Book lovers rejoice! The PBS series “The Great American Read” is back — airing Tuesday, September 11 through Tuesday, October 23 — putting the spotlight on the joy and importance of reading more than just text messages and twitter posts.
PBS’ eight-part literary love-fest explores the power of books and the impact they can have on our lives through the lens of America’s 100 best-loved novels, as voted on by the public. The nationwide campaign, created in partnership with the production company Nutopia, has been searching for America’s “Best-Loved Novel.”
The shows are hosted by journalist Meredith Vieira who talked about the multi-platform reading initiative during the PBS session at the recent Television Critics Association’s press tour at the Beverly Hilton. Also on hand was Jonathan Barzilay, Chief Operating Officer of PBS, who reported that something surprising happened during The Great American Read launch this spring at the Morgan Library, in New York City, when the list of America’s 100 best-loved books, as chosen from an online poll, was announced. Barzilay said, “The atmosphere in the room was not like a library, it was not like a classroom. It was like the NFL draft, as people were screaming as their favorite books were revealed. Since the first episode of The Great American Read premiered on May 22, millions have joined the conversation and people have been voting for their favorite novel.”
The series resumes September 11 with six episodes highlighting the top 100 novels grouped into themes such as love, heroes and villains, and fantasy, building to the final episode on October 23 when America’s best loved novel is revealed.
Joining Barzilay and Vieira on the PBS interview panel were Diana Gabaldon, author of the award-winning Outlander series, and Nicholas Sparks, author of The Notebook and 20 other New York Times bestsellers, over half of which have become major motion pictures. Both have their novels in the top 100 vying for the “Best-Loved Novel” title.
Sparks said he is biased and hopes The Notebook wins, and he was honored that it made the top 100 list. “For myself, and I’m sure for Diana, creating a novel is a lot of work and you put a lot of care and love in it. For both of us it was our first novel that was chosen, and for your first while you’re writing you don’t know what’s going to happen. You have hopes and dreams and then we were both blessed with success. So to be recognized many years later for that initial work, it’s an extraordinary feeling.”
Actor and writer Wil Wheaton was asked to be on the panel to talk about some of his favorite books in the top 100, among them Heart of Darkness and Ready Player One, “but I’m really pulling for Dune,” he revealed.
Excluding her novel, Gabaldon said, “Trying to pick one favorite book out of the universe of books is impossible. To pick one off of a list of 100 is difficult but maybe not impossible. For me it’s a dead heat between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Lonesome Dove. And having made that decision, I was thinking what do these books have in common? Why do I like them both so much? I finally decided that it’s because they share what my husband refers to in reference to my work as the ‘One damn thing after another’ school of fiction.”
Go to PBS.org/the-great-american-read/vote to vote online.
And speaking of great novels, also on PBS is the three-part Masterpiece drama The Miniaturist airing Sundays, from September 9 to 23. It is an adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller set in 1686 that recreates the Golden Age of Amsterdam with all its opulence and repressed sensuality. Looking like she stepped out of a Vermeer painting, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) stars as a young bride whose new husband, a prosperous merchant played by Alex Hassell (Genius: Picasso), gives her a dollhouse replica of their home as a wedding gift. The mesmerizing tale is filled with emotions as mysteries unravel. Tune in.
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years, and was half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.