I cannot tell you how jazzed I am to be a part of THE GREAT AMERICAN READ.
PBS is out to find America’s most beloved novel. (Note: not the most loved novel by an American writer, but rather the novel most loved by American readers, which is why a number of British books are on the list). They’ve selected 100 finalists, and in the months to come the public will be encouraged to read all of them… or as many as they can… and vote for their favorite.
It’s Thunderdome for books; 100 novels enter, one emerges.
Of course, it’s all for fun… and to encourage reading, and conversations about books. About fiction, specifically.
Check it out here: http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/home/ if you want to play.
And yes, if you squint at that poster, that’s A GAME OF THRONES you see, right in the middle of the fourth row from the top.
It’s a VERY eclectic list, one that runs the gamut from canonical classics of modern English literature to last year’s bestsellers and mega-sellers, touching every base in between. Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Melville are there, together with Tom Clancy and James Patterson and E.L. James. Genre fiction, I am pleased to say, is well represented, including SF and fantasy: not only my own work, but also books by Robert Jordan, Douglas Adams, Michael Crichton, Frank Herbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, and many more. And congrats to my friends Ernie Cline and Andy Weir, who made the list as well with READY PLAYER ONE and THE MARTIAN. Mysteries, romance, erotica, literary novels…. it’s quite a list.
(Are there omissions? Of course there are. I can think of a dozen books I’d like to add myself, and a dozen I’d drop. But that’s where the conversations can start. PBS wants to get people talking about their favorite books, and so do I).
I don’t think A GAME OF THRONES has a chance in seven hells of winning the competition… but just being on the same list as LORD OF THE RINGS, THE GREAT GATSBY, GONE WITH THE WIND, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, LONESOME DOVE, CATCH 22, CHARLOTTE’S WEB blows my mind. Those are favorites all, towering masterpieces, books that changed my life.
I can’t pretend to have read every book on the list… but I’m going to do my best to fill in the gaps in the months to come.
Oh, and besides the vote, there’s also an eight-part TV series devoted to THE GREAT AMERICAN READ. I will be one of the guests on the show, talking about a couple of my own “most loved” titles on the list. No, not my own work. Presumably one of the other guest authors or critics will talk about A GAME OF THRONES, but if so, I have no idea who that will be.
This should be great fun.
And remember: The reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads lives only one.
Current Mood: excited
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What first comes to mind: No Cormac Mccarthy in a “great american read” list?
Blood Meridian or Suttree would fit the canonical classics and The border trilogy or The Road for more bestseller material. To have none is pretty damn strange if you ask me.
Another thing in mind is the surprise to see Sirens of Titans before Slaughter-house five from Vonnegut, not that I actually mind, I love Sirens as much as Slaughterhouse, just always believed Slaughter was the great Vonnegut bestseller.
I am also missing some great historical fiction, like Bernard Cornwell or Conn Iggulden. Specially the “Winter King”-trilogy is so damn good it makes me shiver down my spine, only a handfull of book series does that to me (including A song of ice and fire).
I do not want to sound whiny but one thing I really, really can not accept: there is no Philip Dick on that list? I feel his contribution to our current modern popfiction about the future is immense (from the direct adaptations like Blade Runner to the indirect influences like Westworld or Black Mirror).
Last thought; I think Time´s 100 great novels did right to include Watchmen, it affects you like only the great classics of literature can do.
This is the sort of conversation the program is meant to provoke, I think.
Agree about the Vonnegut pick. I’d also go with A TALE OF TWO CITIES over GREAT EXPECTATIONS for the Dickens.
Anyone else notice that Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey are on the list?
Twilight right beside War and Peace, no less.
Poor Tolstoy. Not enough room in that grave for all the spinning he must be doing.
Yes, everyone has noticed that.
They are both mega-sellers, and obviously loved by millions.
If the list had been chosen by a panel of English professors, neither one would have gotten anywhere near it… but neither would have A GAME OF THRONES or any of the other SF, fantasy, mystery, or romance selections.
More interesting this way, I think.
Game of Thrones has amazing writing. I didn’t plan on reading it, or becoming as obsessed as I have become, but I was hooked from the prologue. I can’t say the same for Fifty Shades. Twilight, though, despite all of its flaws, was engaging enough for me to read. Stephanie Meyer may not be a great writer, but she can tell a story. But she has nothing compared to your story-telling and characters. It’s the way you write, the way you give your characters LIFE like they are real people. The little things. The way you present everything. I just finished The Hedge Knight a couple of days back and it left me reeling.
I don’t think anyone would be surprised when AOIAF ends up in a lot of lists with LOTR.
