The Great American Read: The Book of Books; Explore America's 100 Best-Loved Novels

. Black Dog & Leventhal. Aug. 2018. 288p. illus. index. ISBN 9780316417556. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316417549. LIT
This companion book to PBS's eight-part TV series The Great American Read comprises 100 novels "chosen through a demographically and statistically representative survey" (according to the show's website—the selection methods aren't discussed in this volume). Arranged alphabetically by title, each work receives a page of text about the story, author, and publication history, and a page of images (a picture of the book, a photo of the author, and a third image—often a manuscript page). A clear, friendly, informative narrative by freelance writer Jessica Allen is broken up by entries about the writing life, the critical lives of books (banned great books, panned great books, and the effect sf has on how we view the present), and how to think more deeply about literature. There's even a section at the end, "How To Read a Literary Text," with questions and examples drawn from the 100 titles. Two appendixes arrange the works by release date (the oldest is Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote [1605]; the newest, Jason Reynolds's Ghost [2016]) and by genre. Another section, "Resources for Readers," lists websites, podcasts, and author societies, as well as book festivals, writers' houses, and notable public libraries.
VERDICT Engaging and varied enough to have something of interest for most with at least a passing interest in the written word.

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