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I’m Number 48!

October 25, 2018

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The Great American Read is over, and the final standings were revealed on PBS in the season finale.

A GAME OF THRONES (well, A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, more precisely) finished 48th.   Pretty cool.   I was in the top 50, anyway, and I edged out the FOUNDATION series and WAR AND PEACE.   Not half bad.   But really, just being on the list at all was amazing.  I mean, being included among in America’s top one hundred favorite novels out of… well, out of all the novels ever written, actually… that’s not too shabby.

Just to be in this company was enormously gratifying.  Though, like everyone else, I could have quibbled over some of the selections.  (I mean, Ayn Rand?  Really?  C’mon.  And while Mark Twain certainly deserved to be on the list, I am baffled as to why they would choose to represent him with TOM SAWYER rather than HUCKLEBERRY FINN.   Charles Dickens is a must, of course, and GREAT EXPECTATIONS is well regarded, but I would have gone with A TALE OF TWO CITIES myself.  And if they had nominated A CHRISTMAS CAROL, beloved as it is, Dickens might have finished in the top five.   I was thrilled to see so much SF and fantasy on the list, but troubled by the omission of some of our genre’s classics.   Where was H.G. Wells?  Surely THE TIME MACHINE or WAR OF THE WORLDS belonged on the ballot.   And Heinlein… if you are going to include SF at all, you have to include RAH, imnsho.  That being said, SF and fantasy came out better than some other genres.   There were a couple mystery novels contending, but no Chandler, no Hammett.   Well, I could go on and on… and you guys will no doubt have opinions as well.   All in all, I think it was a very good list, but by no means a definitive one).

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD won, and led from pillar to post, it was announced.   And my friend Diana Gabaldon finished second with her OUTLANDER series, a truly wonderful accomplishment.  Congratulations to Diana, and kudos to her fans.

LORD OF THE RINGS, which I endorsed in the season premiere, came in fifth.  Yay Tolkien!  Yay fantasy!

Millions of people voted… and more importantly, millions of people READ, and were exposed to books they might elsewise never have encountered.   This was a wonderful idea, and I hope PBS does it again in a few years… maybe with a different hundred books.   There are so so many great books out there, and anything that promotes reading and literature is to be commended.

A tip of the hat to everyone who voted.  Even if you didn’t vote for me.

Comments allowed… but ONLY on the Great American Read, literature, reading, and all that good stuff.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Comments

  • Francisco Contente says:

    Funny how the Count of Monte Cristo topped The 3 Musketeers as the only title by Dumas. Not arguing over it´s quality in relation to the ‘The 3 Musketeers’, but in terms of popularity and from where I´m from, I was a bit suprised.

  • Michael says:

    They didn’t include A Christmas Carol? And no Hammett?

  • Jon Whitfield says:

    I would have loved to have seen Stephen King’s Dark Tower series or 11/22/63 on the List, but The Stand blew my mind when I was a kid. Congrats on making the list

  • Zenobia A Holliday says:

    Not an Ayn Rand fan, eh? I mean, she can be a bit heartless, but the books are fascinating.

  • Susanne says:

    Well, darn. This is the first I heard about this show. My attempts to be less mad at politics all the time has started isolating me from things I want to know about. I’ll have to go see if I can find it streaming somewhere. Thanks for the post and congrats!

  • smilerspaniel says:

    Congratulations! What works or authors, fantasy or otherwise, would you have liked to see make the top 50 list that were not recognized?

  • David J says:

    I’m not sure if it’s top 100 worthy, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Millennium series by Larsson.

    Congratulations on top 50 all time!

  • Gary R says:

    Incredible list, so happy to see Dune high on the list. Blew my mind as a kid (movie not withstanding). Congrats on ASOIF!

  • Vignesh says:

    Very happy for you!!! Keep going!!!

  • Philip Frey says:

    I’m amazed something like ‘Outlander’ even made the list, but its coming in second makes me think there was some kind of campaign. These kinds of massive surveys are interesting, but too prone to “gaming” to actually mean much. Think about it. Just look at ASoIaF vs Outlander alone. Which will *really* live longer in the memory of civilization? Which really has impact? All this says is which one really had motivated and organized fans. (I’m not even going to comment on the fact that it beat Tolkien.)

