Peruse the comments below submitted by readers across Maine. Note that many comments have been edited for brevity.
1984 by George Orwell (1949)
"I've read this book many times over the past 25 years. Each time I read it, I find relevance and parallels in the text, to the life and times I find myself in. I actually have plans to have a quote from the book tattooed on my left arm this summer: 'Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.' I can't think of many quotes more immediately relevant than that."
"I've always loved dystopian fiction and this was the start of that before it was even categorized that way. This book is more relevant now than ever and is a book that everyone must read!"
"Topical for sure."
"I have read many of these books, and can't believe some are even on a list like this. But never the less, the content and far reaching implications of a book such as 1984 cannot be devalued or dismissed, and that is why I have given it my vote. It should be required reading of all high schoolers in Maine. Thank you Mrs. Spearin, Woodland High School (posthumously) for opening up the world through this book. Who would have thought? We are fast approaching many of its quandaries."
"A must read during our return to fascism."
"A difficult choice. I have attracted to dystopian literature since I read 1984 during my sophomore year in high school. The captured my imagination and caused me to see myself vis-a-vis my society and culture more critically. I have since read the book again and have experienced similar and new insights. In our current environment it seems more relevant than ever."
"I am surprised by many of the choices. Seems to lack early American authors (Hawthorne, Cooper) and provides contemporary works of questionable literary merit. My choice was 1984. The book is spot on for today's political chaos. Napoleon = DT, Squeler + Conway, Mollie = Ms DT, sheep = MAGA chanters, Snowball = McCain (?), Moses = McConnell...The 7 Commandments = 1. Build a wall; 2. Lock her up; 3. Fake News; 4. Trade wars are easy to win; 5. No collusion; 6. Good people on both sides; 7. No threat of a nuclear war. The relevancy of this classic never seems to age. When the pigs are wearing clothes, sleeping between sheets and killing dissidents, the farm is in deep doo. As a life long Democrat, the comparisons are easy. I'm certain if a life long Republican voiced an approach from the opposite side, the same argument could be made which is the relevancy remains. I guess it depends if you are a pig or a chicken."
"Uncanny how it seems if it were written for today."
"Although there are other books I enjoy more, this one is far more significant. It's even relevant today as those authoritarians in power attempt to confuse and control our minds and subvert our values by upending truth with blatant lies, and finally declaring those who don't embrace the lies as the enemy of the people."
"Changed my life by making me aware of Big Brother, a fine example of current White House resident(s)."
"First, I would like to ask where on your list are The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Love In The Time of Cholera, and the Old Man and The Sea? I am pleased you included the book by Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God. I am voting for, 1984 by George Orwell, not because it is my absolute favorite but, because of the importance of the warning in that book about what could happen to our world."
"It made me think about the world in a way I hadn't before."
"I love this book's dystopian society and the fact that it was written as if the outcome of World War II had been different. Even though there seems to be a glimmer of hope, when the protagonist finds love, the book still ends with the characters betraying each other in the name of self preservation. I think this book is a great learning tool of what CAN happen to a society, and I think everyone should read it as a warning to what could come."
"I read it before 1984, in the sixties in school. I've lived now long enough to see it being used as a "how to" by #CadetBoneSpurs as he seeks to take over authoritarian rule."
"It was a book I read in high school and I found it impossible to believe our world could ever resemble this dystopian society. And now it does."
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)
"When I was placed in summer school as an alternative to being held back in fifth grade, I was amazed to learn that I loved reading this book, in the English/literature class that I was forced to take. It was a turning point in my life. Since then I've read it several times, and enjoyed it immensely every time."
"It's way ahead of its time, and we need more voices against prejudice and bullying."
"Tom Sawyer embodies the spirit of independence, openness to others and tolerance that is the best of American values and challenges the prejudice, greed, and moral rigidity that are our worst qualities. A call to recognize and respond to our national challenges with our strengths."
"Mark Twain (aka Sam Clemens) captured early America in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer like no one else had or ever has."
"Tom Sawyer lured me into an adventure and sparked my own imaginings of personal adventure. It showed me the good in bad people and warned me of the bad in good people."
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (1988)
"Exploring the world only to confront the self is an important message for all of us. I would have voted for the Wizard of EarthSea, LeGuin if it had been an option."
"The alchemist speaks to my spirit of always questioning my own status quo."
"I like the feeling I get when reading this novel. It is full of hope and possibilities. That said, thanks for this list, there are many books on it that I have not read, and while I do not intend to read all I do intend to get to some of them in the next year (One a week)."
"I love this book! Although it was challenging to just pick one, The Alchemist, is a book that I read over and over. I get something new from it each time that I do."
Alex Cross Mysteries by James Patterson (1993)"
"I like suspense novels and I like the character- Alex Cross."
"We have watched some of his stories on TV. He is a great writer.
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
"Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass are two of my most cherished books. They introduced me to fantasy, magic and a love of adventure. In fact we named our RPod camper Alice and we have had many a fine adventure with her."
"I love that I can read this book again and again and appreciate it on so many different levels at different times. I have many memorized bits and references that frequently find their way into my conversations.""
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013)
"I selected Americanah because the author has written a modern classic, a book that is grounded in the present but will stand the test of time as a portrait of the American immigrant experience. Because Maine is one of the least diverse states, it is incumbent on us as readers to educate ourselves about perspectives and experiences that are not our own."
"This is a brilliant observation of the experience of being a traveler among differing cultures."
"This book speaks directly and unapologetically to race in modern America from an outsider moving in. It puts a mirror up to inequalities we often don't see."
"Her writing is both extraordinary and about some incredibly mundane and normal moments in life. It is remarkable how she's able to accomplish both, making her characters fully human."
"Of the books on the list that I've read, I liked it the most."
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939)
"I think the way Agatha Christie uses misdirection in all of her books is fantastic. She created a good variety of characters and portrayed their uniqueness and similarities in a very real way. The ending you just don’t see coming and it was brilliantly crafted."
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1908)
"Imaginative, fun but still with a serious side. I've loved all these books since I was 11. I already was a great reader but this reinforced the power of reading and imagination. I also have a very early copy that I plan to pass on to my nieces and am encouraging them to love reading also. The story is timeless and even as an adult I enjoy revisiting the story."
"Gave me a special time with my girls. Read the series then went to PEI. Such an adventure. Really brought the books to life!"
"To me a girl found her real self and learned about true family and peace."
"Anne of Green Gables is a timeless tale of hope and imagination. It is appropriate for all ages."
"It’s full of wonderfulness!!"
"All the small events in life and how you experience them and respond to them develop you into a person who lives reciprocity: good, neutral, and less fortunate. Words Count."
"If I didn't select Anne my granddaughters would disown me."
"One of the first books I ever read where a female character negotiates life with freedom."
"Since I was a little red-haired girl with a lot of imagination and an overdeveloped vocabulary, I couldn't help but find Anne Shirley a kindred spirit. As an adult, I've reread this book several times to relive Anne's adventures and mishaps, and enjoy its beautiful descriptive prose. A must gift for children in my family!"
"It’s a classic that grabs and enchants new readers in each generation."
"As a child I enjoyed the story. As an adult I appreciate the life lessons and the look back at how uncluttered and real life was."
"The slower and not so complex days."
"I have loved the Anne books since I was a child. I love how imaginative Anne is and how LMM captured the spirit of PEI and of what childhood can be."
"We went to Edward Island and toured Anne's house 47 years ago. We lived in Washington County and were able to borrow books from the Campobello New Brunswick Canada library. They had all of Maud Montgomery's Anne series, I read every single one."
"As a child, few things captured my heart as well as Anne of Green Gables... maybe the Little House books :)"
Another Country by James Balwdwin (1962)
"I first read this book when I was 20, and was deeply moved by its devastating story. Since then, each time I reread it, it has never failed to reveal something new to me, all couched in Baldwin's extraordinarily elegant prose."
"The 1960's was time of great Civil Rights that changed many lives. The lessons learned and the causes won, are now vanishing. We need to re-explore and examine how the U.S. returned to the past, and the methods of moving forward again in our times."
"I was about 15 when I read Another Country, & it was a powerful intellectual and emotional awakening. I felt years older when I finished it."
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957)
"Have read Atlas Shrugged three times and each time gained new insight. The first read was during my early 20s. I found it life changing."
"I read it at just the right age and level of personal development so that it struck a strong chord."
"It included a tale about a strong and capable woman in a time when very few books provided those models."
"I love her writing, and the concept of individualism as positive. Atlas Shrugged is one of my favorite books. When it was published I was a teenager and considered it the height of sophistication. The concept of choosing something extraordinary and unique instead of settling for ordinary was unique but resonated with me. And made me make those kinds of choices in later life. The romance in the book was almost beyond my comprehension and seemed a love I could never obtain or experience. In those days sexuality was not much acknowledged nor acceptable for teens but it definitely introduced the possibility. The fact the book was written by a woman seemed important as well. Analyzing my feelings has brought back memories of being a teenager which have been long forgotten."
Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)
"Beloved takes us to the heart of the difficult choices that people make when they are in impossible conditions."
"So many of these fall into one of three categories: 1) Recency bias: I just read (& saw, in some cases) that in the last year or two, so I think it's better 2) Nostalgic bias: "Oh! I remember reading that!" (wistfully cut to 16 year old me) or 3) "I keep meaning to read that ..." I went with 'Beloved' because it's a consistent, engrossing re-read for me, and it didn't fall prey to changing of tastes & cultural attitudes, its core messages and stunning language remain true and worthy (to my mind)."
"This is the definitive novel that allows readers to get a sense of the inferiority of the experience of slavery — just how horrific and enduring this defining aspect of American history is."
"When I read Beloved for the first time in a masters degree program in literature, I was astonished and moved by the innovative and unique way Toni Morrison depicted the reality of a slave’s life. The horror of making the choice to kill to save a beloved child Not withstanding, I finished it with the feeling I had read an extraordinary beautiful book. Once I excepted the magical realism or mythological aspect of how she told the story I was completely engrossed. At the time I recommended it to many people and have read it again since that first time in the 90s. The message is one we must never forget."
"This may be the best American novel ever. In addition to dealing with the core transgression in American culture, it adds in powerful demonstrations of the capacity of love to overcome even death. Plus, it ranges from gut-wrenching prose to chapters that are so lyrical they feel like they should be read as song-rounds."
"I picked Beloved because it's the first book I read that I really loved. It led me to become an English major and then an English teacher (for 18 years now)."
"I've loved every Toni Morrison book I've read, but Beloved in particular tells such an incredibly powerful American story."
Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (1972)
"Wonderful story of the relationship between the young and the elderly."
The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz (2007)
"An amazing story that captures the true feel of different eras, places, and cultures."
"It's brilliantly written and about the immigrant experience today as well as a classic "outsider" book. Oscar is an updated and more universal Holden or Gatsby."
"I loved the writing. The story, the characters."
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)
"Love books and fear for our country and the way of life I've been so privileged to have for 66 years."
"Makes us realize the risks people are willing to take to bring the enjoyment of reading to others."
"This is my favorite because I picked it up 'used' in a local bookshop by accident and I remember tearing up when Rudy died. The whole story caught me by surprise, from its historical accounting to character development. I was charmed. And when I have to recommend a book The Book Thief always is at the tip of my tongue."
"Great premise, while highlighting an issue that still resonates today."
"The Book Thief is an engaging story of hardship and the human spirit. A must read in my opinion."
"One of the most compelling stories I've ever read. While the story is tragic, it's undeniably a story of hope and compassion — and the power of reading!"
"Hard to choose however Zusak expresses the story exceptionally well. Intriguing regarding a crucial issue. Not on your list is The Goldfinch for which I would have voted."
"Loved this story of hope and fortitude at a time of almost unimaginable challenge. Plus, books open us up to so much that we often cannot know otherwise."
"This book paints such a strong picture of what it must have been like to live in WWII era Germany. And I love how the voice of death is the narrator telling the story from his point of view."
"This author seemed to know me as a reader. He anticipated how I would worry about the characters and prepared me for the heartbreak. The gentle voice of death cradling its victims was such a change from how violently it is usually portrayed."
"I’ve read 40-50% of the list. Many classic, wonderful books. I offer The Book Thief because it is lyrical, mysterious, suspenseful and oh-so-tender and endearing. Well written and constructed."
"Beautiful story with amazing characters about a terrible era, with inventive use of words. I highlighted dozens upon dozens to phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that moved me, often to tears. I have reads thousands and thousands of books in my life, including many of this list, but none like The Book Thief."
"Mesmerizing plot, beautifully written."
"This story has two of my all time favorite characters, Death, and Liesel. Zuzak's characters are so compelling, and the story is a perfect glimpse of the humanity that existed during those terribly dark and frightening years."
The Call of The Wild by Jack London (1903)
So love the writing. It is so descriptive and it feels like you are right there, seeing it firsthand.
The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger (1951)
"Clearly this book is a classic. I have read it numerous times and each time see something else in the characters that I have not thought about before. I also taught this book when I taught high school and it captivated students at the time. Recently I saw a documentary about Jews and WW2 and discovered that Salinger participated in helping to free the concentration camp victims and shortly after wrote this book. A lot of what he saw haunted him- understandably so and some of that may also be reflected in the book. Which is why I will once again need to reread the novel! Timeless!"
"It's for everyone."
"This is my favorite book of all time. It moved me, when I first read it at 13, to read a book which used a clear vernacular teen voice. And it also cracked me up. It continues to make me laugh, due to Salinger's incredible wit and use of language. But I have to add that War and Peace is a close second and I believe that SO MANY PEOPLE should read that book; it changed my life."
"Unique: in point of view, dialog, and teen angst. A most influential book by a master."
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
"All about the logic/illogic of the military and war."
"Though I served in the Vietnam-era and not WWII, Catch 22 perfectly captured the essence, glory, and banality that IS the U.S. Army (and I write this on the Army’s 243rd Anniversary)."
"Brilliant parody of American society in the 1950s, and significant applications to the current political climate as well."
"One of the great books on the horrors of war for the individual soldier made accessible with the absurd humor of bureaucracy."
Charlotte's Web by EB White (1952)
"I never tire of reading it and I weep every time."
"Charlotte's Web is a timeless book for all ages that shines a light on the importance of human decency and kindness through the eyes and hearts of the iconic American farm family."
"It's Maine in a nutshell — plus, my grandfather wrote it, so I might be just a little prejudiced by that."
"If you'd like, please tell us why your choice is your favorite. Strong female characters, and the themes on friendship, love, and doing all we can to make the world a better place during our lifetime."
"It's theme of love and acceptance is universal."
"Charlotte's Web helped me fall in love with reading and it is a wonderful example of friendship!"
"Charlotte's Web shows the importance of friends, love, and loyalty in one's life. It also speaks to the significant contributions that even the smallest creatures can make in creating a better world."
"America at its best."
"When I read this book as a young girl, I loved it so much that I set out to copy it in longhand. To this day, the images and characters from "Charlotte's Web" live on in my heart. And, most of all, it's about love."
"Who can argue against the best coming-of-age story passing down timeless lessons about loyalty and compassion immortalizing the agrarian rhythms of a very familiar saltwater farm? Love, death, childhood, and a bit of blueberry pie for good measure."
"I am in perpetual awe that EB White appeared to so capture the hearts and minds of each of the animals in Charlotte's Web. It is a precious and perfectly written book from beginning to end and touched my animal loving soul so very deeply. (I would urge you to add Bambi by Felix Salten to this list. I have an original hard cover copy from 1929 and it is as magical as Charlotte's Web. As an animal rights advocate, reading Bambi deepened my already strong devotion to always advocating for animal protection and kindness towards all animals.)"
"Charlotte's Web taught me at a young age to appreciate all living beings, to see how individual opinions regarding the same issue can be different but just as valuable. The importance of love and respect for those who are different from us is also a major theme in the book. Finally, love for animals and their place on this earth with us has been a guiding force in my life."
"Read it to my third grade class every year!"
"Maine writer of outstanding sensitivity and appeal to all ages, not just a children's book!"
"You don't need to be a child to be so utterly moved by the loyalty of friendship, accepting differences and witnessing with the desperation Wilbur feels as he learns about death. Truly the classic story presenting themes that will never die."
"Charlotte's Web is a book that brings back the fondest memories of childhood. My fourth grade teacher read it aloud to us with all the character voices that she could muster. The message of the power of friendship and love was as clear then as it was when I read it as a teenager, and then again read it to my son. E. B. White's speaks to all of us in a honest language that has made me love this book all my life and in turn has made me love reading."
"This is THE Maine book, a transitional moment in a young girl's life when she can still hear the voices of her animal friends, and yet rushes forth to ride the ferris wheel with Henry. A snapshot of post WWII rural Maine, glimpses of which remain for my daughters to see and feel, still. Thank you for asking."
"Read to, and by, children in classrooms everywhere."
"Charlotte’s Web is a gentle story of life’s cycle and how we live on forever. The characters are all realistically parallel to some in the general population. Grief was taboo until Kubler-Ross and Charlotte’s Web. I often think of her when I carefully take a spider from my home and put her/him outside. It makes life and death less scary and normalizes it as life’s cycle."
"Wise and truthful, particularly concerning death and love."
"It's as well written as any book on this list, and can be read on multiple levels. It's a great story and ages well. It combines realism with idealism."
"Charlotte's Web reminds me of my childhood. It teaches children about the circle of life. The characters are endearing and the story is of a simpler time and full of life."
"Universal themes of love and acceptance in a charming story that appeals to all ages."
"I [heart emoji] E. B. White :-) A unexpected, beautiful story about friendship!"
"I must have read this book 20 times over the course of my life. I read it when I was a kid, and read it to my kids. I still cry when Charlotte dies."
