Sunday, May 13, 2018

Will You Participate In The Great American Read?

PBS TV is airing an eight-part television series, starting May 22nd, that could spark a national debate about reading – what we should read, why we read what we do, how to encourage more reading of great books.  We need more events like this to catapult a renewed effort to read quality books in America.

At least one in four Americans won’t read a single book in 2018.  Not even a silly humor book, a simplistic how-to book, or even an escapist novel.  America needs to read more books – and not fall victim to reading only short–form content such as blogs, texts, and social media posts.  We need to embrace a well-written, well-researched or creatively imagined book.  We need something that really gets us thinking and feeling – and talking.  Though it’s quite difficult to say which are the most important or best books around, we can do more to support the broad pool of books that would fall under such categories.

The Great American Read will be hosted by Meredith Vieira and feature interesting people such as actor Morgan Freeman and author Margaret Atwood.  It’ll explore how writers create their worlds and how readers are deeply attracted to particular stories.

According to, the show relied on the selections of 7200 surveyed Americans and the selections of 13 advisory members that were selected by PBS.  The survey, conducted by You Gov. purports to have conducted a demographically and statistically representative survey but it’s hard to imagine something as complex as identifying the favorite novel of 330 million people can be revealed by seven thousand people – an average of about 150 per state.  And who is this advisory panel of 13 literary industry professionals?

Anyway, they’ve come up with a list of 100 novels that really are all worth reading, though we can easily come up with hundreds of other equally worthy books!  If you think about it, it would be hard to agree on the top 100 novels of the past decade – let alone several centuries of America’s existence.

The list has numerous problems in how it was put together.  First, it only allowed for one title per author, so if Dickens, Twain, Orwell or others dared write more than one great book, you had to only take one.  Same holds true for a book series.  The series is treated as one book, even though individual books in the series could be better than other books.

The voting wasn’t weighted in any way.  Everyone picked their top title and weren’t allowed to list their top 100.

The eventual way the top book is selected includes open online and social media voting which unfortunately skews to favor those who are inclined to spend time online or who want to stuff the ballot process.

Lastly, this list doesn’t reflect poets, plays, non-fiction, and other genres, which is fine.  To create a list of great books we probably need to subdivide by eras, genres, sub-genres, and other factors.  For instance, it’s hard to compare thrillers with drama, satires with erotica, horror with mystery or westerns, etc.  It’s also hard to compare a 1760’s book with one from 1850, 1920 or 2018.

My favorites – of those on the Top 100 list – are the following:

The Catcher in the-Rye
Crime and Punishment
Gulliver’s Travels
Invisible Man

Whichever books make such a list – and whichever – one wins – the main thing is it gets America reading books again and puts a focus on books of quality that stand the test of time.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.”

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