    As for George’s question on Twain. I honestly think that the slavish devotion to ‘Huckleberry Finn’ is overblown. It gets all the attention, while ‘Tom Sawyer’, as the initial book, gets short shrift. So, I’m glad they gave it the attention it deserves. After all, there’s no ‘Huck Finn’ without ‘Tom Sawyer’, first.

    (Now, if we can just get people to read the other two Tom & Huck books that most don’t even know exist…)

    • Matheus Ervall says:

      Yeah, I am absolutely certain that ASOIAF will be read by my grandchildren (if I have any say on the matter).

      Like Tolkien, it will probably only grow with time and never reach a “peak in popularity” period where it bloomed only to later wither away and be forgotten.

      I cannot go 3 years without rereading the whole series, and there are endless amounts of labyrinths; intricate character and plot secrets that reveal unknown depths, waiting to be explored.

      People who do not understand this complexity often do not understand how much hard work must have been invested in each book, thereby acting like crybabies, demanding the next book to be just magically released like some typical piece of popular fiction – that ASOIAF is not.

  • Nick says:

    I have had the good fortune to read most of the books on that list, and in terms of pure enjoyment, anticipation and depth of involvement, Game of Thrones would rank near the top. Congratulations. My kids 17 and 13 have now read the series as well, and would put it at the very top of their lists. For me, A Tale of Two Cities would top the list.

  • Matheus Ervall says:

    The only thing I get from the list is that women voted.

    I guess it evens things out; the popular vote in imdb, on the other hand, there is an 85-90% men who vote for the top 250 movie list.

    It shows on both. Though, I need to say; To Kill a Mockingbird and Shawshank redemption are very gender-neutral universally beloved nr1s leading both lists.

    I do miss some Cormac Mccarthy on a list called “the great American read”.

  • Stephen Richter says:

    I voted for Moby Dick.

  • Dharma says:

    Congratulations George.

  • Daniel S says:

    Ranking artistic works is always a challenge. Do you rate them by current popularity, enduring appeal, influence on the genre, or all of the above? While I highly respect the storytelling and world-building of ASoIaF, I wouldn’t rank it above a literary classic like War and Peace. The original Foundation trilogy is one of my personal favorites, although I don’t care for the later sequels (which may be why it’s ranked where it is). The original books are brilliant, though — intelligent, laden with ideas, well-paced, and they feature early examples of common sci-fi tropes such as force-fields and hyperspace. Some complain about the lack of characterization, but even there, Arkady and the Mule are major exceptions.

    Lord of the Rings deserves its high rank, not only because of the rich tapestry of its storytelling, but also its massive influence on the fantasy genre as a whole. Wizards, elves, dwarves, orcs, dragons… all these staples of fantasy owe a debt to Tolkien. Of course, we can only appreciate its legacy now that it’s been around for decades. Ultimately we will have to wait for the final verdict on ASoIaF, especially because it’s an (as yet) unfinished work. But no rush, take your time — legacy is what matters.

  • Sandy says:

    Not to be a suck up, but I voted for you George! Your series, A Song of Ice and Fire, are by far my favorite books that I have ever read! You’ve spoiled my expectations for every subsequent book read. Congratulations! You deserve to be in the top ten. The only reason why you weren’t ranked higher is, because those voters haven’t read the series.

    • Fernando says:

      Yo opino lo mismo, desde Argentina, “canción de hielo y fuego” es la mejor ficción literaria que haya leído, es de otro mundo. Felicidades George

  • Gerald says:

    I am thrilled to see so many SF&F and Horror works on the list. Fifty years ago, such a list would not have included any of those except perhaps Frankenstein. They were wrongly vilified as not having any literary value. Times changed and closed minds opened.

    Wyoming was quite a surprise. ASoIaF came in first there! I would have expected the Ayn Rand stuff from them. I now imagine people huddled before the fire on the wind-swept prairie or in some valley of the icy Grand Tetons happily reading A Game of Thrones. The thought makes me smile.

