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.
*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.
“Heroes” | Tuesday, September 25, 2018 at 8p.m.
Take a journey with some literary heroes to examine what makes them complex and relatable.
“Villains and Monsters” | Tuesday, October 2, 2018 at 8p.m.
Revisit the evil deeds of some of literature’s favorite and most notorious villains.
“What We Do For Love” | Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 8p.m.
Fall in love all over again with some of literature’s most beautiful romances.
“Other Worlds” | Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 8p.m.
Take a magical journey to another world through some of America’s best-loved novels.
“Grand Finale” | Tuesday, October 23, 2018 at 8p.m.
Find out which of the 100 nominated novels is crowned America’s favorite.
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 is currently open on this website, on social media using designated hashtags, and by SMS using the same hashtags. Read the full details on how to vote here.
Major production funding provided by Anne Ray Foundation, A Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropy. Engagement funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Anne Ray Foundation, A Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropy.