Throughout history, many books have become classics and found their way into the hearts of readers. Sometimes these novels are so beloved that they are still attracting people to them. Featured on PBS, The Great American Read was an eight-part series that told the background stories of the 100 best-loved novels in America. Voted on in a national survey, the books vary in genres and age groups. As I looked at the list, I noticed I had read many of the titles. So, what better way to end my summer reading with rereading my favorite book picks from The Great American Read.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Based on a true story, The Help tells a fictional story of life in Jackson, Mississippi, during the 1960s. The novel is narrated by Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson. Aibileen and Minny are African-American maids who work for Caucasian families. Skeeter has returned to her family’s farm outside of Jackson after graduating from the University of Mississippi. Her dream is to become a writer. Skeeter takes a job at the local newspaper, writing a household tips column. However, this position is only a step to publishing a book and writing for a company in New York. After being home for only a short period of time and learning that the family’s version of the departure of their maid, Constantine, was false, an idea for a book comes to her mind. With the help of Aibileen and Minny, Skeeter publishes a novel, describing the life of African-American maids in the South and their relationship with their Caucasian employers. The Help is a must-read and was number 16 on The Great American Read! Plus, this book gives readers the timeless quote: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Number 44 on the list is the timeless classic novel, The Giver. I first read this book in middle school and now teach it to my students. Originally published in 1993, The Giver centers around twelve-year-old Jonas who lives in a utopian society. Yet, in this world, there is no pain nor feelings and everyone is considered “the same.” In addition, the society gives its citizens jobs or “life assignments” to help the community stay content and free from trouble. Jonas becomes the “Receiver of Memory.” After taking the assignment, he soon begins to realize the dark, complex secrets of their utopian world. Along the way Jonas interacts with other characters, such as his father, his mother, sister Lily, The Chief Elder, and the community’s The Giver. Since its publication, The Giver has become one of the most influential novels and is the 1994 Newbery Medal winner.
The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
Did you know that author C.S. Lewis destroyed the first version of The Chronicles of Narnia and started over, because his friends didn’t like it? I know that is hard to believe for an enduring series, such as The Chronicles of Narnia. The seven-book series starts with the novel, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and draws readers into the lives of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie in London during World War II. Over the course of the books, readers travel with the Pevensie family and others on adventures of magic, war battles, and to the fantasy land of Narnia. For some people, The Chronicles of Narnia has a deeper meaning, full of Christian symbols and inspiration. Placed as number nine on the list, this series is one that you can’t miss.
These novels are just some of my favorite choices from The Great American Read. For a full list, visit: pbs.org/the-great-american-read/home/.Happy reading!