"I thought the story was extremely creative and very well written."
"First book I remember reading by myself. I fell in love with Fern. I wanted to be her."
"So many great books! Charlotte's Web is timeless and has many lessons for us including that spiders are good!"
"A book everyone should read again and again, in every stage of life."
"The story is timeless, writing superb, delicious for readers of all ages."
"So many great books that it is hard to pick just one. So I chose one that painted a vivid picture that still stays with me of a realistic, but fantastic, gentle tale that my young daughters enjoyed as much as I did when we read it decades ago."
"Charlotte's Web is a book to be enjoyed by all ages and hold universal truths that stand the test of time. The writing is admirable."
"What a story of friendship and steadfastness by one of America’s great writers!"
"Charlotte's Web, because it is a book that makes you love reading as a child, teaches acceptance and diversity, and the author has a connection to Maine."
"A childhood favorite that helped to make me, and many, many others, the readers that they are today!"
"This story, written by a beloved American author, takes place in a rural American setting and explores the themes of life and death, friendship, and the inevitability of change in a very readable style that can be enjoyed by both children and adults."
"At first I chose To Kill a Mockingbird, which had an enormous impact on my own desire to be a force for justice. But look at Charlotte's Web! A small spider (so easily squashed!) uses her wisdom and heart for good and teaches children the power of love and that we all, no matter how different from each other, have something important to give."
The Chronicles of Narnia (series) C.S. Lewis (1950)
"It is for children and adults. Much to be learned and thought about."
"An allegory that I think about often. Like C.S. Lewis's other series as well: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. J.R.R. Tolkien is close second."
"This was a difficult task! While there are many books here that I love, the Chronicles of Narnia bring me back to when I was a child riding my bike the many blocks to the public library in search of books to transport me to wondrous and magical places. I remember finding these books. They captured my imagination so completely and kept me happily in Narnia long after the books were finished. Pure magic."
"This collection of stories captivated my heart and soul like no other book I've read. A wonderful and inspirational story."
"This series made me fall in love with reading as a child. I read and reread my softcover books until they were tattered. I look forward to sharing these books with my own girls when they are old enough."
"Wonderful story for kids and adults."
"Because it was my children's favorite when I read it to them. Loved it!"
"This was a hard decision, but I read Narnia for the first time when I was about 8 years old. I have probably read it 5 more times since then and still enjoy it as an adult. It gets my vote because it is a book kids and adults can enjoy!"
Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (1980)
"So many threads of interest are presented: as a fictional read; historical information; page turner; human evolution, plant life evolution, medical evolution, child hood behavior, social norms, race and gender norms, childbirth practices, societal issues and resolution of such, relationship between and among humans, environmental interaction, weather/climate and how humans adapted. There are so many threads which one could follow and read just for one or many interests."
"Novel approach to anthropological history."
"I first read these as a teenager. I sat out in the woods and read them, and when I would stop reading to go back home, I was always so inspired to do something creative, something positive, something that would help the world. Later I read them all to my children, more than once."
"Great I have great appreciation for the amount of research that went into this story. The story of Ayla brings us to a time that people had not really imagined living in at the time that it was written. It takes us through the struggle of a young girl living with a subspecies with which she is not first familiar, but eventually becomes her family as she knows it, despite never feeling like she truly belongs. The detail and emotional storyline are gripping throughout. I love a book from which you learn and yet are drawn deeply into the story at the same time. What's more, there were many additional books in the series to keep the reader engaged for years after this original book was published."
The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)
"It shows the dark side of human behavior, but there is also resolution and redemption."
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1989)
"The book is love letter to New Orleans, the most interesting city in America and my favorite city."
"I've never read a book that had a lead character that elicited such a strong reaction in the reader."
"Confederacy is hands-down the funniest book I've ever read/heard."
"So well written and entertaining."
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
"I lost myself in this great book, feeling like I was rotting in prison and wishing somehow for ultimate revenge! A wonderful read!"
"I have re- read this book numerous times and I am always newly sweep away by how swiftly innocence is lost and avenged and ultimately replaced by knowledge and an uneasy peace. I think I start it each time just to get to the closing lines that state: 'the sum of all human wisdom is contained in the words wait and hope.'"
"Revenge is best served cold."
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1866)
"I like many of the books in this list, but Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment stands out for me because I remember being engrossed in its every word, as if every word was perfectly chosen and necessary to the telling of the story. I feel lucky to have had access to the translated version available to me at the time. This book lives on because it is intensively introspective in relating the story of a person’s inner struggle — after having committed an anonymous wanton act just for the sake of it — between keeping the secret or seeking punishment. Like a moth to the flame, Raskolnikov kept seeking the company of Petrovich. Crime and Punishment is an exciting and timeless introspective on personal values, morals, and living in society."
"Dostoevsky kicks ass."
"I appreciated the handling of the philosophical issue of can a good life overcome the commission of an evil act."
"The human mind is complex. Perception is not necessarily reality."
"Crime and Punishment creates lasting images and masterfully immerses readers into characters’ psyches. The chiaroscuro-like imagery (both external to the characters and within their souls) stays with me—decades after my reading this work of art."
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon (2003)
"I think we all have a little bit of the main character in each of us. At times, it was like looking in a mirror; at other times, it was like watching a neighbor or family member!"
"So perfectly told story from an autistic voice!!"
"I'm not a big reader and always had to ask my best friend to recommend books for me. This was one of the last ones I can remember her recommending and I really enjoyed it. Short but still complex and entertaining."
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2003)
"I enjoy how Brown weaves culture, history, art and literature in developing the story. My first choice would have been The Power and the Glory but sadly it didn't make the "grade."
"A completely engrossing novel. Once started, I could not put it down. Dan Brown also mixes myth with reality. Plausible enough to cause people to believe it truth."
"Riveting suspenseful, couldn't put it down. And it spurred me to read more about the Rosicrucians, Knights Templar, symbols of the early church, etc. It was like it took on a life of its own."
"This book opened up a curiosity of history, art and religion. I had thought about these topics before but after reading this story is when my quest for more information and answers began."
"Thought provoking; excitement galore; realistic; very surprise ending..."
"I liked how real sites and history were included in the book."
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605)
"Don Quixote will not be Maine's favorite book of all time, but from those listed, it is mine. It is both sad and funny and presents a poignant picture of the human condition. A wise person told me 50 years ago that you could read it as a young person and laugh, in middle age and ponder, and in old age and cry."
"100 years of solitude."
"Widely considered to be the first novel, it is both comic and tragic. The knight errant has become an iconic figure down to the present day, and that is why I think this book has an immortal quality. It was a game changer, to say the least."
"Because it is particular and universal simultaneously and therefore transports you and helps you to understand yourself and other people."
Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)
"Most science fiction is based on Dune."
"I love many things about Dune, but one thing that stands out is that I believe Herbert was trying to illustrate that a little fear is healthy, and sometimes standing up to 'do the right thing' can backfire and end in undesired results. I see the 'I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer.' Mantra as working against Paul's intentions in the book."
"Dune was my first experience of being truly immersed in an entirely different world. But I must say that choosing only one book from this list is an impossible task."
"Gripping and fantastic!"
"This pillar of science fiction uses classical themes, introduces novel narration mechanics for the inner voice of a character which have since become standard, and is able to reflect the sociopolitical complexities of class struggle on both human and epic scales; in addition to being remarkably imaginative and at once familiar."
Flowers In The Attic by V.C. Andrews (1979)
"This book brings back so many memories of my childhood. In 6th grade several of my classmates and I shared this book and it started our unofficial book club. We went on to read the entire series. One person would start and then pass it on to the next person. The joy of reading, shared within a group of eager participants. It was lovely. I will always remember this book fondly for just that reason."
Foundation (series) by Isaac Asimov (1951)
"Optimistic, thought provoking, & minimal violence; by best writer ever."
"A truly epic scope space opera told with a very simple and clean writing style. And it gives us hope for the future."
"Sci-fi is just my favorite."
"One of the few I've read that truly startled me."
"It as a young woman, and it influences the way I look at the world even to this day. It also opened me to a genre that uses fantasy to talk about society and the flaws of the world we live in."
"It’s remained philosophical cornerstone since I started reading the series in my 20’s unforgettable for the last 40+ years."
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
"This book is not just about a monster. It teaches about depraved people, not knowing love, abandonment and different not being accepted by society. I loved her writing. She was only 17 years old and written on a dare to write a scary book. One of the best written books of all time."
Ghost by Jason Reynolds (2016)
"While not the most impressive writing style, 1984 never fails to shout out yet another wake-up call!! History truly does repeat itself and we fail to use that knowledge to our advantage."
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2004)
"What a dilemma — To pick only one. I chose Gilead as first, I appreciate Robinson's writing style and her character development. In addition, with each reading I discover more about her characters who are seemingly ordinary people but are people who recognize their flaws yet keep their commitment to being the best person they can be."
"Beautiful writing combined with compelling story."
