The Great American Read

Text: The Great American Read
(photo courtesy of and ALA)

Celebrating the Power of Reading: The Great American Read

PBS is celebrating the power of reading with its 8-part series The Great American Read. On Tuesday night, May 22, a 2-hour special highlighted the top 100 books chosen by Americans across the country. The special highlighted books from various genres with interviews from avid readers discussing their favorite title and the impact of that particular book on their life.

The series will include 5 episodes focusing on the books listed in each genre. All summer long, you can vote once per day for your favorite book. The finale episode will reveal how we all voted by crowning America's favorite novel.

Favorite Picks from a Librarian

Harry Potter (Series) coverCharlotte's Web coverThe Great Gatsby coverA Tree Grows in Brooklyn coverWuthering Heights cover

Being the avid reader that I am, I had to check to see how many of the 100 books I had read, which ones I hadn't read and which ones I didn't think belonged on the list at all. Many of the books that have impacted me throughout the years did make it onto the list.

You never forget your first time reading Harry Potter. That is an experience that just can't be recreated any other way. I was in high school and my best friend shoved the first 3 books into my hands before we went on our winter break. I remember sitting in my bedroom for hours on end, rain pouring outside my window, devouring the books and following along with Ron, Hermione and Harry as they battled good against evil first with trolls and eventually making their way towards Voldermort.

Charlotte's Web is one of the first books I remember being to read completely on my own as a child. It was one of the first books that made reading fun and engaging. I learned about friendship, about bravery and about sacrifice reading about Wilbur's will to live in E.B. White's classic children's novel.

As an immigrant daughter to parents who worked hard to provide me with shelter, food and clothing, I found my story, myself reflected in Betty White's classic novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. This book reaffirmed my decision to study English and become a librarian as an adult. This novel shed new light on my attraction and addiction to reading as a child. Reading to discover my world and travel to others through the safety of my living room couch.

The Great Gatsby and Wuthering Heights were the two books that took me back in time and completely changed my view of history. History wasn't boring. It was full of greed, romance, passion and fancy parties.

How You Can Participate

Using the Library

Special booklists have been created online to help you find your next Great American Read. There are a number of ways to find the titles right for you:

  • SJPL Catalog - Search for titles at your nearest branch. Type in "The Great American Read" to bring up all of the titles available in our catalog.
  • Novelist - Search through Novelist using the code " UI 447355"
  • Overdrive - Search for ebooks and eaudiobooks of titles through Overdrive to download to your mobile phone or computer.

Find the right format for your reading entertainment in our catalog. Select eAudiobooks/eBooks from our eBooks and eMedia page. Share your reading experience with friends and family by starting a book club and comparing notes.

Make Your Reading Count!

While you breeze through the Great American Read booklist, why not make it count by logging your reading this year with SJPL's Summer Learning. Registration starts June 1. You can win prizes, too!

Your Summer Reading Plans

  • What will you do with the list this summer?
  • Will you reread old favorites or look for a new title to add to your list?
  • What titles would you add to the list?

Share your plans with us in the comments.


Well, first thing I did was share the PBS webpage on my Facebook Page to see if some of my friends also plan to do the Great American Read. Then, I 'followed' the Great American Read FB page myself. I plan to vote everyday for one book I HAVE read on the list that I thought was fantastic. Since of course I haven't read them all, so I printed out the list and I plan to read as many as I can that interest me the most. Figured it's a start in jump starting my summer reading! Once I read them, I plan to add them to my GOODREADS page too, which is a fun way to share with friends what I've been reading and what I thought of the books. Tried to join the Great American Read Bookclub, but we'll see if I'm 'accepted'. Also will be curious if the San Jose Public Libraries will be doing any events around the Great American Read...didn't see anything on the KQED website...yet! Happy reading!!

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