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 Discussion: Monday, 11/12, 6:30-7:30 at the library

Join us for a discussion of the book that won our Great American Read vote here in Deerfield (the Harry Potter series!) with guest speaker Meg Kaster! Meg is a former English teacher who taught at Deerfield High School, worked here at the library as a clerk, and is now a Youth Services librarian at the Columbus Public Library.

This is a FREE event and REFRESHMENTS will be served, prizes awarded, and copies of the winning title(s) handed out, so don't miss this fun evening!

The Great American Read Voting Event: Monday, 10/22, ALL DAY at the library


IT'S THE GREAT AMERICAN READ VOTING DAY IN DEERFIELD! Stop into the library AT ANY TIME today to cast your vote for your favorite title from The Great American Read list. (America's favorite book is going to be announced on the final episode of the PBS program, which is airing the day after we decide our own favorite book.) There will be refreshments (including CAKE) and swag, and each vote earns an entry into a drawing for some very cool prizes.


This event is FREE and is for ALL AGES, so stop by to cast a vote! Be a part of deciding Deerfield's favorite book!

The Great American Read Episode Pre-Screening & Discussion: Thursday, 9/20 from 6:30-8 at the library

*Come to a screening of the “Heroes” episode (SEE IT BEFORE IT AIRS!) of The Great American Read with a panel discussion afterwards which will include a representative from Wisconsin Public Television and several librarians. Titles touched on in this episode include 1984, A Confederacy of Dunces, the Alex Cross mysteries, Catch-22, Charlotte’s Web, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Don Quixote, The Giver, The Help, The Hunger Games, The Hunt for Red October, and Invisible Man.

Join us for this FREE screening and then brag to all your friends that you saw the episode before it aired!

The Great American Read Rendezvous: Thursday, 8/23 from 6:30-7:30 at the library

Join us for our Great American Read Rendezvous, an open house gathering for grown-ups (ages 18 and up) to chat about what we've been reading off The Great American Read list, work on a jigsaw puzzle, enjoy some tasty TREATS, and win some PRIZES!

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 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 on September 12th, a community-wide voting event on October 22nd (will Deerfield's favorite book match America's favorite book???), and a book discussion about the winning title with a guest speaker on November 12th.

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).

October 18th: The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)

1. J.R.R Tolkien typed all 1,200 pages of The Lord of the Rings with two fingers.

2. The queen of Denmark illustrated the Danish edition of Rings under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer.

3. According to a regulation from the International Astronomical Union, all mountains on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, will be named for mountains from The Lord of the Rings.


And The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)

1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, arguably the most well-known book of the series (although not the first one chronologically), was partially inspired by three girls—Margaret, Mary, and Katherine—who were evacuated from London in 1939 due to anticipated WWII bombings and sent to live with author C.S. Lewis.

2. Aslan means “lion” in Turkish, but was only added to the story (which Lewis admitted was floundering) after Lewis had dreams of lions. Once created, Lewis found that Aslan “pulled the whole story together.”

3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a “magical doorway” story—where a door or other opening allows a character to leave the real world and enter a magical world. You might also call the rabbit hole that Alice falls down in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Platform 9 3/4 in the Harry Potter series “magical doorways.”


October 11th: The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)

1. When Amy Tan’s mother immigrated to the U.S. from China, she left a daughter behind. Tan later traveled to China with her mother and met this left-behind sister.

2. The Joy Luck Club had its beginnings in a short story Tan wrote about a gifted Chinese-American girl who excelled at chess, and whose mother was both her worst enemy and best ally.


And The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

1. F. Scott Fitzgerald changed the story to fit the cover—he loved the haunting image in the cover art so much that he made the billboard with the two female eyes more prominent in the story.

2. The poet that opens the novel is not a real person—poet Thomas Parke D’Invilliers is a character from Fitzgerald’s in This Side of Paradise


October 4th: Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin)

Both of these facts are quoted directly from the source:

1. “A Song of Ice and Fire was inspired by George R.R. Martin’s childhood turtles. He kept the inexpensive turtles in a toy castle and would often fantasize about them living as knights, lords and kings. He wrote a whole fantasy series about the turtle kingdom and would speculate about their deaths inside the castle.” 