"I paired this with Industry of Souls — an amazing two books read in succession. Lots on the list look like just currently popular — won't last."
The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
"So hard to choose, So many excellent books but The Giver had a strong emotional impact."
"The Giver teaches all of us the significance of being of service to others."
"It highlights the importance of the individual and our uniqueness."
"A world without pain means a world missing all that makes human. Much to think and talk about."
"So simple, yet so profound. And the movie, unfortunately, did not do it justice."
"Six people in a pickup, not an extended cab driving from Michigan to New York. Two adults and four kids between nine and twelve and an audio book; The Giver. The kids could not wait to get back in the truck after a break to get back to the book. So many good books to choose from."
"This is sooo hard. There are so many. I. Guess it’s the Giver for all of the thought provoking about society."
"What a difficult choice! I went with The Giver because of its underlying message of hope and resilience — something also found in my other choice, The Handmaid's Tale — believing these are qualities we're in need of especially in these upside-down times."
The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969)
"There is nothing that is not great about this book!"
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1936)
"There are so many favorites on this list. It was hard to pick. I did love Gone with the Wind."
"It was really a toss-up but chose Gone with the Wind because its story is at the heart of the ongoing struggle between the two poles of our society. But why Tom Sawyer and not Huck Finn? Why Sirens of Titan and not Slaughterhouse Five?"
"I have many favorites on this list but this one I have read at least twice and have seen the unforgettable movie several times. Hopefully a Civil War could never happen again in this country."
"I love historical fiction, the Civil War has always been a something l wanted to learn more about. Who doesn't love Scarlet O'Hara, and Rhett Butler? But have to say this was a very hard choice, so many great books."
"Sorry, can't decide. Spent a half hour going 'oh! I love that book'...if forced would have to choose GWTW. I read it every couple of years. It's a book you can lose yourself in."
"Gone With The Wind was the first book that I literally could not put down. As a junior high schooler, I read this in one weekend. The plot has so many story threads, and the depiction of Civil War times is great."
"It captures all the drama and emotion of the civil war and paints a picture of the suffering of the south. Along with that comes the most beautiful and complicated love story I have ever read."
"I find myself rereading the book after seeing the movie on tv."
"It is the only book I re-read regularly and it never fails to satisfy."
"My big sister gave me this book to read when I was in grade school and it introduced me to the absolute joy of reading that has lasted to my 67th year with no signs of changing going forward. Forever grateful for a great read!"
"Scarlett will always be my favorite heroine."
"Shows the horrors of war and divisions amongst us. Has many story lines to keep you enthralled."
"What a brilliant depiction of the people, events, tragedy of the Civil War as see through the characters on both sides of this horrible time. So easy to visual the individuals and events through the wonderful writings of Margaret Mitchell......timeless!"
"I was named Suellen by my parents because my mother read Gone With the Wind and also saw the movie of the same name just before I was born. In case you haven't read it, Suellen was the sister of Scarlet O'Hara and Scarlet stole her boyfriend."
"It is my favorite for sentimental, not literary, reasons. It was the 1st 1000 page book I read. Growing up in Atlanta, it was also the first major book where I could map places in the book to places I knew."
"Perhaps because it was my first adult book that remains a favorite even now."
"I love the civil war and the turmoil that wracked the country on both sides and who does like a good love story."
"I have loved Gone With the Wind for years. Reading it at different times in my life has given me a different perspective on the main characters, especially Scarlett. Rhett & Scarlet, one of the great love stories!!"
"Gone with the Wind's complex story of survival in a time of war was so riveting that I read it eight times in high school. The characters were nearly real to me."
"Such a part of history and so well written."
"I was able to see the characters come alive on the pages and it showed a different side of the Civil War."
"I read this as a 15 year old. The word choices, the plot and characters, all enthralled me. I sobbed."
"This book has just affected me emotionally and in so many other ways. That time in America's history was both fascinating and devastating. The characters were vivid and real. When someone writes a book like that the reader wants it to never end and the characters to never die. I felt the same about the book The Help and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I actually read that last book to my daughter when she was about 11 years old."
"I was 10 years old when I read this book. It made a very great impression on me both as history and as 'coming of age'. Ten years old was much younger then."
The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck (1939)
"It made a big impression at the time I read it. It has a lot of heart."
"My favorite book Is "The Stargazer," a biography of Galileo. Of the books listed, my favorite is "The Grapes of Wrath," because it cries out to us to support the downtrodden, the victims of capitalist oppression."
"An optimistic commentary on the resilience of the human spirit, and what I hope is still the fundamental American character."
"This book really was the one I read with so much incidence in my heart & mind that it shaped my youth & adult life. It's like & is part of my family story."
"While teaching this novel to high school students, I came to really appreciate its humanity and gritty portrait of an era and its people. Woody Guthrie's Tom Joad is the perfect accompaniment."
"I grew up as an upper middle class white kid in the NYC suburbs. Pain and suffering associated with race and class were completely foreign to me. Steinbeck opened my eyes to the vast experiences of economic suffering when I read The Grapes of Wrath in high school. (It took a few years later to have my eyes opened to the demographic privilege of being a white male.) The less intellectual but probably more interesting thing about this is that it made no sense for me to grasp onto this book. I had effectively stopped reading unless forced to by this time in my life (probably because of a minor case of ADHD and the availability of Nintendo). I made excuses that I read too slow or couldn’t understand what I was reading, even though when forced for school I would do so and achieve good grades. Something about The Grapes of Wrath gripped me. It cut right through the tumbleweeds of distraction in my brain and kept me focused on the travails of Tom Joad, the priest and Mary. Focused straight on through this looong book, something I had not done before. Without Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath, I would not have wound up spending my professional life working for the causes of justice and would not have discovered that I actually love reading!"
"From the moment in high school when I read Steinbeck's epic tale of the Depression, Dust Bowl, and Okies, I have considered it the Great American Novel."
"Stunningly contemporary. Beautifully crafted. A great jeremiad to the wealthiest about their abuses and greed."
"Grapes of Wrath opened my eyes to a part of history, geography, sociology, and humanity that I had never been exposed to. I read it in high school for leisure."
"Beautiful. I first read it in high school and was shocked by how much I loved it- I’d expected classic to be boring. Not so, and opened a new world to me!"
"The Grapes of Wrath captures what is means to be compassionate and real despite all hardships."
"Story of the human condition the suffering and the love, and how simple acts of compassion are the energy that keeps us alive and surviving."
"In high school I loved reading anything by John Steinbeck but Grapes of Wrath was one of my favorites."
"I loved the vivid description and character struggle."
"I read it 3 times it was very interesting, romantic, funny & sad!"
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861)
"Never get tired of the story and Masterpiece Theater's presentations of it throughout the years."
"I read this book in high school, it started my life long love of Charles
Dickens. The time period he writes about is full of history and heroes. It transports me to this time and place."
"Dickens prose is wonderful. He paints pictures of the times that are treasures."
"Great Expectations is the only book on this list that I've read twice — once in 9th grade (hated it) and 30 years later (loved it) in my 40s because I wanted to understand why it was considered a great literary classic. As I read it with my adult brain I finally understood the importance of this 19th century novel on so many levels."
"Great Expectations gets my vote because there is no finer storyteller than Charles Dickens. This is also the only book on the list I've read more than once."
"I read Dickens' classic as a young schoolgirl and was deeply touched by a portrait of such a sad, lost woman that seemed so far beyond the realm of my reality. As I have aged, I have also come to realize the stark truths from this classic so creatively penned by Dickens. The images and story have remained vivid to me for an entire life, which is why it would be at the top of my list of greatest books."
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
"It's the American Dream. Young man from questionable background becomes fabulously rich and seeks true love, but all does not end well."
"Truly the Great American Novel. Holds up still after many readings. Captures the ineffable quality of the American character — the ability to remake yourself in your own image. Plus, beautiful, memorable writing."
"This competition should seek to identify those books which best represent an essentially "American" literature. Of the list of 100, only a handful satisfy that objective, and The Great Gatsby is the best among them."
"This was a book of characters so well described that you could see them and feel what they were feeling."
"It's a classic that gets better with every read."
"The Great Gatsby reminds us of the hope for America and challenges us to keep the promise of the fresh green breast of America always in our minds’ eye."
"The Great Gatsby is masterpiece in symbolism. Every time I read it, I am astonished at the layer upon layer of metaphor and nuance. The characters are as complicated and hypocritical as real people, and their story is told in a way that leads the reader through their tragic yet beautiful choices and interactions with one another. In my wildest dreams, if I wrote a book, it would be just like this."
"It was a hard choice to pick a favorite. Ask me on a different day and I would probably choose a different book."
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)
This is timeless — a look at all our social structures which keep reinventing themselves yet still remain the same.
Very original, witty, ahead of its time work. One can see parallels between Swift's characters and settings to people and places in our own era. His imagination was incredible.