  • Álvaro José García Cohen says:

    Congratulations dear George.
    What do you think about Gabriel García Marquez (RIP), Who finished 54 (near you), with One Hundred Years of Solitude?

    Thanks

  • Cindy says:

    I was glad to be able to vote daily because there were many of my favorite books on the list. Proud to say I have read all of the top ten books, 16 of the top 20- I stopped counting at that point.

  • I’m genuinely surprised you aren’t much higher on the list…especially with the popularity of the TV show.Which I refuse to watch until the series is over…but still congratulations!

  • Craig says:

    Of course we will all have our own opinions, based on our own ideas about literature and life, about the list, and about what books should or should not have been included, or should have been ranked higher or lower, etc.

    All such lists tend to suffer very badly from recency bias — whatever is popular at the moment will rank much higher than it probably deserves, and a similar list produced in another ten or twenty years may rank them much lower, or not include them at all. I like to think that ASOIAF will endure, as I admire the series; but only time will tell.

    Regarding the winner, personally I find “Mockingbird” rather sententious. There is a certain irony in the fact that it’s a preachy anti-racism story for white people, about white people, by a white person, in which black major characters are few and function more as plot devices than fully-realized human beings. Earlier this year, Roxane Gay wrote an article for the New York Times in which she made the same point.

    There are certainly some fine books on the list: “Wuthering Heights”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Jane Eyre”, “Gatsby”, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, to name only a few (though notice that these are all books that are often assigned reading in high school; my daughter recently read “Their Eyes…” for exactly that reason). And it’s nice that a handful of works translated from other languages are included (Garcia Marquez, etc.) But there is some real crap mixed in as well: “Fifty Shades of Grey”, to name only one glaring example.

    The list basically represents a middle-class white American perspective on literature. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. It certainly says more about middle-class white America than it does about literature.

    • grrm says:

      Well, the whole premise was “America’s best loved books.” I am sure if someone did “England’s best loved books,” or “Argentina’s best loved books,” or “Japan’s best loved books,” the list would be very different.

  • Ann Seeber says:

    Congratulations, GRRM! I voted and truly hoped you’d be in the top 5. I agree with you on Tale of Two Cities. Mockingbird deserved a high rank, though I wouldn’t have made it #1. As many of the top choices are no longer writing, I look forward to more of your works.

  • Rebecca says:

    Daphné du Maurier is 25th ! Yeah ! My parents named me Rebecca because of this book ^^

    There’s so much awesome books in the list ! To kill a mockingbird, LOTR, 1984, Catcher in the Rye…
    I would add lord of the flies and Dead poet society. And I’m so glad an author of my country made it into the top 100 of America : The little prince of St-Exupéry <3

    I'll give a try to Outlander, even if I'm not a fan of love stories. Anyway, congratulations to you George, ASOIAF is a masterpiece and you can be sure my children and grand children will read it !

  • Kareemah Hamdan says:

    From what I understand they sent out 700 surveys to random people–I assume PBS viewers or subscribers. They were asked to give a title of a book that made an impact on them. Not the best book ever written or their favorite, but what made an impact. Then the representatives they gathered to compile the list were allowed to add one of their own titles — I assume this is how we ended up with 2 out of print , impossible to find titles on the list. Considering this is likely a majority American audience, things like Outlander (while a book I enjoyed) and Fifty Shades of Grey (a book I did not enjoy) ended up on the list– the were recent and in everyone’s faces. This may account for a little of ASoIaF’s position on the list (the TV show) but it deserves to be on the list in any case. I fully expect that quite a few of the titles were books people remembered from reading in High School–http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/23/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/

  • Taylor Osieczanek says:

    Congrats on finishing 48th! You should get a New York Jets Bobby Humphrey No. 48 jersey to celebrate!

  • Dan Selcke says:

    I have a question about the list. When the polls were opened, it looked like we were voting on “A Game of Thrones,” the first book in your series. But when they announced the results, it was “Game of Thrones (series).” The same thing happened to Harry Potter — it went from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” to “Harry Potter (series),” and a few others. But something like Dune still stands alone.

    Any idea why that happened? Or am I overthinking this? It was definitely a fun show!