2. “Unlike in the TV series, the dire wolves in the books are much larger and tower over most characters when their heights are compared. According to clues in the books, Ghost is just over six feet tall…Martin didn't conjure up dire wolves out of thin air. There's actually an ancient breed of them that have been dead for a millennia and were 25 percent larger than the present day grey wolf.”


And Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling)

1. J.K. Rowling featured King’s Cross Station in the series to pay homage to her parents, who met on a train to Scotland leaving from King’s Cross.

2. Hagrid was never going to die. Rowling has since apologized for killing off a few of the characters, but Hagrid was never in danger. According to the author, she pictured him carrying Harry during a Hogwarts battle before Deathly Hallows was even written. This was intended to mirror Hagrid bringing Harry into the wizarding world in the first place in Philosopher’s [Sorcerer’s] Stone.


September 27th: The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

1. Author Suzanne Collins was a huge fan of Greek mythology as a child, and part of her inspiration for The Hunger Games was the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Additionally, Collins is trained in sword fighting, but doesn’t think she’d get higher than a 4 if she were scored in the Games.

2. The Hunger Games is one of the most-highlighted Kindle books of all time (The Bible is number one).


And The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)

1. The title of Mark Haddon’s book comes from a quote in an 1892 Sherlock Holmes short story (“The Adventure of Silver Blaze”) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

2. As a nod to the main character, Christopher, the book’s chapters are numbered in prime numbers, rather than conventionally successive.


September 20th: To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

1. Harper Lee almost called her book Atticus, after the main character, but decided against it because she didn’t want it to seem too focused on just one character. And, she based the character of Atticus on her own father, AC Lee, who worked as a lawyer and once defended two African-American men accused of murder (he lost his case too, the same as Atticus did).

2. Lee’s full name was actually Nelle Harper Lee — her first name was the backward spelling of Ellen, her grandmother’s name, and was pronounced “Nell” rather than “Nellie.”


And Tales of the City (Armistead Maupin)

1. Five of the nine novels that comprise the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin were actually serialized before they were turned into novels, appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner.

2. There have been a couple of Tales-based musicals, a television miniseries based on the first book, and all of the books in the series have been adapted and broadcast on BBC Radio.


September 13th: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

1. Jane Austen sold the copyright to Pride & Prejudice outright rather than agree to royalties, so she never saw a penny more than the 110 pounds she sold it for.

2. Austen’s friends and family loved the novel as much as everyone else did—she often read chapters for feedback, and it became a family favorite.


And The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway)

1. The novel, published in 1926, took Ernest Hemingway only two months to write and was based on his 1925 trip to Spain, where he experienced the running of the bulls in Pamplona.

2. The story has been adapted into a movie twice (although Hemingway himself had trouble making the film deal) as well as into a one-act opera.


September 6th: The Martian (Andy Weir)

1. Andy Weir was working as a computer programmer and writing fiction on the side as a hobby when he came up with the idea for The Martian. He posted chapters on his website and soon had so many people (scientists who provided him with free fact-checking and editing) begging for more that he ended up self-publishing the novel.

2. Despite The Martian being put into the science fiction genre, Weir does not consider it such, as all the technology described in the book currently exists.


And Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)

1. Ernest Cline was obsessed with the Star Wars movies as a kid, amassing as much Star Wars merchandise (including lunch boxes and toys) as he could. This obsession ended up heavily influencing Ready Player One, which has dozens of Star Wars references throughout the book.

2. The book also includes a fair number of references to Steven Spielberg movies (Spielberg was another cultural icon of the time) including Twilight Zone, Back to the Future, The Goonies, and Indiana Jones.


August 30th: Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

1. L.M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery wrote Anne’s life as the one she herself had wanted to have. Montgomery was raised by strict and unloving grandparents, and wished that the love and affection Anne got from Matthew (and eventually Marilla) had been her experience as well.

2. Anne’s legions of fans include many famous authors, among them Margaret Atwood and Mark Twain, who called Anne “the dearest and most lovable child in fiction.”


And The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)

1. The influence for Alice Sebold’s novel was her own brutal beating and rape, which happened to her during her first semester at Syracuse University, in a tunnel leading to an amphitheater.