The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
"This book makes the reader feel that the plot could really happen in the future. Also, any book I can read more than once and still enjoy is a great book to me! (1st read in 1985)"
"Because although it seems like a story that could never happen in our country, I think it's a cautionary tale about what could happen if we don't keep a close eye on the political happenings in our country."
"Because it is fascinatingly real, and though she first envisioned this chilling dystopia in the early 1980s it is so relevant to today's world."
"Every girl and woman should read this book to understand how important it is to have free choice regarding decisions affecting our bodies and lives."
"It was so hard to choose just one, but The Handmaids Tale was a powerful work back in 1985.Today it is a prophetic cautionary tale. This is where we are headed, not in some misty possible future, but within months if the current administration is allowed to continue to rewrite the Constitution."
"I heard Margaret Atwood interviewed on the BBC (via MPBN) some months back and reread The Handmaid's Tale. It is scarily a possibility in these uncertain times."
Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling (1997)
"There are so many good books on this list but Harry Potter had an incredible impact on the book industry and with developing the love of reading for so many. And it's a heck of a story! It's a book for the masses. I doubt there are many who have not heard of Harry Potter."
"It has everything you could want in a story — humor, suspense, action, love, epic fight scenes — and is a classic tale of good vs. evil and the grey in between. It is for old and young alike, and naturally lends itself to rereading because it is broad and deep and yet timeless as well."
"While I love many of the books on this list, Harry Potter is the one that I have read over and over and over and over again. So I think it must be my favorite!"
"I read this with my stepdaughter and then 15 years later, read it with my son — it is still fresh, morally sound, and entertaining — it is a story that I could read again & again and still be absorbed..."
"Very well written and imaginative."
"The first of the "Harry Potter" books was recommended to me by a young child, and I read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I then read each book of the series when it became available and loved each one. As each of my three children became ready for chapter books, I read him or her the series and re-read each again for myself. We also watched each movie-version together, dressed as characters for Halloween, and played Harry Potter games online (I have been "sorted" into Ravenclaw, my husband is a Gryffindor, two of my children are Slytherins, and my other child is a Hufflepuff). I treasure many of the books on the list, but this series has been an essential part of the life I share with my family!"
"Engages young readers and tells a wonderful redemptive story of what it means to be "different" and how you can change the world."
"My choice is actually one of several favorites. I decided on the Harry Potter series because it remains a delightful magical read for me and I can read the books again and again."
"Harry Potter inspired millions to believe in their own strengths, question authority, value curiosity and perseverance, and embrace imagination."
"Nothing compares to the Wizarding World created by J.K.Rowling for those of all ages, at all different stages of their lives for comfort, bravery, and friendship."
"Fabulous literature for modern times. Wonderful plots, great character development and hours of quality escape from the real world. I love this series!"
"The world Rowling created was so intricate, and her weaving of storylines and plots throughout the series is hard to fathom!"
"Besides providing the joy and comfort of being transported to another world that all good books provide, these books provide life lessons on all sorts of issues and feelings. That they are enjoyed by people of nearly all ages is also wonderful."
"This series was so thrilling, that many of my reluctant readers became book lovers. JK Rowling’s amazing imagination hooked many people of all ages, and revealed the magic of reading."
"It's very rare for an author's book to appeal to such a vast age range as this series has done. and to capture so much of the public's imagination is amazing."
"There are many great titles here, it was hard to choose just one. I choose Harry Potter since I reread them every year starting on Sept. 1st. The series has everything in it! My second is Hitchhiker's Guide and Wuthering Heights."
"I started reading Harry Potter when my world was growing scary (age 11 — middle school stinks!) Harry, Ron, and Hermione taught me not to let a few Slytherins get me down and that magic is everywhere. I re-read the full series once every 3 years or so and it teaches me new lessons even now. What more could I need?"
"Rowling has created a complete world, realistic characters (in terms of personalities, behavior), and it doesn't involve an epic battle (Lord of the Rings trilogy) or some other very male-oriented theme. It's a series for both men/women and boys/girls. And the series became more in depth and interesting as it went."
"Hard to choose! I think because the Harry Potter series opened books up to so many, many children, teens and adults. It got adults reading to children, again. Whole families went to bookstores & libraries, participated in H.P. events and ENJOYED READING TOGETHER! I have a special place for YA books in my heart at 65 yrs old."
"It was almost impossible to choose one favorite from this list, but Harry Potter is like an old friend. I return to the world of HP often, reading and re-reading this book whenever I need a bit of comfort or an escape from the day-to-day routine. I’ve read them all many times, but each time it’s a joy."
"Great series. Well written and read by the whole family."
"I am 39 and in my lifetime there has been nothing else that even remotely comes close to the cultural significance of the Harry Potter series."
"The Harry Potter series made me laugh out loud, cry, and wish I was a witch. J.K. Rowling's imagined universe is the kind of page-turning escape reading that everyone needs sometime. The imagination that could create such a world blows me away."
"It made me feel young again experiencing the improbable World of Magic and what it means to have close friends."
Hatchet (series) by Gary Paulsen (1987)
"This was a tough choice but the writing of the Hatchet series by Gary Paulsen transported you to what it would be like to survive, alone, in the wilderness and the inner strength that we all have to survive. This lead me to read Winterdance, the fine madness of running the Iditarod, also by Gary Paulsen, and he once again transported me to what it would be like to race across Alaska in the winter. His writing is so personal and descriptive that I can read his books over and over again and what a life this man had...I recommend his books over and over to people. As well as read them over and over."
"Read it for years with my students. They loved it as did I."
"Hatchet is a tween classic demonstrating that one can rely on their faith, keep their head, and use their natural resources to survive."
Heart Of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad (1902)
"I have read this book several times. It is as relevant and vivid today as it was when I first read the book 20+ years ago."
"The language, the imagery, is amazing; it is haunting, in a way a brilliant horror novel, as it reminds us of the darkness that lurks in every heart..."
Drama, good drama, is created by using many layers of conflict. This book has many layers: man versus jungle, civilized white people versus uncivilized black people, Christian gods versus the animalistic forces of nature, unknown versus known. The list goes on and on. And then, when you stop and think that Conrad wrote this gem in English, his second language, this wonderfully timeless story stands even taller.
What an extraordinary list. The Da Vinci Code AND Don Quixote. Right now, the top choice, in our fake news world, really should be 1984. But for all time, it has to be Conrad's Heart of Darkness — it is extraordinary to think that it was written in 1902, since it seems to predict the absolute overflow of evil in the 20th century that has continued into this one, an overflow of evil that we seem to be able to do little about permanently, except force it to ebb for a few years.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009)
"The book is entertaining, but it is eye opening as well."
"History, well developed characters, great story!"
"This book is a snapshot in time of the racial struggles of the deep south, presented with clarity, great depth and humor. The topic was handled with an in-your-face honesty, that was deeply satisfying and enjoyable to read. So beautifully crafted, you truly cared about the characters. So many great books on this list, but I kept coming back to this one, as one of my favorites! Also, great for discussion!"
"This was a VERY DIFFICULT choice to make...so many of these titles are favorites for different reasons. I chose the Help because of the values it portrays."
"It was very difficult to choose. The Help is relevant to my generation, funny, sad, hopeful."
"An engaging book and a good reminder that racism is not a thing of the past. Even the well-meaning author co-opted the stories of the black maids..."
"A story that needed to be told!"
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
"Douglas Adam's Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy is my favorite because his zaniness stands the test of time. It made me laugh out loud the first time I read it, and rereading it still makes me laugh today."
"Adams' whimsical tale contains many important insights and lessons."
"It still makes me laugh, it still makes me think, and it still makes me wish I had an electronic thumb."
"I have read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy more times than any other book. I find new things to laugh about and new insights into the human psyche every time that I read it."
"I selected The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, based on how often I quote from it versus any other book on the list."
"Wacky, fun and very creative."
"Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy makes one look at things from very different angles."
"A great book that is just as fun and relevant today."
"Very tough choice but ended up with The Hitchhikers' Guide because of its humor mixed with social commentary mixed with an interesting way of looking at the world. And who doesn't know the answer is 42?"
"Because it introduces meandering as a valid literary form."
"My actual favorite book is Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino but Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is my favorite of the options listed above. I love it because the humor is delicious and it reminds us to never take ourselves too seriously. Always bring your towel and Don't Panic!"
The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins (2008)
"Just a great series."
"I love post apocalyptic novels with a strong female lead and a dose of reality."
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy (1984)
"A continuously riveting thriller with realistic characters with real world fears, desires and motivations who overcome what makes them with perseverance."
"An exceptional storyteller."
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1953)
"Because to a large extent the truths told by Ellison in 1953 still dog America today."
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847)
"Determination, solitude and actualization."
"There is so much to love in this list, but "Jane Eyre" will always be my favorite novel. It is a beautiful story told in a compassionate and powerful voice, and it never fails even in many re-readings to completely engross me."
"Jane Eyre is the most satisfying coming-of-age novel because Jane wins by staying true to herself and doing the right thing."
