Ready for "Read"? Here's an overview

This wraps up the three-part package I sent to papers, previewing PBS' "The Great American Read." For the other two, scroll upL

By Mike Hughes

Here are glimpses of
“The Great American Read”:

The list

-- A survey asked
7,200 Americans for their most-loved novel. A top-100 was compiled,
but there was also a committee of 13 experts. Each could pick one
book from further down, for possible inclusion.

-- The only rules:
One book per author ... a series counts as one ... any book from any
language, as long as there's an English-language edition.

-- The 100 and other
details are at

-- People can
continue to vote, one per day, Online or via app

TV show

-- 8 p.m. Tuesdays,
PBS, from Sept. 11 to Oct. 23

-- Opener is an
overview; others follow themes: “Who am I?” on Sept. 18;
“Heroes,” Sept. 25; “Villains and Monsters,” Oct. 2; romance,
Oct. 9; “Other Worlds,” Oct. 16; and the finale, announcing the
winner, Oct. 23.


-- “The Book of
Books,” by Jessica Allen; 2018, Black Dog & Leventhal
Publishers, $29.99.

-- Brief portraits
of the 100 books, plus some interesting digressions.

Trends in the 100

-- Two are from the
17th century -- “Don Quixote” (1605) and “The
Pilgrims Progress” (1678); 18 are from the 2000s, most recently
“Gone Girl” (2012), “Americanah” (2013) and “Ghost”

-- Two authors –
Charlotte and Emily Bronte – are siblings. Diana Gabaldon and
George R.R.Martin are good friends; so were Ernest Hemingway and F.
Scott Fitzgerald ... until their falling-out.

-- 33 authors are
women ... but readers weren't always aware of that. The Brontes at
first used male names; others – L.M. Montgomery, S.E. Hinton, V.C.
Andrews, E.L. James – used initials.

-- 64 are by
Americans, but only 51 of the stories are set here.

-- Some of the
authors had day jobs far from writing, the book says. Kurt Vonnegut
sold cars, Herman Melville was a customs inspector, Jean Auel was a
keypunch operator. Charles Dickens worked in a factory at 12 and
later was a court stenographer. And Harper Lee worked at an airline
ticket office ... until friend gave her money to take a year off and
write “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

-- Many of the books
– from “Mockingbird” and “Catcher in the Rye” to “Hunger
Games” -- have been banned somewhere. In all, PBS says, 21 of the
authors have had this or another book banned.

-- And some of the
books ave been savaged by legitimate critics. The book gives
examples: “The Sun Also Rises” is “boring, boring and more
boring” .... “The Call of the Wild” was “the worst book
ever.” But the harshest criticism may have been by Mark Twain,
aimed at Jane Austen: “Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice,' I
want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own