Congratulations! Also, curious, if you had your choice, which book in ASOIAF would you have submitted?
If you look at the full list on the PBS website, it’s actually the entire ASOIAF series that’s included in the list, not just A Game of Thrones.
Confusing, and bound to upset nearly as many SF/fantasy pedants as listing the Lord of the Rings as a book series, but *not* listing A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as one.
Is “the reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads lives only one”, a GRRM original saying or a previously existing one?
If it’s a GRRM original, is it inspired by versions of “the coward dies a thousand times, the brave man only once” from sources like Julius Caesar and Farewell to Arms (or one of those particularly)?
It’s a quote from Jojen Reed in A Dance with Dragons.
I am certainly familiar with those works you mention, so it’s possible there was some influence… but they were not immediately on my mind when I wrote the line.
Thank you for your reply!
This line is the pithiest distillation of such an important thought!
Hi George! There is also a famous quote by an italian writer, Umberto Eco, which is very similar to yours:
“Chi non legge, a 70 anni avrà vissuto una sola vita: la propria. Chi legge avrà vissuto 5.000 anni.” from “Perché i libri allungano la vita”, L’Espresso, June 2nd, 1991.
My poor translation (I’m italian, too): “The man who doesn’t read, by his seventies will have lived only one life: his own. The reader will have lived 5.000 years.”
Is it possible that you have heard this before?
Unlikely. I don’t speak or read Italian.
When will this be on??
Congrats, George…its well deserved! I read LOTR as a kid and it remained my favorite series into adulthood. That is, until I read ASOIAF. We are lucky to have you writing it.
Um, Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight?
Eh, I give it a pass because it’s a competition for most loved book, not best. They may be terrible, but no question plenty of people love Fifty Shades and Twilight.
If they win, though, it will be time to start feeling depressed.
Also, I guess ‘Game of Thrones’ is being put on the list as kind of a shorthand for ‘the entire SoIaF series’? I would put ‘Storm of Swords’ over ‘Game of Thrones’ as the most beloved of the series, personally.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison 😉
PBS may take, is already taking, a beating for some of those choices, but heck, I guess there were a lot of people who loved reading about a man requiring them to sign a contract before bondage. Who are we to be book snobs? I personally don’t like books with convoluted language trying to be something. I just like to be emotionally moved, as I was when I finished “The English Patient”, a book not on this list, but it also doesn’t surprise me as there are so many books.
What a pleasant surprise, to find A Confederacy of Dunces in the list! If only his mother had lived to see it, she would have been so, so proud. <3
Congratulations, George – you must be thrilled to be ranked alongside your favourite writers! The very best of luck with the competition, and I hope GOT goes all the way!
Atlas Shrugged is #1
A Game of Thrones a close #2.
Nothing by Le Guin?
You’re dead to me, America.
Hi George! Have you heard of a book called the cruel prince by holly black. People have called it a game of thrones for fraires. I’ve read it and I can tell that she’s a huge fan.
Thanks ( if you answer
Most of the books on that list are good reads, even the ones I didn’t particularly like. Including Atlas Shrugged, though? Ugh. Poorly written and definitely not deserving of inclusion on a least of great American books.
I love the diversity of this list, but I have to feel some of these picks made the list because of their popularity in film or TV adaptations (Twilight, The Notebook, Ready Player One, Jurassic Park.)
I can’t imagine many people would be arguing a spot for Jurassic Park on this list if the films were never made, for example.
My goal is to read (or reread) all of these. Congrats George on making this list! I’m hoping Game of Thrones wins 🙂
This looks awesome. I believe I have read around 15 of these books, but I think I can add a few to that list in the next few months. I’ve had Foundation in my nightstand since last November and hopefully this is the push I needed to finally crack it open.
A couple of comments on this list:
1. It was created via a poll of 7200 people, not via a curated list of experts. In my mind, it compares more to Goodreads as opposed to something like the Locus List.
2. I travel a moderate amount for work and I can tell you that the airport is a great place to go to get a pulse on what Americans are reading. I have seen Fifty Shades and Twilight in airports with people a number of times but I have never spotted recent more literary Hugo winners like Leckie and Jemison. If you like a more curated, literary list then go look at the Hugos or the Nebulas. If you are looking for a more populist view then look to this or Goodreads. No need for either side to crap on the other about enjoying the wrong stuff on their list.
My comment above applies more to the other comments as opposed to the content of the original article by George.
Three reactions strike me at once:
1) Sad to see nothing by Neil Gaiman on the list.
2) Glad that ‘100 Years of Solitude’ was not overlooked: a book that EVERYONE should read.
