If you love PBS as much as we do—who doesn’t—then you likely watched part or all of their series The Great American Read. Based on viewer input, PBS selected 100 of the most loved books in the U.S. They then spent a few episodes explaining the various thematic elements of the books with personalities of all stripes explaining their favorite book and why they loved it.
Viewers then were able to vote and in the final episode, and each book was ranked according to preference. Number one, not surprisingly, was To Kill a Mockingbird. And, surprisingly, number two was the Outlander series.
Well, in a shameless act of thievery, we present some of our favorite books—a few of which did not make PBS’s list.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
For some it is the supreme tale of revenge. For me, I have always been attracted to the complexity and thoroughness of the Count’s every retribution. They are so calm in their unfolding and perfectly tailored for the intended receiver. I would not consider myself a vengeful person, but if I was, Edmond Dantès would be my guide.
Love You More Than Anything by Anna Harber Freeman
My three-year-old daughter’s favorite bedtime book is Love You More Than Anything by Anna Harber Freeman, and it has become mine as well. With lovely illustrations and rhyming text, this sweet (but not overly sweet) book follows a chipmunk mom and dad who find lots of ways to show their children they love them—even more than chocolate cake.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Picoult does an incredible job of tackling topics of privilege, prejudice, racial inequalities, and justice, all relevant to the society we live in today. The complexity of the storyline pulled me in immediately.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Irrespective of its historic significance, it’s just a wonderfully written tale with an all-American flavor.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
This is the best book I’ve ever read. The winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, it melds small, Midwestern town life, the lives of three generations of a reverend’s family, and an unforgettable trek into a wondrous tale with riveting prose. It’s the first book in a trilogy that includes Home (2008) and Lila (2014). I’m a bit of a binge reader, and these multiple books are super.
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I’m an avid hiker and outdoor adventurer, so talk about an epic trek! These books are the only 100-plus-page books I’ve ever read more than once.
Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman
You may know John Hodgman from the Apple commercials that feature one actor playing an Apple computer and the other a PC. John is the PC. His past writing has been fun, mostly silly, and creative, but this book is more storytelling and humor as memoir. It feels somehow connected to my own life’s experiences as a parent, spouse, and with a creative career. I loved it, finished it, put it down for two weeks, and read it again.