Last month I wrote an article about The Great American Read sponsored by PBS. Readers could choose their favorite novel from a list of 100 books compiled from an extensive survey of American's favorites. The results are in and To Kill a Mockingbird was voted by the audience as America's best loved novel. The Harper Lee story never faltered in the lead for the whole five months of voting.
Second place went to the popular time travel series The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I can't believe that the first book in this amazing historical fantasy series was first published 27 years ago. It has been difficult to keep enough of Gabaldon's books on the shelf to meet the demand for all these years.
Third place was captured by the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. This was not a surprise to me since the novels in this fantasy series, written for teenagers, were extremely popular both with teens and adults. The success of the movies based on the books contributed to keeping all the novels in this series on the best seller lists. In fact, Harry Potter is the best selling series in the history of children's books.
In fourth place was Pride and Prejudice, the enduring classic regency novel, by Jane Austen. This book is certainly one of the most popular novels in English literature with over 20 million copies sold.
The fifth spot was taken by the Lord of the Rings, another series popular with both teens and adults, with a highly regarded series of films to help keep demand high. The fantasy series by J.R.R. Tolkien was written in stages between 1937 and 1949 and the film series (2001 to 2003) helped introduce a whole new generation to this body of work.
One other notable thing about the top five is that 3 out of 5 were series. I personally love to read a series with a cast of interesting characters that you get to know. I don't have the statistics to back it up but I think that at least half the books we sell at the bookstore are part of a series.
Spots 6-10 went to Gone with the Wind, Charlotte's Web, Little Women, the Chronicles of Narnia and Jane Eyre. One of the things that I found very encouraging about the results were that many of the titles in the top ten were books whose primary appeal is to younger readers. Sometimes all it takes is one great book read to or by a child to introduce them to the wonderful world of books for the rest of their lives.