Great American Read List discussion

The 100 Novels and Series > Praise and Criticism

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message 1: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jun 10, 2018 10:00PM) (new)

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I'll begin with my criticism. I would have liked to have had the opportunity to vote on which books made the 100 list. I don't know whom they allowed or how exactly they chose those selected individuals to survey, but I wish it had been open to all Americans to participate. I think the list would have been more genuine had they done so. I understand that their overall aim was diversity, that they wanted a variety of genres included as well as differing authors in regards to nationality and such but I think America would have surprised PBS. I think Americans would have chosen wonderful options all on their own.

Having stand-alone novels compete with entire series is unfair. The sheer volume of book series allows for far greater creativity. If a stand-alone wins the vote over a series I will be surprised! Perhaps they could have had two different votes. One for stand-alone novels and a second for book series. I think that would have been a better way to present this nationwide event.

Now for my praise—I'm glad PBS is airing this series! When I saw the advertisement for The Great American Read here on GoodReads I was excited. I made sure to set the premiere to record and shared my enthusiasm for the upcoming episode with others. It's a great way to encourage Americans to discuss not only the official list, but books and reading in general. Hopefully, that will continue long after the television series concludes in October.

I'm a fan of book lists if they are relevant to me and interesting. Literary goals such as this tend to motivate me and it's a way to discover books I may not have chosen otherwise. This list will be my main focus until a winner is announced, and it's likely that I'll continue to work on it until I've read all one hundred novels and series.

I'd like to know what members think. Please share your praise and criticism too!

message 2: by Parker (new)

Parker | 58 comments I agree with Lavan - I had no idea until I saw a promo on PBS. I must say that PBS and Goodreads are the only two places I've seen *anything* about it.

I also agree that series and stand alones shouldn't be judged by the same criteria, unless you consider the series one long book (as Tolkein always insisted The Lord of the Rings was. He was quite furious when the publishers decided to break it up into three). I'd perhaps even say that "classics" and "popular" novels shouldn't be judged quite the same.

On the positive side, hopefully it will get Americans reading, which is a Good Thing!

message 3: by Lavan, moderator (new)

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Parker wrote: "I agree with Lavan - I had no idea until I saw a promo on PBS. I must say that PBS and Goodreads are the only two places I've seen *anything* about it.

I also agree that series and stand alones s..."

Along those lines, perhaps children's literature and young adult could have had a separate vote from adult novels. Depending on how this goes, maybe PBS will have another vote in a few years and take into consideration the concerns and input readers have, and do it differently—better.

message 4: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Albright | 14 comments I was disappointed we didn't get to vote for the 100 either.
I am a little sad I didn't have more heads up about it. I am a slow reader so I don't know how much I can get done before the end.

I love that they are doing this!!

message 5: by Lavan, moderator (new)

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Amanda wrote: "I was disappointed we didn't get to vote for the 100 either.
I am a little sad I didn't have more heads up about it. I am a slow reader so I don't know how much I can get done before the end.

I l..."

Thank you for joining the Great American Read List challenge with a goal of 5 books!
I plan on continuing this group after PBS's television series ends, so please don't feel rushed to read more than you have the time for. This forum is focused on enjoying the journey in a relaxed manner. We're supportive and friendly!

message 6: by Toni (new)

Toni Gary I agree with the above comments about how the poll was conducted. I find it a little disconcerting that PBS gave such short notice for this series of 100 books to be read over a summer, and that they’re publishing a book for sale about the series. I also agree about stand alone and series. And I’m having problems with so many great authors who were not included, and some of these books that have been included.

message 7: by Bethany (last edited Jul 08, 2018 06:15AM) (new)

Bethany | 123 comments On the note of young adult books--
I think what is interesting about the GAR is that it is a very good reflection of what Americans read. You have your classics--what people tell you you SHOULD read. These are stock answers a lot of people give when they are asked about "Great Books." These books are well-written and have staying power. We also have extremely popular books, like Fifty Shades or Left Behind--these books are not particularly known as being "good" literature, but they reach people.
Children and Young Adult books are different. The target audience--children--are a tricky demographic. First, many of them DO NOT WANT TO READ. There are a variety of reasons for this--I teach students who generally read below grade level to far below grade level. Reading is a severe struggle for most of them, and they often have little motivation to continue with a book because it doesn't grab their attention. Also, with test-focused education, often, what students are asked to read is boring, has no connection to their life, or is "taught" to death (you will notice that there is absolutely no Shakespeare on this list, despite every high school student having to read it).
Young Adult literature MUST be entertaining. It MUST connect with its audience. It MUST be well-written to have staying power. That's what makes it memorable. That's why so many people say that the best book they've read was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone or The Hunger Games. These books made them love reading, at least for those few hundred pages.
Here are the books on the GAR list that either are, were originally, or could be considered young adult literature. Which ones are your favorites?
A Separate Peace
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Anne of Green Gables
Bless Me, Ultima
The Book Thief
The Call of the Wild
Charlotte's Web
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Coldest Winter Ever
Flowers in the Attic
The Giver
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Hunger Games
Little Women
Looking for Alaska
The Alchemist
The Little Prince
The Lord of the Rings
The Outsiders
Where the Red Fern Grows

message 8: by Tasha (last edited Jul 08, 2018 09:24AM) (new)

