The Great American Read: The 40 Books in the Lead

Christina Knight | August 10, 2018
School children visiting the farm that inspired Charlotte’s Web.

School children visiting the farm that inspired Charlotte’s Web. Photo courtesy of Nutopia/PBS

The Great American Read has reached TWO MILLION votes in the search for America’s best-loved novel. Voting is ongoing, so any book could pull into this Top 40 literature list at any time. Below are the TOP 40 BOOKS from the list of 100 titles that are currently leading the pack. If you don’t see your favorite book, there is still time to change that. You can vote for your favorites each day until Thursday, October 18, 2018 at midnight PT, when voting closes. Click here to vote now.

Top 40 Books on Great American Read List


A Prayer for Owen Meany*
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer*
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland*
And Then There Were None*
Anne of Green Gables
Atlas Shrugged
The Book Thief
The Catcher in the Rye*
Charlotte’s Web*
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Color Purple*
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Da Vinci Code
Gone with the Wind*
The Grapes of Wrath
Great Expectations*
The Great Gatsby*
The Handmaid’s Tale*
Harry Potter
The Help
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy*
The Hunger Games
Jane Eyre
The Little Prince*
Little Women
Lonesome Dove*
The Lord of the Rings
Outlander (Series)
The Outsiders*
The Pillars of the Earth
Pride and Prejudice*
The Stand*
To Kill a Mockingbird*
Where the Red Fern Grows
Wuthering Heights

*Titles and their authors discussed at greater length in the premiere of The Great American Read in May, streaming now.

See the entire list of 100 books, which includes author, publication date and genre.

Book Insights and Inspirations

Author George R.R. Martin

Author George R.R. Martin wrote The Game of Thrones series. Photo courtesy of Nutopia/PBS

All 100 of America’s best-loved novels were mentioned in the premiere episode of The Great American Read in May. Of the Top 40 books in the voting lead, many were discussed in more detail. Insights and surprising facts include:

    • Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin describes The Lord of the Rings as a huge influence, and how its author J.R.R. Tolkien “broke the rules.”
    • Author Margaret Atwood says of her dystopian novel, “My rule for The Handmaid’s Tale was nothing goes in it that people have not done to other people, at some time and some place.”
    • Rapper Daniel O’Connor’s passion for The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton has led him to start a museum project in Tulsa.
    • The way The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, addresses rape made it “the book that saved my life” for actress Gabrielle Union.
    • The main character in A Prayer for Owen Meany was created by author John Irving to answer a religious question he asked himself: “Who would I have to know, to make me believe?”
    • Wilson Rawls, the author of Where the Red Fern Grows, had to rewrite the novel from memory after he had burned the manuscript out of fear of its rejection.
    • In World War I, doctors prescribed reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to traumatized soldiers as a type of “bibliotherapy.”

    Educators looking for ways to bring these novels into their classrooms should visit The Great American Read collection on PBS LearningMedia.

    The Great American Read returns to PBS starting on Tuesday, September 11, 2018, with 7 new episodes airing weekly on Tuesday nights at 8/7c. The winner will be revealed in the final episode on Tuesday, October 23, 2018.