Time to vote! For your favorite novel that is. On May 11th, PBS launched a new series, The Great American Read. From a survey of over 7,000 people, PBS developed a list of the most-loved 100 books. During the series opener, several celebrities joined host Meredith Viera to introduce the titles. I was disappointed to learn I’ve read only 38 out of the 100. The list did include a few sci-fi entries, a genre which never has, and probably never will, interest me. But, there are plenty more to add to my must-read list.
I was happy many of my own personal favorites made the cut. Like Charlotte’s Web, an old-time friend and favorite from my childhood and which I read aloud to my sons, cuddled together, laughing over the antics of Charlotte, Wilbur and Templeton. And, book club picks that prompted many heated and thought-provoking discussions, like Fifty Shades of Grey, The DaVinci Code, Gone Girl, The Handmaid’s Tale, Hunger Games, The Help, The Lovely Bones, and Memoirs of a Geisha. The first Harry Potter made the list. Another personal favorite which I used as the basis for a term paper on reader-response which I wrote for a children’s literature class I audited a few years ago. Even the sweeping saga, Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth appeared, a book which I suggested to Brendan and which he referenced in his senior “corporate” speech at St. Sebastian’s and parlayed into his college application essay.
One book, however, which stands alone as my most beloved is Gone with the Wind. Clocking in at over 1,400 pages in my paperback edition, GWTW is not the best choice for anyone looking for a quick read. But, if you’re looking to lose yourself into a story, can erase the images of Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable as Scarlett and Rhett, and appreciate the impact the Civil War and Reconstruction had on the South, I highly recommend it.
My copy is being packed up to join me at my writers’ retreat this weekend. One of our assignments is to present one of our favorite books, explain our bias, what it makes us feel or think about, why the characters are memorable, its structure and which aspect of the novel would we want to borrow for our own novel.
For my WIP, Eliza’s story, GWTW is an inspiration as a classic historical novel. The details which Margaret Mitchell colors to create a setting makes you feel you are in the time period and scene, standing next to Scarlett, grabbing the red Georgia clay of Tara, gripping the reins of a wagon, fingering curtains with ideas for a new dress. In a revisit to the novel, I can see Eliza modeling similarities to Scarlett. Given the influence GWTW had on me, I’m not surprised. Consider this quote I found in my old term paper:
You, the Reader of the novel, close your copy of the book, and like your fictional counterpart, you too cease to exist (as the Reader), because you have consumed the work that you created and the created you (as the Reader) in turn. And what remains? You remain, as a Reader in the past but also in the future, as a self-created fiction but also as a fact. – Welch Everman, Who Says This? The Authority of the Author, the Discourse and the Reader.
We are created as Readers by the writings we read and the writings we read are created by us as Readers. We all bring our own individual influences to the interpretation, enjoyment and connection to a story. I hope Eliza’s story becomes a favorite novel and makes the list for some, or many, and at the minimum, creates a connection with a Reader.
Check out The Great American Read on PBS. I hope you find your all-time favorite on the list – and vote!
#amreading #bookreview #BookClub #historicalfiction #womenfiction