"Story of someone who understands the importance of making decisions you can ultimately live with."
"The first book where I was transported to another place and time."
"There were several books on this list that I've read multiple times. But I chose Jane Eyre because it's a stand-alone work that has a strong female character who is very easy to identify with...who gets a happy ending after some pretty horrible trials."
"I read it for the first time at age 10, and every five years or so since then (I'm now 67). The story of this young woman who always operates from her moral center, rather than from the influence of others, has always intrigued and inspired me, especially when I was young."
"I wish there were my all-time true favorites on this list, but because the reading of Jane Eyre in my early years was probably the stimulus for an onward search for further Good Reads, this is my choice for this survey."
"I've read Jane Eyre many times — her story always gives me courage and fills my heart with happiness."
"My favorite, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina was not on the list and so I had to choose between Jane Erye and Pride & Prejudice, difficult to say the least! But Jane Eyre is such a kick a** feminist that I couldn't pass her over for the other, equally strong feminist, the cynically witty Lizzie Bennett. Strong women make the best literature!"
"Favorite read of all time <3"
"A classic, but never gets old."
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
"It was a book that I read as a young person and a middle-aged person and loved it both times. But what really amazed me about the book? I held a discussion at the library with our usual book group that consisted of most folks over 65 and invited a high school class to join us in the discussion. After our time was up, one of my 90-year-old patrons, Persis, took aside a 16-year-old boy and they sat and talked and bonded over this amazing novel. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen and will remember until the end of my days. Literature really can bring people together."
"Truly an American story showing pain, hope, family and joy."
"This book is my favorite read because it has drama, is written in common language, it evokes childhood memories I can relate to, it portrays courage (Atticus) and empathy (toward Boo Radley). It is one of the few books I have read more than once."
"To Kill A Mockingbird is as relevant today as it was when it was first published. It's one of the few books that I've read more than once."
"I love the layers of this story as it describes so vividly a coming of age story for Scout and all those touched by the events in the community. It is a timeless story that I find myself rereading every few years. It is a national literary treasure."
"The characters are old friends who stay with me. I have read the book at least four times in the last 50 or so years and never am disappointed. Some books are beautifully written. Some have living characters. Some are full of lofty ideas and important issues. This book has all of these and yet is able to remain fully engaging and entertaining to read. Few books do all of this successfully."
"It's a beautiful and poignant coming of age story. Timeless. Sad and funny. Perfect. If I could pick a second favorite it would be A Prayer for Owen Meany."
"Easy capture of racism and moral choice to defend in spite of backlash of a southern community. Celebration of child's view of learning value of character building through examples from one's life experience."
"My choice, though a difficult one, is To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee created riveting characters and wove them into a story with several controversial themes. During a time when no one wanted to address civil rights, sexual assault, mental illness, or single parent homes, this author tackled all of them (and more). Her courage in doing so, reflects in the courage of all the characters. The novel is ageless. Society still struggles with all of these issues."
"This book is witty and thoughtful. It is a pertinent today as when it was written. I feel the full range of emotions each time I reread it."
"Political, wonderful characters, as relevant today as it was when I first read it 50 years ago."
"To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic-its theme of prejudice is timely even today."
"To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee had a big influence on my path to a career as a legal aid lawyer. I read it often in my teens, 20s, and 30s and it comes quickly to mind as I think about why I feel passionate about working for the underdog, my love for the rule of law, and commitment to make justice work. I also strongly related to Scout. I was a tomboy with older brothers I worshipped. She was the first girl I met like me — who hated the trappings and the bounds that being a girl amidst older boys placed on me. I could feel the discomfort of and rebellion from that frilly dress in my bones. And, of course, who doesn't want a perfect father like Atticus. Like Scout, I suppose, I wanted to be a lawyer like him. Great book."
"I read this as a young teen during the 1960's when race riots where happening. I had only seen one black person in the flesh. Powerful!"
"It’s the first book I read as an adult that I wish I had read when I was supposed to In High School. It was so good it made me wonder what other great books I missed out on, I’ve been reading great books ever since."
"A classic, no matter how many times I read the book I still am entranced with Scout and her adventures. Timeless. If you have not read this book, you are missing out! Also a great movie...shall I say it…the book was better."
"Every nuance rings true...the plot is perfectly developed and the characters are believable and real."
"Quintessential American novel..."
"As much as I want to vote for Hitchhiker's... or Dune as two of my favorite books, To Kill a Mockingbird has to be in contention for THE Great American Novel and should be required reading in every high school and college. Mockingbird exemplifies the best of American prose — simple, straightforward writing from the heart of small-town Americana, with deep, troubling and not easily assuaged reflections of the injustice inherent in our institutions. A read that was as groundbreaking in its day as it is timely and relevant today. And it accomplishes such insight without ever losing focus on the human scale of the story or delving into platitudes or oversimplifying the issues it raises. An important, thrilling, touching, and thought-provoking read that makes some of the most uncomfortable topics in American life (both at the time of the writing and right through the present) approachable."
"It's timeless and reminds us that what is most precious is very simple."
"Sadly, still very timely under the current horrific presidential administration."
"It is real."
"It is universal in its message and it is timeless in any place where there is or has been prejudice, racism and injustice."
"To kill a mockingbird has found a way to stay relevant over its published lifetime. I believe every American should read it at least once in their life."
"The impact it had on me as a (then) young person. As a Mainer, I was pretty oblivious to racism and prejudice because I just didn't encounter it in my home or in Maine society then. I was horrified and still am."
"Classic story; Atticus Finch is an unassuming leader."
"I love the twist!! First, the handicapped person was innocent, and the cranky old white guy was the killer!"
"I listened to this book while unable to read for six weeks because of an eye operation. The story and the narrator were exceptional and filled my days with pleasure."
"Harper Lee's timeless story is one that I reread every couple of years. It speaks to us about coming of age through moral choices that our country faces even now. But it is also a lyrical, absorbing and delightful read for all ages."
"Since childhood, I’ve been drawn to the Southern atmosphere, the innocence and clarity of childhood, and the strong father in this book. From my birth place of Nigeria, the wisdom of Things Fall Apart has a special place in my heart, too."
"This classic depicts a true gentleman of such dignity, bravery and kindness, attributes which are lacking in society today. It should be revered and widely taught."
"I read it at a time, about 12 I think, when its message really resonated with me. I grew up in Jim Crow though my family was not rabidly discriminatory. I was riveted by the characters and the writing."
"The story, told through the innocence of a child, is funny, wrenching, illuminating, and timeless. I try to re-read it once a year."
"We need to think about how the South treats racism."
"This is, still, the great American novel. While grappling with the issue of race, still so relevant and painful for us as a nation today, it shows us what decency, courage and kindness look like. And it shows that these are values that require action, not just opinions, words and preaching to others. These are lessons that we still need in the face of our polarizing politics and the seductive soap boxes of social media."
"A story of courage in everyday life."
"So many of these I love, but Harper Lee's characters are intriguing. The juxtapositions of all the characters. The human, the inhuman, the fascination with the unknown, the dreamer, the witness, how everyone deals with the truth of life as they see it, and the lies too, those in the shadows and those who want to participate. It rings to a good question to ask yourself: who do you want to be in life? how do you want to act? what do you stand for?"
"Read it in JR high the first time and it really made me think about our culture in a whole different light."
"It is a beautifully written, evocative story depicting a time gone by in America, with believable children, a heartbreaking moral issue and one of the most appealing father figures in literature. I love Ms. Lee's voice and deep feeling expression, I wish we'd heard from her more during her life."
"This book is s moral compass."
"The first book that ever grabbed my young attention and would not let go until I finished."
"To Kill A Mockingbird grapples with issues of institutionalized racism and how parents are role models for their children, good or bad. Although written during the Civil Rights Era, it is still relevant today."
"Its message of justice, kindness, and bravery are as relevant today as it was at the time it was written."
"I loved Atticus Finch and his children. His wisdom, morals, and gentleness reminded me of my own father."
"It’s a favorite because it deals with the ugliness of ignorance, poverty and racism, the confusion of adolescence and of figuring out where you stand in the world, the love of children for their parents, the wonderful innocence of childhood, the qualities in a person that count more than his outward appearance— honesty, kindness, bravery, integrity, compassion. Through the eyes of a child these heavy topics are beautifully addressed, so that everyone, from age 10 to 100, can be introduced or revisit and start to confront or self-assess their own ideologies. I have read this book multiple times throughout my life, from teenage hood to middle age now, and I am moved with pity, rage, laughter, fear, sadness and hope in turn, each time. Love To Kill a Mockingbird."
"All around great book."
"Mockingbird was my introduction to the fact that people of color were objects of discrimination and that good does not always triumph over evil. Atticus Finch taught Scout (and the reader) to do what is right anyway."
"I was pulled into the story from the first sentence. The book did not let go even after I was done. I come back to parts of it in everyday life."
"It remains true throughout time."
