The Great American Read…Or Not


EAC32B51-3A10-4BFE-8B22-C370ED286BC5A couple weeks ago, I posted here about the just-released list of 100 books that comprise “The Great American Read,” a new series on PBS that will examine the books that supposedly define America.

Since that list came out, there has been considerable buzz online and in real life about what’s included. The discussions I’ve heard personally have included:

  • “Fifty Shades of Grey?” You have GOT to be kidding! (I’ve heard this one consistently from all my reader friends.)
  • There aren’t enough women.
  • There aren’t enough People of Color.
  • There are too many kids books.
  • There aren’t enough kids books.
  • “I thought this was just American authors!”
  • There isn’t enough diversity – “America is the original Melting Pot, right?”
  • “These are all the books you’re supposed to read in school but instead get by with Spark Notes.”
  • “I lost all respect for this list when I saw the Left-Behind series included.”

While the list isn’t perfect by any means, I think it has already started what PBS hoped for – intense discussion about books and stories, about how reading has changed our lives. And that’s a good thing.

People are thinking deeply about this from all perspectives – how they love or hate some of the titles included, what books they’d recommend instead of the ones on the list, which authors deserve a second look, and so on.

I’ve seen some good alternate lists pop up in my news feeds that have served to plump up my TBR (To Be Read) list. For example, this one shared by Tate DeCaro today – Twenty-One Books You Don’t Have to Read contains some really fascinating suggestions to the books “everyone has read.”

You might not be impressed with The Great American Read list, and that’s just fine. It means you have an opinion about books and reading and you’re talking about it. And that is never a bad thing!