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Quest to name America's best-loved novel begins May 22 on AETN

Posted 14 May 2018

"The Great American Read," a new PBS series and multiplatform initiative that celebrates the joy of reading and the books people love, will launch with a two-hour premiere episode Tuesday, May 22, at 7 p.m.

Hosted by television personality and journalist Meredith Vieira, the program will introduce viewers to a list of America's 100 favorite novels selected through a demographically representative national survey conducted by YouGov. The series will also feature interviews with celebrities, authors, super fans and everyday Americans discussing the way particular books have influenced them and the significance in American popular culture.

Throughout the summer the multiplatform initiative will feature live public events, social media components and national reading clubs. The series will resume in the fall with several themed episodes, including an exciting finale, culminating in the first-ever national vote to choose America's Best-Loved Novel. It will be the most expansive national celebration of books and reading ever created, aimed at engaging multigenerational readers across multiple platforms.

The top 100 book list is based on a public opinion poll, conducted by YouGov on behalf of PBS for "The Great American Read," that asked respondents to name their favorite novel. An advisory panel of book industry professionals compiled the results. Each author was represented only once, and series such as the "Alex Cross Mysteries" were included as one entry.

The chosen books span five centuries, from "Don Quixote" (1603) to "Ghost" (2016). Authors from 15 different countries are represented, with genres ranging from beloved children's classics such as "Charlotte's Web" to modern best sellers such as "Twilight."

Voting will open with the launch of the two-hour premiere episode on May 22 and continue throughout the summer, leading up to the grand finale in October 2018. Over the summer, viewers will be able to vote at and through hashtag voting via Facebook and Twitter using #GreatReadPBS. In the fall, viewers will also be able to cast their vote toll free by phone and through SMS texting.

Authors, celebrities and notables joining the search for America's Best-Loved Novel include Diana Gabaldon, George Lopez, Seth Meyers, Junot Diaz, Lauren Graham, John Green, John Irving, Bill T. Jones, Devon Kennard, Gayle King, George R.R. Martin, Wynton Marsalis, Lesley Stahl, Ming-Na Wen and many more, each of whom will share their personal stories and connections to their favorite book.

Whether it's rediscovering an old favorite or engaging with a new title, "The Great American Read" will encourage people to read as many novels as they can from the top 100 list; discuss them in virtual and community events organized by AETN, libraries and book reading clubs; and vote all summer for their favorites. The campaign will culminate in a list of America's favorite works of fiction and, ultimately, America's number one novel.

The full, comprehensive book list that includes a checklist and rating system for each book is available for download at A bookmark is also available. Arkansans are encouraged to participate in Book It! – a story share project to share one's favorite book and why in 10 seconds or less. A schedule of events, blog series, celebrity testimonials and more will be available on the website throughout the summer.

"The Great American Read" is supported by an extensive multiplatform digital and social media campaign designed to inspire Americans to read, vote and share their personal connections to titles on the top 100 list and beyond over the course of the summer. This includes an interactive website, links to local events, interactive video content, social share features and much more. As part of the experience, PBS Digital Studios will develop and produce unique programming across its award-winning YouTube Channels and an original miniseries on Facebook Watch. PBS Digital Studios hosts will collaborate with authors, booktubers and other creators to bring PBS' legacy of championing literacy to digital platforms. PBS Digital Studios' Facebook Watch series is inspired by "The Great American Read" and features six video essays covering broad book-related topics in a highly shareable and engaging way.

Additionally, PBS will develop resources and materials, including lesson plans and virtual book clubs, to encourage summer reading activities and extend the campaign into classrooms for the fall. To complement "The Great American Read," PBS KIDS will also host PBS KIDS READ as part of an annual summer learning initiative for children ages 2-8 and their families, encouraging reading and related activities through a variety of resources for kids and parents.

Funding for "The Great American Read" is provided by The Anne Ray Foundation and PBS. In addition, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has provided grants, in partnership with PBS, to public media stations across the country to create local content and host screenings and forums to encourage summer reading and participation in the initiative.

"The Great American Read" is a production of Nutopia for PBS. The program is executive produced by Jane Root, Michael Cascio, Bob Kirsh and Charles Marquardt; co-executive produced by Rebecca Ratliff Cameron; line produced by Rachael Jerahian; and produced by Nilam Agrawal-Desai, Katherine Linton, Kate Chumley, Justine Simonson, Michelle Smawley, Siobhan Lockhart, Annie Wong and Tomek Gross. Bill Gardner, VP of Programming and Development, is executive in charge for PBS and Bethany Latham is project director.

PBS, with nearly 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 90 million people through television and 30 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS' broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry's most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS' premier children's media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America.

The Arkansas Educational Television Network is Arkansas's only statewide public media network, which enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. AETN delivers local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers through the distinct channels AETN PBS, AETN Create, AETN PBS KIDS, AETN World and AETN AIRS on SAP. Audiences can also watch on several digital platforms, and members with AETN Passport have extended on-demand access to a rich library of public television programming. AETN depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. Additional information is available at AETN is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro) and KETZ (El Dorado).