As a librarian I have seen many book lists over the years. They tend to center around a genre, age group, or subject matter, and can generate a great deal of debate about titles deemed worthy–especially in the case of a “top 10” or “top 100.” Seldom, however, do I come across a book list quite as eclectic as the 100 novels voted into The Great American Read, a new PBS book discussion series hosted by Meredith Vieira. According to PBS, “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.” The book list is based off results of a nationwide survey; any fiction books, regardless of age or literary merit, were considered, and the final list was determined primarily by their popularity among American readers.
The multi-platform nature of the campaign makes it particularly interactive. Their website allows you to filter the list by genre to see the ones that interest you most. In addition to downloading the printable checklist (or checking them off here) and reading the books, you can watch the television series, discuss your favorites in the 26,000+ member (and growing!) book club on Facebook, read their book of books, a companion book set for publication later this summer, and finally, submit your vote for the top book to be revealed in October 2018. The voting format is unique in that each book has a hashtag you can use to vote via the social media platform of your choice.
Of course, few of us have actually read ALL 100 titles. This summer, HPU Libraries will help you get access to the books to read! In fact, we already have. All 100 titles are available in print and will be on display at Smith Library throughout the summer. Click the title below to view availability.
If you prefer the convenience of an e-reader, we have eBook copies of many of the titles as well. Just click the title you are interested in above and, if no eBook link is immediately available, click the link on the item record for “view editions and formats” to check for other formats.
Not sure where to start? Several HPU Librarians picked their favorites from the list. The only title which was selected by more than one staff member was…
#1. Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Sheri Teleha, Serials & Cataloging Librarian, had this to say:
Try the Outlander series which may start as more of an adventure with romance but it also incorporates historical fiction, suspense, and graphic scenes as the books get longer and more involved. It is the one series I have in my personal library that I read over and over again.”
Melinda Pennington, Evening Reference Librarian, seconded her recommendation:
“Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is a sweeping, genre- bending saga that mixes historical fiction with time-travelling fantasy and spans three centuries in both directions. Real-life historical events and people are intermixed with fictional characters to create intrigue, political drama, and romantic escapades in enough doses to keep readers wanting more. Currently, the epic storyline is stretched to eight volumes (with anticipation of a ninth coming out this year), multiple spin-off series from side characters, a Reader’s Companion to explain various events and characters, and a cable series that is on-going. A magical, slightly twisted, historical wonderland of reading.”
#2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Chosen by Alex Frey, our new Head of Technical Services at Smith Library:
“If you only read one of Dostoevsky’s masterpieces, it should be this one. The story opens with Rodion Raskolnikov, a young and destitute law student, concocting a scheme to murder an old money lender so he can pay his many debts. Rodion believes he will be forgiven his crime because the money lender is unscrupulous and he intends to do good deeds with the stolen money; but after the crime, guilt and remorse begin to cloud Raskolnikov’s plans and his judgment. He becomes exceedingly paranoid and even physically unwell. He begins engaging in risky behaviors, worrying his friends and family and raising suspicion about himself. Will he be able to go on with his life knowing he is a murderer or will he have to face punishment in order to go on living at all?”
#3. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Chosen by Josh Harris, Media Services Librarian:
“There’s only one thing better than science fiction, and that’s funny science fiction. This modern classic from the late great Douglas Adams is equal parts goofy space adventure, cosmic horror, and scathing social commentary. It’s no wonder that this story – started as a BBC Radio show in 1978 – has spawned an entire book series, a television show, a video game, a feature film, and hordes of devoted fans.
If you take nothing else from this book, just remember to always keep a towel, the most massively useful thing that an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”
#4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Chosen by Leanne Jernigan, Wanek Center Librarian:
“Like no other book you’ll ever read, this dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood is a cautionary tale. Set in fictional Gilead–run by a totalitarian religious regime which overthrew the United States government in the aftermath of nuclear war–the novel follows a young woman who is stripped of her identity and forced to conform to a twisted patriarchy and bear children for the upper classes in a world where fertility is now the exception to the norm. The woman–renamed “Offred” to indicate that she is the property of a man named “Fred”–tries desperately to escape, determined to find her family from her previous life and regain some degree of freedom. While certainly not a carefree beach read, this is a novel you won’t soon forget, and the Hulu series of the same title? Amazing.”
#5. Memoirs of a Geisha.
Chosen by Jenny Erdmann, Head of Reference Services:
“Memoirs of a Geisha, while not a true memoir, is almost equal parts historical fiction and romance, with elements of classic fairy tales.
Readers who enjoy World War II era fiction, or are curious about the art traditions of other cultures, will find the main character a chatty and endearing guide to a vanished world.”
More staff favorites included The Grapes of Wrath (David Bryden, Library Director), Rebecca (Karen Harbin, Acquisitions), The Count of Monte Cristo (Chelene Marion, Media Assistant), and the Chronicles of Narnia series (Jesse Xiong, Evening Reference).
We would love to know which books you enjoyed most! If you find one of these reads compelling, feel free to send a review to firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured in a future blog post.
-Blog post by Leanne Jernigan, Wanek Center Librarian.