2. Alice Sebold does not believe in God (although she does “believe in dogs”), despite writing The Lovely Bones as being narrated from heaven.


August 23: Siddhartha (Herman Hesse)

1. Herman Hesse’s parents were Protestant missionaries, as were his maternal grandparents, which led to a very strict upbringing. As a result, he often found himself in constant conflict with authority figures.

2. In the span of a single year (1916), Hesse’s father died, his son became seriously ill, and his wife fought a losing battle with schizophrenia. Due to this, Hesse became a firm believer in psychotherapy and began receiving treatment, getting to know Carl Jung personally. His struggles to find spiritual and emotional peace eventually led him to write Siddhartha in 1922.


And Gilead (Marilynne Robinson)

1. Gilead won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and former President Barack Obama lists the novel as one of his favorites on his Facebook page.

2. Gilead is the name of a hill country mentioned in the Book of Genesis.


August 16: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Díaz)

1. It took Junot Díaz eleven years to write his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

2. Oscar Wao shares some similarities with his creator: Díaz also attended Rutgers and lived in Demarest Hall, and as a kid, like Oscar, Díaz was very much into science fiction.


And The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)

1. During WWII, J.D. Salinger served in the U.S. Army and took part in the invasion of Normandy in 1944. Rumor has it that when he landed on Utah Beach on D-Day, he was carrying six chapters of Catcher with him.

2. The Catcher in the Rye frequently appears on lists of the most challenged or banned titles, and as a fun bit of irony, in 1981, it was simultaneously the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States.


August 9: The Shack (William Paul Young)

1. William Paul Young grew up among the Dani tribe in West Papua New Guinea and was one of the first people outside of the tribe to learn their local dialect.

2. The story was a gift to Young’s children to explain how he felt about God. It was turned down by 26 publishers before Young decided to self-publish it, and has now sold over 22 million copies.


And The Stand (Stephen King)

1. Stephen King’s initial finished novel was over 1,200 pages long and weighed 12 pounds, but his publisher, Doubleday, had printing presses that literally could not print a novel of that length. They asked King to cut 400 pages, and he did, resulting in an 823 page revision.

2. The title of the book comes from the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” (off his Born to Run album: “Tonight all is silence in the world / as we take our stand / down in Jungleland.”


August 2: Looking for Alaska (John Green)

1. John Green grew up partially in Orlando, Florida, before attending Indian Springs School outside of Birmingham, Alabama, which inspired the main setting of Looking for Alaska.

2. The volcano candle, according to John himself, could obviously symbolize Alaska’s unpredictability and volatility, but it “is also a reminder that Alaska clearly spends a lot of time by herself, and it is an attempt to build a new thing from a bunch of burnt-up old things.”


And The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)

1. S.E. (Susan Eloise) Hinton was only 15 years old when she started The Outsiders, and 17 when it was first published. She was frustrated at the lack of reading for teenagers that related to current pop culture.

2. The tragic deaths of Johnny and Dally serve as the climax of the novel, and Hinton answered brutally and unapologetically on Twitter when asked by a fan why they had to die: “Because I am a stone cold bitch.”


July 26: The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)

1. Margaret Atwood wrote most of the novel in longhand on yellow legal pads while she was living in West Berlin, and then typed them out herself on a rented typewriter.

2. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most challenged books of all time. In the United States, it has been challenged or completely banned because of profanity, illicit sex, violence, hopelessness, and statements that are defamatory to God.


And The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

1. The green smiley planet on the cover of each U.S.-published book in the series was intended by the publishers to connect the books visually. It’s known as the Cosmic Cutie, and American readers have become attached to it, but Douglas Adams hated it.

2. The Guide has conquered a lot of mediums—the story was first written as a radio comedy, which then formed the first two books. The books were then turned into a TV miniseries, a computer game, a comic book miniseries, and three more books, which were then themselves turned into radio comedies.


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 Handmaid's Tale and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

August 2: Looking for Alaska and The Outsiders

August 9: The Shack and The Stand

August 16: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and The Catcher in the Rye

August 23: Siddartha and Gilead

August 30: Anne of Green Gables and The Lovely Bones

September 6: The Martian and Ready Player One

September 13: Pride and Prejudice and The Sun Also Rises