Tasha I have to admit that I haven't really been following the show and how books were/are selected but I think all the comments above make total sense. I love lists and this, honestly, was the sole reason I was attracted to the GAR. I really can't make any educated comments at this point regarding the backstory for the list but I can agree that there are books on the list that surprised me but looking at it from the angle that it's a widely diverse reading audience they seem to be trying to include, it seems to make for a widely diverse selection of books. I don't intend on reading all of them but there are great books on that list so I'd love to try to get to most of them at some point.

I may end up moving on at some point before I get many read though which is not a reflection on this group....just a reflection of my list-jumping tendencies. ;)

message 9: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Bethany wrote: "On the note of young adult books--
I think what is interesting about the GAR is that it is a very good reflection of what Americans read. You have your classics--what people tell you you SHOULD rea..."

Your comments are very interesting and make so much sense. Of that list, I've loved:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyng
Harry Potter (loved the entire series, read twice, once with my then 10-11yo daughter)

I've also liked:

The Book Thief
The Hunger Games

Others on the list I've read or still plan on reading at some point.

message 10: by Toni (new)

Toni Gary Ok, I couldn’t leave it alone-how these 100 were chosen-I’ll say it-some of these are not in the top 100 and some are missing. Guess what-there is a commercial basis-to sell more books-which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’re following something done in the UK previously. My problem is way books were chosen. Polls were made and results found for 1200 best loved-then experts were called in to take a list of 1200 to 100! This is from a news article dated July, 2017.

Nutopia CEO Jane Root said she brought the idea for the Great American Read to PBS chief programming executive Beth Hoppe, after working on a similar and successful program for the BBC in the U.K. “It ended up really increasing book sales for the summer it ran," Root said, who credited Hoppe with keeping the project alive at PBS.

The initial list of 100 Best Loved Books, according to Bob Kirsh, executive producer of The Great American Read, were chosen through a demographically representative survey of ordinary Americans conducted via YouGov, a polling organization. Based on the question “What is your best-loved novel?,” the YouGov survey produced a list of 1,200 titles.

Working with the literary agency Aevitas Creative Management and with PBS, Nutopia has recruited a volunteer panel of “respected industry professionals including heads of not-for-profit literary organizations, educators, a librarian and members of the literary press," Kirsh said. The literary panel, Kirsh continued, will review the final list of 100 books to ensure it is representative of the full range of American literature. The panel of literary experts will be revealed at the time of the broadcast.

“It is important to reiterate that every title on our top 100 list was indeed initially chosen by the American public,” Kirsh said. "That’s what makes this national campaign exciting—there will truly be something for everyone.”

message 11: by Tasha (new)

Tasha I see. So while a book may be on the 1200 list that got narrowed down to 100, it could very well be at the 1200 number. hmm.. So it's really not the top 100. Also, those culling the list have their own interests and prejudices...interesting.

message 12: by Tasha (new)

Tasha I can see how it's a marketing thing, especially since it seems PBS is selling a book at the end of summer.

message 13: by Bethany (new)

Bethany | 123 comments I'd love to see the 1200 list.

message 14: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 09, 2018 05:15PM) (new)

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I agree with you Toni, about the duration of the event. Five months isn't adequate to read 100 list books, especially given 36 of them are actually book series. It's likely that participants have already read some, but it still seems like an insufficient timespan in my opinion. Perhaps a year would have been better.
I don't mind that PBS is publishing a companion book. I'm reserving judgement until I read it, but I'll be sure to let everyone know what I think!
I know you're not alone in your disappointment with books/authors being excluded and others being included, but as this list is a representation of what Americans like rather than what is considered quality writing (not necessarily synonymous) I can understand why these books made the list (for the most part).

Thank you so much for sharing your insight, Bethany! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comment. I was nodding my head in agreement as I read.
My favorites of the young adult novels you've listed, in order (of the eleven I've read so far):
The Lord of the Rings (series)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (series)
The Hunger Games (series)
Where the Red Fern Grows
Charlotte's Web

I'll enjoy your company while you're with us, Tasha, and be sorry when you feel it's time to leave the group!

Thank you for sharing, Toni! I'm now looking forward to PBS's reveal of the literary panel.

Me too, Bethany! Maybe PBS will disclose the original list of 1200 as well.

message 15: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Thanks, Lavan. :)

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