3) Surprised at the total omission of George Eliot, on the ‘certified classics’ end of the spectrum. I’d have included ‘Middlemarch’ for sure.
George, have you ever read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? If so, has it ever inspired any of your works?
Read it many years ago, in college. No direct inspiration that I am aware of… but the larger context of The Matter of Britain and arthurian fiction in general certainly influenced my work.
I love the list and can’t wait to pick a couple new titles to dive into. I would have loved to see “The Jungle” by Sinclair on the list. The effect that the book had on me was so surprising. It transports you to another time and what, at times, seems like another world. You read it and it is like you’re right there in the slaughterhouse. Very visceral. Also, The Kite Runner, by HosseiniI would be a great addition. You can’t help but be deeply affected when you read that book. I also love when a book an tear down cultural barriers like Hosseini’s works. I also agree with a previous commenter, Conn Iggulden has some great titles. I loved the Genghis Khan series.
I have read about half of the books on the list and will give some of the others a go. Not Fifty Shades though. That’s a step too far off a cliff!
If I had to vote today though I would be torn between my childhood favourite Lord of the Rings and my current favourite Game of Thrones. I love them both. They are not just my favourite fantasy novels but my all time favourite novels.
Congratulations! Other than Game of Thrones, i am extremely happy to see both Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and my all time favorite Jurassic Park.
I am sad that Treasure Island and or Murder on the Orient Express is not on the list.
I cannot wait to tackle this list!
They got And Then There Were None, though. Whereas MOTOE would have represented all the Poirot books, I think they made the right choice. ATTWN really was her masterpiece.
To me the one that really is lousy are the Left Behind books. I have no problem seeing that sort of fiction represented and I know it sold a lot, but my, those books are awful. I should know, I read all 12 of the original set.
I do not know what you think, but I believe that “The Godfather” is on that list because of the movie, not the book itself unfortunately. In addition, I am very disappointed that “The Last Templar” is out of the list. Well, goodluck Mr. R.R Martin.
Lol, can I ask which dozen you would drop George?? 😀
No Stephen King on the list? I hope I’m just missing his inclusion.
I would probably be more embarrassed about only having read 21/100, but it isn’t exactly a must read list for any group. The literature snobs certainly didn’t get control of the list as I had expected. In my quick skim of the list, I feel like the smattering of this and that approach may have under represented science fiction a bit, which is only surprising since fantasy seemed fair better.
I was really pleasantly surprised to see Robert McCammon listed. I can’t recall the last time I ran across his work in a book store, and I’m in his hometown.
Wow I thought I had read a lot, until I reviewed this list, I will accept your challenge to read a good portion of these books, if I could add some of My Faves, Any Angela White books must be added, and Jean Auels series are books I treasure, Andrea K Host, series are worth a good mention, so many Great books, I wish WE could live extra lives so we could have time to read them All. Love you, LOVE your books even more!
Clan of the Cave Bear is on there. It’s like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, just one book instead of the series. Which makes no sense to me. They should be consistent
Also if I have only read one book in the series, Alex Cross by James Patterson, do I get to pick it or do I have to have read them all?
Doña Barbara all the way!!! Viva Venezuela Carajo!!!
Hi, First I’d like to say that I am a big fan of you and your work, and you have inspired me to do some writing of my own and I’d like to thank you for that, I am excited for Fire and Blood.
Wich brings me to a question; will we learn about House Targaryen previous to the Doom of Valyria? From what I understand it used to be rather small and unimportant in the freehold.
And it would please me to know more about Aenar the Exile and Daenys the Dreamer.
I’m mostly curious about the Freehold itself.
Thank you beforehand if you choose to respond to this.
In FIRE & BLOOD? No, won’t be much about the pre-Conquest Targaryens.
IN future books, stories, or TV shows? Maybe.
George your work is just phenomenal. Your books have kept me company for several year now and I officially listen to the song of ice and fire audiobooks everytime I feel stressed, unhappy or just in the mood for some magic. Thank you trully. As for people who are busting your balls about Winds of Winter, pardon my french, but fuck them. Ofcourse we want TWOW but your work is a gift to all of us. You cant demand a gift. Thats just rude. Also, people who gives us gifts deserve above all to be happy. So fuck these assholes. Just wanted to send some support. Thanks for all that magic:)
Mr. Martin, is it true that you used Joseph & Frances Gies books for reaserch to write ASOIAF?
I’ve read some of the books on the list, I owe myself to read others and I wouldn’t read a couple of them even if they pay me, but it hurts my bookworm heart to see them sharing the same list with 1984, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Outlander and ASOIAF to name my top 5 of all times. Oh, well, variety is the spice of life. And some spices are an acquired taste 🙂