Multiple covers of many of the books are shown, and the way they glide across the screen looks simply wonderful.

PBS is doing a plethora of stuff for the Great American Read, and of course, the plethora of stuff would not be possible without people like you, book lovers! So share your story, see how many books from the list you’ve read, cast your votes, and print a checklist of all the books so you can remind yourself, your friends, your family, co-workers, and random strangers on the street to do all of the above and to maybe even read the entire list.




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