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The Winner of 'The Great American Read' is Revealed
October 23, 2018  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments
 
 
In real life, Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice probably wouldn’t stand a chance in a faceoff with Harry Potter.
 
In a showdown on PBS, however, even Harry’s wand won’t necessarily carry the day over Elizabeth. He might not even beat Scarlet O’Hara from Gone With the Wind.
 
We find out Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET (check local listings) when PBS unveils the winner of the network’s summer-long project The Great American Read (At top is Neil deGrasse Tyson with his favorite book, Gulliver's Travels.
 
The Great American Read is an ambitious two-pronged effort to 1) poll PBS viewers on their favorite fiction book ever and 2) generally encourages everyone to just go read something.
 
That’s not an insignificant urging, or lesson, at a time when reading in some circles is defined as exchanging msgs of four non-words on Instagram.
 
PBS picked 100 of the most popular fiction books of all time and over the last five months has asked viewers to vote for their favorites and join online discussion groups to explain and defend their choices.
 
As of a week and a half ago, the top 10 books were these, listed here in alphabetical order rather than vote totals:
 
1.   Charlotte's Web
2.   Chronicles of Narnia
3.   Gone With the Wind
4.   Harry Potter
5.   Jane Eyre
6.   Little Women
7.   Lord of the Rings
8.   Outlander
9.   Pride and Prejudice
10. To Kill a Mockingbird

These aren’t necessarily the finalists, because other books could ride a late surge into the top echelon. PBS noted that over a few late weeks, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged had leaped from 43rd place to 20th on the top 100.
 
In any case, PBS isn’t presenting this as the “best” fiction book of all time. Wisely enough, that discussion is being left to academic scholars – who might more likely place Moby Dick in their top 10.
 
In the PBS voting, New Hampshire is the only state to have Moby Dick that high. Who knew whaling was so popular there?
 
No, PBS is looking for the most popular book, or rather the most popular among PBS viewers. There’s no Danielle Steele here, though at least one entry in that recent top 10 very likely owes its position to the fact it’s become a highly popular television series: Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.
 
On the other hand, Outlander isn’t as popular as another TV series, Game of Thrones, and the Game of Thrones book series was only running fifth in the fantasy genre, trailing Harry Potter, Narnia, Lord of the Rings and Alice In Wonderland.
 
Let’s make the wild guess that some Game of Thrones fans don’t spend a lot of time with PBS. But lots of other viewers do, and The Great American Read has drawn well over four million votes.
 
The winner will be unveiled by host Meredith Vieira, with a guest lineup that includes actor Wil Wheaton, Gabaldon, actors Amy Tan and Robert McCammon, TV’s Lesley Stahl and literary expert Baratunde Thurston.
 
The Great American Read has not argued that writing and literature are a competition where one work beats another. One reader’s Joy Luck Club can another reader’s Great Gatsby.
 
Still, the whole event has at least a faint whiff of American Idol about it, including viewer voting and a steady drumbeat leading up to the announcement of the winner.
 
And so what? It’s fun, it promotes reading, and Tuesday night we have a winner, even without Ryan Seacrest.
 
 
 
 
 
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2 Comments
 
 
Marfk N
Dear David.....It was a great idea. I enjoyed the range of picks. My wife and I had great fun seeing how many of them we had read(lots!) Oh, and not to brag but I nailed To Kill A Mockingbird
Oct 25, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
George Ashur
Well, thank goodness Outlander didn't win. Even so, I'm not sure of the merit of an American Idol-style popularity contest to vote for "America's favorite book." I did enjoy some of the episodes, and the discussion by various and sundry about why they liked a particular book.
Oct 24, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
 
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