  • Alex Long says:

    It is a travesty that Ender’s Game was left off this. If you’re going to include Sci-Fi, how do you not include Ender’s Game? I know some people don’t like Card personally, but the book is amazing.

  • Marie Price says:

    I’m British so my perspective is obviously different but I’d personally rate ASOIAF above the others mentioned in this blog post. I haven’t actually seen the list, being in the UK, but I definitely agree that The Time Machine is something that belongs on it. Anyway, congratulations on making the top 50.

  • Casey says:

    I do not know how Great Expectations was the Dickens choice, as I agree with you George, A Tale of Two Cities was a much better novel in a time period that does not get a lot of love or interest in history.

  • dd says:

    Agree about A Tale of Two Cities for Dickens and Huckleberry Finn for Twain, but you question Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged on a list of the most impactful books Americans have read? I tried your series, but could not personally get through the first book. Philosophically, off, morally, all over the place, but still, congrats for making the list at #48.

    • Tristan says:

      dd –

      You couldn’t “get through the first book”? What? So, you’re on GRRM’s website, on GRRM’s blog, reading GRRM’s post AND commenting on something GRRM has an opinion about even though you couldn’t make it through one of his books?? That makes no sense! That’s like someone who hates chocolate cake going on a chocolate cake website to review a chocolate cake recipe they just baked and tasted.

  • Marco says:

    I love the Outlander series. In fact, that’s the only Romance series I remotely care about. However, I do have issues with classifying the series as “Romance” because it’s more Sci-Fi than anything else.

    I was really hoping Lord of the Rings would take the #1 spot, but To Kill A Mocking Bird is a great, great book.

  • BobJ says:

    No Chandler at all? Dang. I know it’s not a novel, but the first paragraph of “Red Wind” is one of the best opening hooks ever. “Farewell My Lovely” is my favorite Marlowe novel.
    Congrats on cracking the top 50 – personally, I rank ASOIAF much higher than that.

  • Jakob says:

    Ironic, since you were born in 48′. Congrats.

  • Angela Barnett says:

    I was happy to see Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear. Another series I got addicted to that took years between books. LOL

  • Derrick says:

    Congratulations on A Song of Ice and Fire making number 48. Well earned after all the hard work. Hope you are taking your time, relaxing and not rushing to finish the series: please always prioritize quality over efficiency.
    I hope you will take the time to prepare some books for kingergartens and very young children that take place in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe, like the Adventures of Tommen or something along those lines.
    Good luck and wish you all the best!

  • Ricardo says:

    George, I just want to bring up to your attention that our madness has led us down low enough that now Jon’s sperm count is a case for discussion.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/9s6gfo/spoilers_main_is_jon_shooting_blanks_now

    A year of no Song of Ice and Fire, book or show, really is taking its toll

  • ACM says:

    I have to admit that your ranking #48 rankled me quite a bit — at first. I voted for ASOIAF as much as I could, and I judged the final list at first. But, I quickly reminded myself that this was America’s favorite books. Not the best books. And this was primarily a reading campaign, and a fantastic one at that. ASOIAF holds quite a bit of literary magic, but so do many others. So at the end of the day, as much as I would have loved to see a higher ranking for you, or a title from Graham Greene, Cormac McCarthy, Patricia Highsmith or Denis Johnson (or so many others) on this list, it’s enough to hope that this encouraged people to read more, or to read other selections they might not have otherwise. And perhaps it pointed more people to ASOIAF in it’s original form as well. No offense to the TV show, but there are rare few screen adaptations that are better than the books. And ASOIAF is a wonderful example of the novel as the ideal cinema. P.S. Team Arya forever.

  • Jim Heneghan says:

    Have the people reading these comments checked out the youtube series Extra Credits Sci Fi? It’s a great series that covers the birth of the genre starting with Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and going through the pulp age with Hugo Gernsbach to Asimov. Right now the series is dealing with the “New Wave” era of the 80s. I got introduced to a lot of these writers and the history of the genre by reading this blog over the past 13ish years and this series is really a great companion to anyone who enjoys George’s musings on the giants who’s shoulder’s he stands on.

