The Great American Read: What's Up? And More Fun!

The Great American Read PBS Series logo

Things to Know:

Stay connected and know what's coming up! Due to being awarded a Great American Read grant from PBS and the American Library Association, we are in the planning stages of several related fun activities and events that we can't wait to share with you.

The Great American Read Book Display

It's already set up at the library and contains many of the titles from the list (paper copies of the list are also available, or go here for a list of the books). Check one or two or five out, and get a leg up on playing...

The Great American Read Bingo Game

GOING ON NOW! Stop by the library and pick up a bingo card. Start reading, and start playing. Every completed card turned in earns a prize (limit 2 cards per person), and every completed card goes into a weekly drawing for an exciting prize basket.

And More!

Other things we are working on include a screening of one of the fall episodes of The Great American Read on PBS (date TBD), a community-wide voting event (will Deerfield's favorite book match America's favorite book???), and a book discussion about the winning title with a guest speaker.

Check back here to stay informed!


More Fun:

On Tuesdays and Thursdays on our own Facebook page during the months-long celebration we are going to be posting "Did You Know?" facts about books and authors on The Great American Read list. We are tying these in to The Great American Read Book Club Facebook page and the discussion schedule they have set up (their questions come out on Thursdays). However, we realize that not everyone has a Facebook account, so we will also be posting the discussion schedule and the "Did You Know?" facts here (the most recent fun facts will be right below in backward chronological order).

July 19: The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

1. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a pilot who flew mail routes and served as a test pilot, and once crashed his plane in the desert 125 miles from Cairo. This event served to make the opening plane crash scene in The Little Prince realistic, as it was drawn from his own personal experience.

2. Saint-Exupéry did the watercolor illustrations himself, and based the models on what animals he had access to—a friend’s poodle became the sheep and his own boxer became the tiger.


And Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

1. Louisa May Alcott was both an abolitionist (her family served as station masters on the Underground Railroad) and a feminist (she was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts).

2. Alcott based the character of Jo on herself, and wanted the character to remain unmarried by choice. However, she caved to reader pressure—partially. Readers wanted Jo to marry Laurie, but Alcott refused, marrying her instead to Professor Bhaer.


July 12: The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)

1. Paulo Coelho wrote the book in only two weeks. According to an interview he once gave, it was because “the book was already written in [his] soul.”

2. All the translations of the novel (80!) contributed to Coelho winning a Guinness record in 2003: “Most translations of a single title translated by the author in one sitting.” He signed 53 different translations of the title at a book fair in Frankfurt, Germany.


And Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift)

1. In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift predicted the existence of the two major moons of Mars and used Kepler’s Theorem to calculate their orbital periods. Because of this, Swift Crater on the Martian Moon Deimos is named after him.

2. Swift’s bestselling story has never once been out of print since 1726 when it was first published.


July 5: Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)

1. Arthur Golden was sued by real-life geisha Mineko Iwasaki (the basis for Sayuri in the book) for revealing the secrets of a geisha.

2. Madonna was a big fan of Memoirs of a Geisha. Her video for “Nothing Really Matters” (2006) was heavily influenced by the book.


And The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

1. Markus Zusak’s parents were the inspiration for some parts of the book. His mother had recounted an experience she had when she was six years old, about seeing people on the street being herded to a concentration camp, and seeing a boy being beaten by a soldier for giving an old man a piece of bread.

2. In the book, the narrator is Death, which was inspired by the last line in the book A River Runs Through It: “I’m haunted by waters.”


June 28: Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier)

1. One of Daphne du Maurier’s cousins was Peter Llewellyn Davies—the boy who, along with his siblings, was the inspiration for J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

2. Alfred Hitchcock was a big fan of her work, turning not only Rebecca into a film, but Jamaica Inn and The Birds as well.


And White Teeth (Zadie Smith)

1. White Teeth was released when Zadie Smith was 24 years old, just after she graduated from Cambridge, and was allegedly written during her study breaks from finals.

2. In 2005 it made the list of Time Magazine’s All-Time 100 novels, earning a spot next to titles like The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye.


June 21: Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes)

1. Miguel de Cervantes spent five years as a slave in Algiers, which likely caused his sensitivity in writing about the subject of slavery in his novel.

2. Don Quixote helped establish the modern Spanish language that is now the second most commonly spoken language in the world, only behind Mandarin.


And Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)

1. Margaret Mitchell wrote GwtW out of boredom—on medical leave from her job for a recurring ankle injury, she decided to busy herself by writing.

2. Scarlett O’Hara’s first name was originally Pansy, and was changed only upon request by the publisher.


June 14: Ghost (Jason Reynolds)

1. Jason Reynolds did not read a book cover-to-cover until he was 17 years old, finding that he could not force himself to read a story he could not relate to at all, so now he writes books about things that happened or are happening in his neighborhood.

2. Ghost, the story of a boy who joins a track team as an escape from the violence in his past, was nominated for a National Book Award for Young Adult Literature in 2016.


And The Giver (Lois Lowry)

1. Lois Lowry’s father, who resided in a nursing home due to the loss of much of his long-term memory, was the inspiration for The Giver.

2. Lois Lowry loved the ambiguity of the ending and never intended to write a sequel. However, the insistence and persistence of young readers finally resulted in three more novels, making a quartet.


June 7: The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)

1. Dan Brown was once an aspiring pop singer, and one of his songs, 976-LOVE, was about phone sex.

2. There are some numbers hidden in the dust jacket of the book, that when input into a geolocation program, will lead you to Kryptos, a sculpture on the grounds of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.


And Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)

1. One of Gillian Flynn’s favorite books is Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith, a title from 1957 about a husband and wife trying to destroy each other.

2. However, Gone Girl was actually inspired by her happy, functional relationship with her husband—no primary source material for her!


May 31: 1984 (George Orwell)

1. George Orwell wrote 1984 while fighting tuberculosis, and only when the book was done, two years after his diagnosis, did he seek proper treatment.

2. Mel Gibson, David Bowie, and Stephen King named 1984 among their most favorite books of all time.


And Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

1. Lewis Carroll suffered from a rare neurological condition that causes strange hallucinations and affects the size of visual objects, so he saw things smaller or bigger than they were—just like Alice.

2. The book was published in 1865, and since then has been translated into 176 languages and has never been out of print. It was also banned in China on the grounds that animals should not talk like humans.


May 24: Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)

1. Joseph Heller tried 4 numbers before deciding on 22 (18, 11, 17, and 14). He was also accused of plagiarizing another war novel, Face of a Hero.

2. Many characters were based on WWII veteran Joseph Heller’s real-life army friends, including Yossarian and Milo Minderbinder.


And The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

1. Alexandre Dumas, who loved stories packed with action, was inspired by a true crime story he found in an 1838 publication, Memoirs from the Archives of Paris Police.

2. The Monte Cristo, a sandwich popular in the 1940s, was a deep fried sandwich containing white bread, ham, turkey, and Swiss cheese, and is believed to have taken its name from one of the many film adaptations (there are now 40!) popular at the time.



Online (Facebook) Book Discussion Schedule for The Great American Read

May 24: Catch-22 and The Count of Monte Cristo

May 31: 1984 and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

June 7: The Da Vinci Code and Gone Girl

June 14: Ghost and The Giver

June 21: Don Quixote and Gone with the Wind

June 28: Rebecca and White Teeth

July 5: Memoirs of a Geisha and The Book Thief

July 12: The Alchemist and Gulliver's Travels

July 19: The Little Prince and Little Women

July 26: The Shack and The Stand