There's one simple and surefire way to get smarter: Read more books. Many of the most respected entrepreneurs--from Bill Gates to Elon Musk--are voracious readers.

Take a page out of one CEO's book, and you can find a way to read 100 books a year. But which book to pick up first? Deciding what to read is a hurdle within itself.

You could start with America's most beloved novels. PBS just announced a new TV series called The Great American Read. The series celebrates what PBS has deemed America's 100 favorite novels.

To select the top 100 novels, PBS polled thousands of people and asked them to name their favorite novel. They used public opinion polling service YouGov, which captured responses from a demographically and statistically representative group of 7,200 Americans.

Then, PBS pulled in 13 literary industry professionals to cull down the list according to a few criteria. To help increase variety, each author only got one book on the list. Entire series--like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings--only counted as one book to keep the list varied. Books could come from anywhere in the world, as long as they were written in English. Lastly, all books had to be fiction.

Here's the final list of America's 100 best-loved novels in alphabetical order:

  • 1984, by George Orwell

  • A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole

  • A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving

  • A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

  • The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

  • Alex Cross Mysteries (series), by James Patterson

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  • And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

  • Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

  • Another Country, by James Baldwin

  • Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison

  • Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya

  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz

  • The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

  • Catch-22, by Joseph Heller 

  • The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

  • Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White

  • The Chronicles of Narnia (series), by C.S. Lewis

  • The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean M. Auel

  • The Coldest Winter Ever, by Sister Souljah

  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

  • The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

  • Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon

  • The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

  • Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes

  • Doña Barbara, by Rómulo Gallegos

  • Dune, by Frank Herbert

  • Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James

  • Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews

  • Foundation, by Isaac Asimov

  • Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

  • Ghost, by Jason Reynolds

  • Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry

  • The Godfather, by Mario Puzo

  • Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

  • Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

  • Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift

  • The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

  • Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

  • Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen

  • Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

  • The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

  • The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy

  • The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead

  • Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

  • Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

  • The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan

  • Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton

  • Left Behind, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

  • Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry

  • Looking for Alaska, by John Green

  • The Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien

  • The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

  • The Martian, by Andy Weir

  • Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden

  • Mind Invaders, by Dave Hunt

  • Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville

  • The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez

  • Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

  • The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

  • The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan

  • The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

  • Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

  • Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

  • The Shack, by William P. Young

  • Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse

  • The Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut

  • The Stand, by Stephen King

  • The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

  • Swan Song, by Robert R. McCammon

  • Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

  • Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

  • This Present Darkness, by Frank E. Peretti

  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

  • Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

  • War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

  • Watchers, by Dean Koontz

  • The Wheel of Time (series), by Robert Jordan

  • Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

  • White Teeth, by Zadie Smith

  • Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

The list spans a broad range of titles, some as far back as the 1600s and some published within the last couple of years. It's an interesting mix. There's a little bit of something from every genre. You'll find plenty of literary classics alongside contemporary bestsellers.

PBS is kicking off The Great American Read eight-part TV series on May 22, and will explore them all. "It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience," the network explains.

Once the series kicks off, PBS will open voting for people to vote on their favorite of the 100 titles. America's favorite book will be announced when the TV series ends in October.
Dust off that library card (or get one in the first place), and get to reading. There's a whole summer ahead of you! And even if you don't get to them all, it's still worthwhile to surround yourself with more books than you'll ever have time to read.

Published on: Apr 24, 2018
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