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A selection the books that comprise The Great American Read

These Are Denverites’ 10 Favorite Novels

Inspired by the eight-part PBS series, The Great American Read, the Tattered Cover conducted its own poll to determine which novels rank as Denverites' favorites.

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For the past six months, book lovers have been tuning in to watch PBS’ The Great American Read, an eight-part series hosted by Meredith Vieira, devoted to 100 of the best-loved novels in the U.S. The final list was compiled by thousands of readers through a nationwide survey that accounted for age, gender, ethnicity, and region. As the series continued, exploring the books in depth with the help of celebrities, politicians, and everyday citizens, viewers were encouraged to vote once a day for their favorite—not terribly scientific, but fun nonetheless. In Denver, Tattered Cover Book Store got in on the action, hosting Rocky Mountain PBS viewing parties, highlighting all 100 books on Instagram, and conducting its own, Denver-specific poll.

More diverse than most school curriculums, the 100 books weren’t limited to American authors (lest we not include Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince). In the end, the final list represented just 64 American authors and 50 books set in the United States. Seventy books were published after World War II. Contemporary picks such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah share space with Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, published in 1615. Thirty-three books were written by women (even more feature a strong female lead) and nine were Pulitzer Prize winners, including Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead.

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Voting for both the Denver and national poll closed a week ago, and winners were announced  at a watch party on Tuesday, October 23 night at the Tattered Cover on Colfax. In the Mile High and nationally, the winner ended up being Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, another Pulitzer Prize winner. Lee’s debut novel, set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s, chronicles the journey of six-year-old Scout and her father Atticus Finch, who’s defense of Tom Robinson—a black man accused or raping a white woman—forms the crux of this coming-of-age story. Touching on issues of race, morality, and justice, the book is a true American masterpiece, a reminder that you can never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view. More than 4 million votes were cast over a six month period and from the first week on, To Kill a Mockingbird never lost its lead.

While the unprecedented endeavor has come to an end, the episodes are still available for streaming on PBS’ website and are well worth a watch, especially with your kids. Not only does the series highlight novels in all genres and for all ages, but every episode touches on themes in literature, such as “Who Am I?,” “Heroes,” and “What We Do For Love.” Some picks will induce eye rolls from literary snobs—E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey and Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code among them—but the list is really indicative of what resonates with readers today.

In the end, The Great American Read serves as a reminder that when it comes to fiction, there’s something for everyone.

Denver’s top 10 in order of votes:

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (series)
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  5.  Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  9. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

America’s top 10 in order of votes:

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  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (series)
  3. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (series)
  4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  5. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (series)
  6. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  7. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  9. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (series)
  10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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