"This story is told from an innocent viewpoint, the outcome is both tragic and uplifting. Still inspirational to fight the good fight and live your life with honor."
"It continues to be relevant even today. Many of my 10th grade students put this as one of their favorite read (I enjoy reading and teaching it...again and again)!"
"It had a lesson and was told as a story. Great characters!"
"To Kill A Mockingbird teaches valuable lessons on perspective, race, honesty, and doing the right thing. The characters are relatable, and the writing is spectacular.
Left Behind (series) by Tim La Haye and Jerry B. Jenkins (1995)
"I was introduced to this series by a young man on a train. I had no idea Revelations could be so exciting! I couldn't stop until I read the entire series!"
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1943)
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly."
"I've loved a lot of books over the years, but no book has stayed with me quite like The Little Prince. When I was little, we had a record of it, and my brother and I would listen to it. When I got older I read it to myself; and in high school I read it in French. Now as a grown-up, I read it now and then, and the story is still delightful and meaningful, fantastical and philosophical, and symbolic of everything. It's one of those rare stories that bridges the gap between children and adults. It introduces children to the world of adulthood by poking gentle fun at the serious, self-important adults in the story. At the same time, it reminds adults what it is like to be a child."
"The memories that came when I saw the title."
"There are many great books in this list but The Little Prince takes me back to an age of grace, innocence and beauty that is sorely lacking in our everyday life."
"I love this book because it has so many layers and it is spiritual. It can be read at any age and appreciated."
"This book is timeless."
"It can be read at different levels of understanding. There are so many themes — lessons for a lifetime. «Droit devant soi on ne peut aller bien loin» (Straight ahead doesn't get one very far — what a powerful phrase!)"
"I first read The Little Prince, (Le Petit Prince) as a French student in high school in the 1960s. Later, as a French teacher, I reread and taught Le Petit Prince. As a mother, I read The Little Prince in English to my children. Over the years I have given the book as a gift to special people in my life. It remains the book which for me best combines beauty of language, profundity of thought and depth of emotion. It is a book that provokes both laughter and tears. The Little Prince is for every age and for every person. And, the drawings are also wonderful!"
"The Little Prince touched me in a manner that no other book on this list has, in my life! I read it to both of my children when they were young...I hope (when they have children) they will do the same."
"A timeless story, beautifully and gently written and illustrated. It can be appreciated by adults and children. I cry each time I read it and so did my French students. Taken literally or symbolically, its ability to touch all ages is remarkable."
"It completely covers every important basic point a person of any age needs to know about the world and living things around us. The journey of discovery is presented as an intriguing adventure and in the end the answers to the questions are all good whatever they are. Also good and acceptable are the longings of the heart and soul that lead us continually on journeys. It's OK to be sad. It's OK to glad. It's OK to wonder. It's OK to be wrong. It's OK to wait. It's OK go searching. It's OK to find something you didn't expect. It's OK to move in and out of all these realities."
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)
"I reread this book often — It has historical perspective, the characters are SO REAL, and it just warms my heart."
"Childhood favorite that stands the test of time."
"I was given this book when I was 13 and I loved it then and still love it."
"While there are so many great choices on this list, Little Women is my top pick. I first read this as a child, a gift from a great-aunt who never underestimated my ability to read and enjoy big books. I've reread this beautiful family story many times, including to each of my daughters (the older one is named Beth)."
"Invokes wonderful memories of reading about the March family when I was a girl."
"Wow, this is difficult — to choose ONE from this marvelous list. I chose Little Women because it is a good, enduring story of ordinary people facing ordinary challenges, and because Alcott's observations on human nature and situations faced by us all are still spot-on these many decades later."
"Joe March is fantastically independent and the first feminist icon I remember idolizing as a child. She was a force, and sometimes wrong, but unbreakable. (But also, how can we choose just one from this list?!)"
"Altered my universe."
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (1985)
"Epic story, characters totally engaging, multiple layers of emotion, incredible writing — this book has it all."
"Capable of transporting the reader; rich in texture tone vibrancy geography. Unforgettable characters — each one; a deeply layered, intelligent, compelling story that I didn't want to see end. Superbly, elegantly written."
"Masterful story telling. Transporting. Makes you want to change your name to Gus and ride a damn horse."
"I read this book at least once a year. It's got it all; character, plot, tears, laughter...it's just a remarkably well told tale."
The Lord of the Rings (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
"There are so many amazing books on this list, but Lord of the Rings has always been my favorite. Tolkien's poetry, deep-rooted mythology, and humanity come across in every line, making the whole world so spell-binding and real to me every time I read it. It has everything from high drama to silly songs, and is a book I return to again and again."
"It was the starting point for the great fantasy writing to come."
"It combines epic fantasy adventure with a story of how groups of disparate people come together, overcoming deep, long standing disagreements to fight and conquer a common foe through individual courage."
"The Lord of the Rings has it all — action, adventure, romance, struggle, betrayal, mischief, magic...and so on! It is an epic battle between good and evil."
"This is the original epic fantasy series, and it opened up an entire new universe to me. All fantasy series that have followed it are just imitations, even the good ones."
"While there were many on this list that I love, The Lord of the Rings series is one that I've read over and over since my childhood. The adventure, friendship, love, loyalties, and purpose of the characters demands your attention. It's a dense read, but so rewarding!"
"Its rich detail and imagination reveals something new each time it is read. The message is timeless: even the greatest evil and injustice can be defeated if ordinary people will only take a stand against it."
"Imagination is everything, but here is a work of imagination that tells of universal truths, beauties and tragedies and that is entirely consistent within its worlds. And the greatnesses are leavened with the everyday lives of characters who carry their humanity with them, even though most are not human!"
"It's one you can return to at different points in life and always find new layers of complexity and meaning. And it's a subversive story of strength in smallness and selflessness, of true power in unlikely places!"
"Great fiction takes one away from here, and among the numerous works listed Tolkien's did just that in an incomparable fashion."
"Other than The Hobbit, the first major novel(s) I read. I was captured by the sweeping and thoroughly self-contained and complete saga and history of a fantasy world. Tolkien created a masterpiece of good vs. evil, friend for, bitterness and joy, adversity and friendship that includes: racial disparity, class, suspicion, dread and the overwhelming audacity of hope in the tiniest of efforts to the greatest of deeds by the mightiest of insignificants and the pettiest of the grand. Magnificent and brilliant to both the child and the adult. Unparalleled."
"Middle Earth is the greatest fictional world ever created and has been the influence for so many other great fictional worlds like those of George R.R. Martin and J. K. Rowling."
"I enjoy the camaraderie of the characters. Each is unique. The story brings adventure and pain. Joy and sorrow. I have read the series at least 12 times and still find something new."
"A world apart, yet with all the emotions and motives of our world, in a simpler time with everything at stake."
"I first read the "The Lord of the Rings" as a teenager and fell in love with all of the characters and their individual struggles with good and evil. I have read it many times since then and I always take away something new — each stage of my life brings me a different appreciation of the stories — a different interpretation of the struggles. I love these books!!!"
"Written by a combat veteran who fought the horrors of totalitarianism, it speaks to the bravery required for facing down evil (from within and without)."
"An epic tale that has it all!"
"The historical constructs of Tolkien are complete in every way. Getting lost in the battle of good vs. evil and the shades of possibilities in between is as easy as picking up a book. And I pick this one up often."
"It is a wonderful, beautiful world that I like to revisit from time to time. I am currently reading it for the third time!"
"Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey should be on this list."
"TLotR is a series I have read over and over, along with its companion The Hobbit. I love it because it shows the heroism of unlikely characters — Frodo and Sam, who find themselves in desperate straits but continue on anyway. And these are not perfect heroes — they make mistakes and make bad judgments. To me, one of the most poignant and terrifying moments comes near the end when Frodo, overcome by the power of the Ring, says he will not destroy it. Then Gollum tries to snatch it from and falls with it into the fires. Frodo's compassion for Gollum earlier in the story ends up saving him (Frodo) from himself. There is so much more I could say. It was easy to pick this as my favorite, but I would not want to have to rank any others. So many wonderful books!"
"The language. The Ents and their tragic tale. The love of Mother Earth found throughout."
"I love Tolkien’s work because he created an entire world for the reader to explore and because he made the least among his characters — with all their flaws — the key to saving the world."
"I chose Lord of the Rings trilogy because I have read the trilogy and The Hobbit about 6 times. I am mesmerized by the incredible detail provided by Tolkien of Middle Earth and its inhabitants and the wonderful adventures."
"Most of the books listed are favorites of mine. I chose The Lord of the Rings trilogy specifically because in all my years as a school librarian, the books that resonated with all students and ages (and became instant 'classics') were those books that dealt with 'coming of age' and friendship. p.s. One doesn't 'come of age' at the age of 5 or 10 or even 30. It can happen anytime in one's life! Thank you."
"To do what Tolkien did, the way he created a world that draws you in, is magical."
