An initiative of the American Library Association

Read Along with Celebrities’ Favorites of The Great American Read

In the first episode of The Great American Read, PBS introduces America’s 100 best-loved books to launch the campaign to find America's favorite book. Celebrities, authors, and readers across the country, share why they love reading and specific novels on the list. These are just a small selection of the 100 books that Americans voted for. Check out the rest of the list here and watch the first episode below.

the-lord-of-the-rings

The Lord of the Rings

by J. R. R. Tolkien

George R. R. Martin's Pick

The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by the hobbit Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord Sauron, and destroy the One Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.

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things-fall-apart

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Sarah Jessica Parker's Pick

With more than 20 million copies sold and translated into fifty-seven languages, Things Fall Apart provides one of the most illuminating and permanent monuments to African experience. Chinua Achebe does not only capture life in a pre-colonial African village, he conveys the tragedy of the loss of that world while broadening our understanding of our contemporary realities.

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the-catcher-in-the-rye

The Catcher in the Rye

by J.D. Salinger

John Green's Pick

Holden Caufield, the disaffected 16-year-old narrator of The Catcher in the Rye, might be literature’s most famous teenager—or at least one of literature’s best examples of teen angst. Recently expelled from prep school, Holden takes a train to New York City, where, through a series of encounters with friends, acquaintances, and strangers up and down the island, he struggles with feelings of alienation, isolation, and grief. The novel well-known for its language, Holden’s disdain for “phonies” chief among his memorable phrases: his candidness with its slang and profanity, lend the narration the very authenticity that Holden seeks.

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a-confederacy-of-dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces

by John Kennedy Toole

Walter Isaacson's Pick

A Confederacy of Dunces’ protagonist, Ignatius Jacques Reilly, is described in Walker Percy’s foreword as a slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one. Reilly hates modernity and pop culture, preferring medieval philosophy, especially The Consolation of Philosophy, a work by the sixth-century Roman philosopher Boethius. The novel focuses on Reilly’s relationships with two women: Myrna Minko, a Jewish college student in New York, and Irene Reilly, Ignatius’s alcoholic mother. Reilly’s adventures and observations of New Orleans paint a rich portrait of the diversity of the city, including its various dialects; today on Canal Street, a bronze statue of the character recreates the novel’s opening scene, as Reilly waits for his mother outside the D.H. Holmes department store.

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the-outsiders

The Outsiders

by S. E. Hinton

Danny Boy O'Connor's Pick

Set in 1965 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, The Outsiders follows the first-person narration of 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis over a two-week period. Ponyboy is a member of the Greasers, a gang made up “outsiders,” kids from the poorer east side of town. Their rival gang, the Socs (short for “Socials”) are wealthy students from the west side. During an altercation between the two gangs, Ponyboy’s friend and fellow Greaser, Johnny, stabs and kills a Soc. Ponyboy and Johnny go into hiding, though Johnny emerges to turn himself in as tensions rise between the rival gangs—though not before a final confrontation. The novel confronts themes that have resonated throughout YA literature over the past half-century, including racism, homophobia, economic inequality, alienation, violence, and suicide.

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gullivers-travels

Gulliver's Travels

by Jonathan Swift

Neil deGrasse Tyson's Pick

Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, In Four Parts by Lemuel Gulliver (1726) is meant to be a travelogue, wherein a voyaging English surgeon recounts how he is repeatedly washed ashore on new lands inhabited by strange people (the Houyhnhnms, the Yahoos, Liliputians, and the Brobdingnagians among them). Each experience—some more dangerous than others—teaches Gulliver something about the nature of humanity and politics, and he returns to England each time with new understanding. Read more closely, though, Gulliver’s Travels is Jonathan Swift’s satirical representation of British Enlightenment thought and government via Gulliver’s various encounters with “utopian” societies.

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the-color-purple

The Color Purple

by Alice Walker

Gabrielle Union's Pick

Published to unprecedented acclaim, The Color Purple established Alice Walker as a major voice in modern fiction. This is the story of two sisters—one a missionary in Africa and the other a child wife living in the South—who sustain their loyalty to and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic novel of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.

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where-the-red-fern-grows

Where the Red Fern Grows

by Wilson Rawls

Chelsea Clinton's Pick

Where the Red Fern Grows is a beloved classic that captures the powerful bond between man and man’s best friend. This edition also includes a special note to readers from Newbery Medal winner and Printz Honor winner Clare Vanderpool.

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dune

Dune

by Frank Herbert

Wil Wheaton's Pick

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides—who would become known as Muad’Dib—and of a great family’s ambition to bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream. A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.

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charlottes-web

Charlotte's Web

by E. B. White

Lesley Stahl's Pick

This beloved book is a classic of children's literature that is "just about perfect." Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte's Web, high up in Zuckerman's barn. Charlotte's spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur's life when he was born the runt of his litter. E. B. White's Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.

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their-eyes-were-watching-god

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s Pick

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

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invisible-man

Invisible Man

by Ralph Ellison

Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden's Pick

Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesmanof the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.

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frankenstein

Frankenstein

by Mary Shelley

Allison Williams' Pick

Mary Shelley’s Gothic masterpiece is about a young and ambitious student, Victor Frankenstein, who creates a colossal and hideous monster by re-animating a corpse. After his initial spark of creative frenzy, Frankenstein is dissatisfied with and disgusted by his creature,and he abandons it as soon as it awakens. Forced to face an unforgiving world on its own, the creature sets out on in search of understanding and revenge. Frankenstein is a multi-layered story of what makes us human—and what makes us monstrous.

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the-chronicles-of-narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia

by C.S. Lewis

Venus Williams' Pick

Fantastic creatures, heroic deeds, epic battles in the war between good and evil, and unforgettable adventures come together in this world where magic meets reality, which has been enchanting readers of all ages for over sixty years. The Chronicles of Narnia has transcended the fantasy genre to become a part of the canon of classic literature.

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one-hundred-years-of-solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude

by Gabriel García Márquez

James Paterson's Pick

One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendiafamily. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women—brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul—this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.

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siddhartha

Siddhartha

by Hermann Hesse

George Lopez's Pick

In the novel Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life--the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.

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lonesome-dove

Lonesome Dove

by Larry McMurtry

Diane Lane's Pick

A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic and beautifully written, Lonesome Dove is both a humorous and heartbreaking as it follows cattle drivers Gus and Call across the prairie.

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alices-adventures-in-wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll

Cynthia Nixon's Pick

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a mathematics teacher at Christ Church, Oxford, often took three young daughters of his dean rowing down the Thames River, spinning fairy tales to pass the time. One afternoon in 1862, his story was especially well received by Alice Liddell, who entreated him to write it down for her. The story he’d told became Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which Dodgson later published under the penname Lewis Carroll. It and its companion works trace the adventures of a young girl who dreams of a number of bizarre encounters inflected with logic puzzles while she meets such memorable characters as the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and the Queen of Hearts.

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