Great American Read Wrap-Up

Have you all been participating in the Great American Read?  I first wrote about it back in May, and since then I’ve been reading some books from the Top 100 list, voting for my favorites every day, and watching the weekly specials on PBS that highlight some of these favorite novels of the American public.

It was all leading up to Tuesday night, when the winner of the voting was announced.  You can see the full list of results here. According to the GAR votes, here are the five best-loved novels in America:

5. The Lord of the Rings (series)

4. Pride and Prejudice

3. Harry Potter (series)

2. Outlander

1.To Kill a Mockingbird  

To Kill a Mockingbird

My guess prior to the announcement was that it would be To Kill a Mockingbird, but even I was a bit surprised how overwhelming it was: it started out at number one and never wavered once over the months.  TKAM is a wonderful book with broad appeal, but I think it remains so popular because it is quintessentially American.  It’s a coming-of-age story of a young Southern girl; it deals with race relations; it shows the merits and flaws of our justice system; it provides an enduring role model and hero in Atticus Finch.  And it doesn’t hurt that it’s taught so frequently in schools that probably most Americans have read it (certainly the ones voting on PBS programs).

I really enjoyed the GAR and hope PBS will do similar events in the future, perhaps for American authors or nonfiction, plays, or poetry.  I now have a whole lot more books on my to-read list as well! I had already read 32 of the 100 on the list, and I read three more during the course of the GAR.  Here are some brief thoughts on these three novels.

Rebecca coverRebecca by Daphne du Maurier

This novel had been on my to-read list for a while, so I picked it up to read over vacation…yeah, it’s not really a light beach read.  It’s a gothic suspense story featuring the new, young wife of a widower with many secrets, especially regarding his late wife, Rebecca. I loved the atmosphere and very much enjoyed the twists and the ending.  I’m looking forward to reading it again, because I think this is one that improves upon closer acquaintance. I also watched the TV adaptation of Jamaica Inn by the same author and loved it; you can find it on Netflix.

The Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist cover

I’ve heard wonderful things about this inspiration novel, which tells the story of a Spanish shepard who journeys across Africa to find his Personal Legend.  I enjoyed reading it and it made me think, but in the end it didn’t strike me deeply. The plot and characters were too vague and archetypal for my taste; if I’m going to read allegory, I’d prefer it to have some more personality, like the Chronicles of Narnia. I also felt like it didn’t have much to say to women; I can only remember one named female character, and we aren’t very interested in her self-actualization.

Bless Me, Ultima coverBless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

I don’t know how I missed this book all these years!  I had even mentioned it in a 2014 blog post for Banned Books Week, because it made the Top 10 Challenged list for the previous year.  Yet not only had I not read it, I knew nothing about it. It’s a wonderful coming of age story from a Chicano perspective in the southwestern US, where Antonio feels pulled between different family expectations as well as traditional and modern cultures as he tries to find his place in the world. I related to it very personally because I also come from a Catholic family, and I really enjoyed the meld of Christianity and the traditional practices of the curandera, or healer.

Have you guys read any of these?  Which of the 100 books did you vote for?  I voted mostly for Pride and Prejudice, but I voted for many others along the way, including those in the top 5.  I was really pleased with the choices for the top 5–how about you?

If you still want to get involved in the Great American Read, you can:

11 thoughts on “Great American Read Wrap-Up

  1. NovEllaandBanannabelle October 25, 2018 / 5:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing the winners. It’s so great for everyone to get excited about reading. Yay for Pride and Prejudice!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei October 27, 2018 / 9:41 am

      I was so happy P&P and LOTR both made the top five! I think it was a good list 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. wildroverblog October 25, 2018 / 7:57 pm

    Not being American, I’ve never heard of the scheme, but that’s a very interesting list. Most of them are FAMOUS stories, so it’s understandable they are on the list. A couple did jump out at me though. The Pillars of the Earth, a great book, but a very old English type of story, not one that I would expect to see. Another one is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I’m sure I read (probably on your blog) that it was on a list of books that were banned in America. Strange the next time I see it’s name, it’s on a top 100 list. It just shows banning books, doesn’t stop them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei October 27, 2018 / 9:47 am

      There’s definitely a lot of crossover between the GAR list and the banned books list! I guess people can be scared of powerful ideas sometimes. The Pillars of the Earth is waiting for me at the library, I’m quite excited. I love historical fiction.
      I’m curious, what do you think Ireland’s best-loved novel would be?


      • wildroverblog October 27, 2018 / 7:31 pm

        That’s a good question. I’m sure there would be a few famous stories in there too.
        If you’re thinking “Irish” in particular, Dubliners would say Ulysses, by James Joyce, any student would say The Field, by John B. Keane, as they study it in school. If you want historical NON fiction An Unsung Hero, by Micheal Smith, will blow your mind (Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen were only bit players in the Antarctic compared to Tom Crean).
        I would throw the cat among the pigeons and put The Forgotten Holocaust, by Scott Mariani on the list. It imagines the possibility of the potato blight being created in England, as a way of clearing the poor people from the land. It makes you wonder.
        Thanks for the question, made me think for a bit.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mei-Mei October 27, 2018 / 8:32 pm

        I might have guessed Ulysses (though I’ve never read it), but I’ve never heard of The Field, or the others. I have heard of Tom Crean because we went to his pub when we were touring the country! Our guide told us some about him, so I’d love to read more.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. saraletourneau October 27, 2018 / 9:18 pm

    I never got around to voting, unfortunately. *blushes*

    That being said, I’m not surprised that To Kill A Mockingbird was voted #1, either. Or that Harry Potter, LOTR, or Pride and Prejudice made it to the Top 5. But Outlander? I know it’s popular, especially thanks to the TV show. But I wouldn’t have expected it to see it that high on the final list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei October 27, 2018 / 9:23 pm

      I think the Outlander fans really made an effort with the voting. It’s a big, dedicated fandom!

      Liked by 1 person

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