PBS has narrowed it down to 100 contenders for “The Great American Read.” Our library staff weigh in with their favorites here. Let us know your favorites in the comments!
Keep an eye out for more programming from us around The Great American Read. Kirkwood Public Library is one of fifty libraries that received a grant from PBS and the American Library Association for this program!
The Reading For Social Consciousness Club
A recent favorite of mine is a book we read in the Community for Understanding and Hope Book Group–Americanah. The book explores race and immigration, following the characters as they leave their home in Nigeria and grapple with the numerous complexities of building a life in a new country. The characters are complicated and richly developed. – Emma
I’ll go with The Color Purple by Alice Walker. It’s a read that grabs you and is just so well written. – Rachel
I read The Color Purple in high school and was moved and challenged by it. Celie’s journey remains urgent in the era of Say Her Name. I also felt affirmed by the presence and power of women’s relationships in the story. Walker’s work can be contextualized in a long tradition of Black women breaking the silence on sexual abuse, long before Hollywood celebrities. Celie and Shug’s relationship was also the first time I remember seeing a queer relationship in a book for school, which was affirming. – Allie
My favorite book is to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I found Scout and her father Atticus fascinating. Scout’s precociousness, curiosity, and intelligence spoke to me from the start of the book. Harper Lee captured the issues of the time period beautifully. I just wished she had written more books. She wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960 and her most recent book, Go Set a Watchman, came out in 2015. That’s 55 years between books! – Jigisha
My favorite book [on the list] is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. My daughter and I read it simultaneously, and would discuss it every day. A fond memory. But I liked the book for the author’s talent of making you feel you were right there in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962. The friendships and the relationships,despite race and in spite of race. A true Great American Read! – Julia
I have quite a few favorites on this list, but my all-time favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read it when I was very young, and Atticus, Scout and Boo Radley have been with me all my life–inspiring in me a sense that standing up for what we believe is right, no matter how unpopular, is so important. – Melinda
The Historical Fiction Posse
My list pick would be Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I’ve read it a multiple times each occasion catching a deeper vision of life during that era. I am struck by the community, humble service and kindness that abounds. I am a bit of a romantic/ idealist and this tale does not disappoint. With all the hardships endured love conquers all!! – Julie
So hard to choose, but my favorite on this list is Gone With the Wind. I read it for the first time in 8th grade with one of my best friends and we would chat about the Rhett/Scarlett love story like it was celebrity gossip. I loved reading about the Civil War and the South from a different perspective. – Chelsea
I would say the Outlander series is one of my favorites as I just love the history, time travel and romance of it as well as how descriptive it is and she keeps me hanging on always wanting more! Such a great list and so hard to choose! – Kim
My favorite on the list is Lonesome Dove. There were many great titles to choose from (I suppose that’s the point), but Larry McMurtry writes about a time I have always been partial to. Gus and Call are two of the great characters of the Old West and they share an epic adventure (well, most of one). McMurtry really puts you back in the time period and surrounds Gus and Call with a great supporting cast. A very difficult choice but that’s my pick. – Dan
The Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fans
This is so hard to decide! After much thought I will say my favorite book (series technically) on the list is The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. – Ellen
The Handmaid’s Tale because it pulls you along while being more cerebral than eventful. The skill involved in writing something like that is astounding. – Nic
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favorites. Douglas Adams’ wit and humor left me ROTFL. No other book has ever done that for me. – Nick O.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is hilarious but brilliant Sci-Fi. A book filled with memorable characters and alien races. This timeless classic was one of the first novels I read and had a heavy influence growing up. Great fun. – Ryan
Michael Crichton’s characters [in Jurassic Park] are very well developed and the story is phenomenal. If you are fan of the movie, the book is 1000 times better! I still have my copy that I read as a young teenager. – Nick O.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley has been one of my all-time favorites since I was in high school. Not only is it a scary story, but it also touches on many different philosophical subjects. It was one of the first novels that really made me think and analyze what I was reading, but it also sucked me in with the conflict between the two main characters. I also realized I could sympathize with the character that was supposed to be “bad,” and dislike the supposed “hero.” Also, I wrote an award-winning essay on it in high school. – Shannon
Because, come on, who doesn’t love The Lord of the Rings!? The characters, the scenery, and the story are all so wonderful. They are “precious to me”! I love the movies as well, but they would have needed to be twice as long to fit in the wonder of the books. – Nick O.
The Lord of the Rings series were the first fantasy books I ever read, and gave me my love of the genre. It made me realize that I was not the only one who created imaginary worlds in their head, and that is something that helped me realize I could be a writer. – Shannon
1984 by George Orwell was one of the first dystopian novels I ever read, and it stayed with me long after I finished it. I read it when I was about 18 and it informed my worldview and politics a great deal. -Shannon
The Childhood Classics Bookworms
My favorite on the list is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I read it on the back stoop of my childhood home and immediately connected with Francie who loved to read on her fire escape. Now, looking back, I see both of my grandmothers in her character – each growing up early in the 20th century, having to drop out of school to support their families and making their way through the depression. – Terri
My favorite books will always be the Harry Potter series. The characters have walked with from from first grade through college, providing examples of friendship, forgiveness, and bravery that I could relate to every problem or situation I encountered. Hogwarts will always feel like home! – Madeline
My favourite book on this list is Anne of Green Gables. I loved the series when I was growing up and I can picture exactly where the books were on the shelf, in my local library. – Gayle
As a former teacher my all-time favorite book was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I clearly remember reading it to my fifth graders before recess and they wanted to stay inside and hear more! Another favorite was Anne of Green Gables as I desperately wanted to be Anne and live on Prince Edward Island. – Dina
The Suspense Sleuths
In my opinion And Then There Were None is the quintessential mystery novel. It’s a thriller that does an amazing job at keeping the pulse pounding, using themes of dread, claustrophobia, and isolation to its advantage. The ending came as a huge surprise and remains on of my favorite conclusions to any story. – Ryan
If I had to choose just one I would vote for Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It has been around for years but the suspense and psychological tension have never left me. A great story. – Lynn
I echo Lynn on Rebecca. It’s good and creepy and stays with you. I also really enjoyed The Martian by Andy Weir. I read it in one sitting and appreciated it for its novelty and the thrill. – Barbara
The Lone Comedian
While I had read many comedic novels before being introduced to A Confederacy of Dunces in high school none had ever clicked so well with me. It had such a profound effect on me and opened my eyes as to just how funny comedic literature could be. So many laugh out loud moments. – Brian