  • Jordan Bonitatis says:

    I wonder if they chose Twain’s ‘Tom Sawyer’ over ‘Huck Finn’ because of the portrayal of Jim.
    What was once considered progressive is now considered insensitive and offensive. This article does a pretty good job summarizing how opinion has shifted around that book (https://www.nytimes.com/1985/03/14/books/from-twain-a-letter-on-debt-to-blacks.html).

    Political correctness as a rationale for censorship… So weird to me.

  • Betz says:

    Well, if you can make my 14 yer old daughter want to dress up as Septa Unella for Halloween (JUST FINISHED THE COSTUME TONIGHT!), it’s certainly not a fly-by-night read. Doing pictures tomorrow, I will post a link – yes, she got the bell to ring too.

    “SHAME!”

  • Christopher D. Bradford says:

    The Stand was the book that got me hooked on reading as a kid, and it was my favorite book for most of my life until I read ASOIAF. This series now holds the top spot for me. I voted exclusively for ASOIAF and LOTR nearly every day. So glad one of them reached the top 5.

  • Matthew Rooks says:

    Congrats on making the list! Quite an honor, but lists like these always make me a bit queasy. Twilight is here, but nothing from Gene Wolfe? Sacrilege!!

  • Betz says:

    My daughter as Septa Unella for Halloween this year. Yes, I made the costume myself.

    https://www.deviantart.com/estump/art/Septa-Unella-Game-of-Thrones-costume-2-770687212

    She even got the brass bell to ring while saying, “Shame!” She wore it to high school today (she’s in 9th grade) and none of her classmates knew who she was, but three of her teachers did. Two of whom said, “You’re too young to watch that show.” *eyeroll*

  • Michael says:

    I’m 40 years old, half my life has passed me by. But thankfully last year, like an addict longing for a taste, I started to read the written version of the greatest story ever told. (Actually listened to it in audible but it doesn’t have the same ring).

    Over the next few months I read them all, and “The tales of Dunk and Egg” and the history of Westeros. Then Lord of the rings and 1984 war and peace and on it went. But at this late stage of my life, it was your work that birthed a new love of literature.

    I do hope you are able to finish the series. Asoiaf is a masterpiece, the Mona Lisa of fantasy. And I am grateful for having had that opportunity to read it.

  • Mark Blumler says:

    Congratulations, George!! Although I like Tom Sawyer very much, I must agree with you about Huck Finn. And about Chandler and Hammett, I think that illustrates one of the comments that it was women who voted.

  • Ivan says:

    I think it’s fair to say Ayn Rand is in there for her politics, not her prose.

    Which makes the absence of Heinlein all the more annoying, since he had plenty of provocative political ideas in his work. I fiercely disagreed with the man on almost everything, but I still couldn’t walk away from STARSHIP TROOPERS or THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS without considering his point of view.

  • Colby Warren says:

    Hi George,

    I have to start by saying, I love your work. Thank your for all the good books! My wife and I both enjoy your work. I’ve got a question that I cannot find an answer from you on, through all your interviews. So I apologize if you’ve been asked a million times. I’ll preface my question by saying, I really enjoy the historical inspiration behind all of your writing as I am ahistory buff myself. I can actually trace my genealogy to William de Warenne, so that particular era is fascinating to me. My question is, where did the inspiration for rhaegar Targaryen come from? Is he inspired by anyone in history, or is there any light you can shed on your thoughts while creating his character? Again, thank you for your work.

  • Jonathan Pierre says:

    As you can surmise, I am a big fan of ASOIAF. I know you get inundated with questions regarding the series but I feel compelled to try my luck regarding one of mine.

    When we are first introduced to Jaqen H’ghar we find him in confinement. His storyline obviously takes several turns. Will we ever discover why he was in the dungeon? Have you already laid out the clues and I just haven’t pieced them together yet? Or will the origins of him being in King’s Landing remain a mystery?

    If you choose to indulge my query, feel free to message me directly to avoid madness by the fandom. Either way, I appreciate what you do and I’m glad to experience your story.

    • grrm says:

      I hope to answer all questions… well, except for a few I may prefer to leave ambiguous or mysterious… in the last two books.

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