"Tough choices! I have read a good number of these, re-read more than a few (as well as, for instance, collections by e e cummings, Ray Bradbury, and others). I changed answers several times and if I saw this list 15 minutes from now I might change my answer again. But...LOTR is on my bookshelf in hardcover, and on dreary nights when I can't sleep and I've read everything else that I have (or care to), either LOTR, or Hitchhiker's Guide, or Mark Twain's collection, or any of my Lewis Carroll books...ugh, I might change answers again! I must click DONE or I shall never be!"
"I first read this book when I was 13 and absolutely loved it. I couldn't put it down (all three books)! You have many great books on this list, which I also have enjoyed, but this one has been with me the longest."
"Having read this series at least 12 times, I either find something new or am reminded of something I enjoyed the first few times. Adventure, Community, Loyalty, Trust, bonds that we all need in our lives."
"Transforms you to another reality."
"Engaging characters, filled with magic and wonder, while at the same time delving into human courage, community, and frailty. My all time favorite that I re-read at least once a year."
"It's fascinating and dense. There is so much going on and it is so beautifully written, I can lose myself in Tolkien's world for hours."
"Inspirational and timeless."
"Timeless and engaging."
"The depth and detail of the world that JRR Tolkien created in the Lord of the Rings series has always fascinated and captivated me. This, along with the Song of Fire and Ice series have been the only 'fantasy' books I have ever enjoyed, mostly because they have many parallels to contemporary times."
"The breadth of story and attention to circularity of logic, plot and history that makes it a world complete."
"Greatest read for the whole family. When our children were ages. 11-15, I used to read excerpts from the story after or during dinner times…after a while, the children became engrossed by the story. They still remember me reading to them, and to My husband…although now they laugh about it. As they grew older, each one of them read the trilogy themselves…Good deeds, great love for one another...a parable for our times...even today."
"Classic series of good vs. evil and the bonds of fellowship that triumph, but not without cost."
"I find myself rereading them every year!"
"The world, its history, the characters and the story!"
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002)
"This book has fascinated me through several readings and haunted me since the moment I started it."
The Martian by Andy Weir (2014)
"Not just the great story, but the background of how it came about is inspiring! Weir published free online, got input and suggestions by scientists (and amateur astronomers), edited, adjusted, and perfected. It gained traction and was eventually published and became a hit! It's a story about passion, science, exploration, and the joy of learning."
"Have to love the real life applications of laws of physics: this is why STEM is so important."
"I was fascinated by the science that was addressed while being enthralled by the story. I've always been drawn to true adventure tales and this felt as though it had actually happened. Believable character development along with plausible storyline. One of the few books that I devoured quickly."
"The pacing and story were so compelling!"
"My sub-title for The Martian would be McGyver in Space. Very imaginative but potentially realistic. I was disappointed however that the list did not include Arundel by Kenneth Roberts, a Maine classic."
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (1997)
"Memoirs of a Geisha introduced me to a world, history, people, that were never on my radar. I'm so pleased to have read, and thoroughly enjoyed this book."
"Memoir allowed an in-depth look into the cloistered world of geishas and the culture that supported this concept...a remarkable work by a male writer who was able to plumb the depths of the female psyche."
"The writing was captivating, the story was heart-wrenching. It took no effort to love the main character. I could not put the book down."
"Beautiful prose that wraps you up in a silk blanket and lulls you into the story!
Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
"There's just so much in it! It's also surprisingly funny and the characters are great."
"Because it's funny — the unexpected irony is very modern and just tickles me. And because Anna Karenina is not on the list."
"Moby Dick is the great American story, obsession, conquest, madness, more relevant today than ever. But it was a toss-up with The Great Gatsby, also a quintessential look at American experience, also about obsession and madness. But two of the greatest novels ever written are curiously omitted from the list — Portrait of a Lady and Middlemarch, both great studies in feminist perspective (and also about obsessive behaviors, come to think of it)."
"What a curious and embarrassing list, populated by a great deal of low-grade, evanescent pulp that will hardly last a decade, let alone 'all time'. Dan Brown? The Twilight series? The Hunger Games? Fifty Shades of Grey, for goodness sake!! How on earth was this list made and where are Shakespeare, Milton, the Bible, Philip Roth, Middlemarch, Walden, Hawthorne, to name only a few bizarre omissions?"
"'Call me Ishmael.' Was there ever a better first line?"
"This book has been a favorite since my junior year in high school 25 years ago. It was written with so much depth that we spent a whole semester just on this book. I love the insane passion of revenge Captain Ahab had. I could go on but I'm sure I'd run out of space:)."
"The ultimate American story about obsession and human nature."
"Moby Dick is one of three or four books which I have returned to several times over my reading life. It has great characters, an amazing plot, an always new narrative structure. Each time I return to the novel, it is a new and wonderful experience. It contains both wonderful satire and deeply felt observations about the human experience."
"I'm a little shaken by the notion that 50 Shades of Grey is contending with Moby Dick and Don Quixote for the title of Maine's most beloved book. It's a tough list — I'm going with Moby Dick more because it's sort of a foundational document for me that I think about more than most of the others. Right now, however, 1984 is ascendant, and for a great story, I have to nod to The Stand."
"Moby Dick is an amazing look at life on board the vessel while searching for the Whale. You could almost feel the despair among the crew!"
"The First line..."
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (1996)
"The Notebook is a reminder of what is most important in life--those we love. Paired with The Wedding, also by Sparks, it makes a great wedding shower gift and serves as inspiration for couples as they begin the journey and for those who have survived lasting marriages and learned from the trials and tribulations. Selecting one book from 100 is, indeed, a monumental task!"
"The most beautiful tale of love and devotion. This story touches so many lives everyday. We all know a family that has dealt with the shattering condition."
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1967)
"I read the book 37 years ago and couldn't put it down. It was my first experience with magic realism and the ending blew me away."
"The language and images it created captivated me..."
"Marquez was a true craftsman, and this book is one of his most beautiful creations."
"One of the best opening lines in history. The rest are all pretty good, too."
"The opening line caught me, and I always look for that when I open a book."
"One Hundred Years of Solitude gave me a first-hand tour of the multi-faceted & magical world of a Latin American family. A unique & transcendentally beautiful novel that takes the reader to a time & place she's never visited before & opens her eyes to unlimited possibilities of culture & imagination."
"Beautifully written, I can read it over and over."
Outlander (series) by Diana Gabaldon (1991)
"I love Gabaldon's Books for their unpredictability and her willingness to take risks. Her writing has created amazing images and elicits strong emotions. When I read one of her novels, I feel as if I too live on Fraser's Ridge."
"Family sagas over time really connect you with the characters."
"The whole series is brilliantly written...each character, and there are many, are so real and the way they interact through the entire series plotlines is amazing. Mixing European and American history with time travel, medicine, culture and romance. Dianna Gabaldon is gifted writer. Thank you."
"A great escapist love story. I also love the attention to detail of the natural world that surrounds the characters."
"Great story, characters and history. What’s not to like!!""
"I thought about picking The Game of Thrones but how can that be my favorite why he refuses to finish it? The Outlander series is one I have been reading for over 20 years and have reread most of the books. I love the story that spans over time and how Gabaldon didn't let it go stale by keeping it in one location but allows her characters to travel continents."
"The story transports me."
"This whole series is such a great blend of fiction and historical fact and suspense and romance. I love everything about it."
"So many of these books are my favorite, and so many — such as 1984 and the handmaids tale — are terribly relevant for our time. However, I am tickled that a series I have loves for nearly 20 years, led by an author's first book ever, is on this list. Often mislabeled and misjudged as simply a romance novel, Outlander is a study in Scottish history, occupation, torture, witchcraft, herbalism, time travel and yes — really good sex. Over the nine — soon to be ten — books in the series, you gain true friends and new family. You yearn to know more, yet never want the story to end. Their strife is your strife, their joy is your joy. You read these books over and over, learning more each time, and falling in love all over again. I am thrilled that more and more people are discovering them through this list as well as the TV series."
"Character depth, historical accuracy, compelling story."
"They are stories to read and/or listen to over and over and over again."
"The Outlander Series allowed me to travel and explore through reading when my children were little and domestic life was my whole life. I wish you had added Cutting For Stone on the list. It's possibly the best book I've ever read. Along with Geraldine Brooks' novels."
"Though I've read and enjoyed many of these books, I've spent more time reading and rereading the Outlander series than any other. It has everything: adventure, romance, history, suspense and a dash of science fiction."
"Provides an engaging mix of history, romance and time-travel — a wonderful summer escape book series."
"The history and the story line is over the moon wonderful, I love books, I read constantly and always have but no books have every affected me the way the Outlander series has."
"The Outlander series. This is really a hard choice, there are some really great books in this list!"
"Diana's characters are so vivid, every time I read (or re-read) her books, it's like spending time with old friends.
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton (1967)
"I chose this book because it resonated with me as a young adult. This book along with the Little House on the Prairie series gave me a life long love for reading."
"This book has been a favorite since I was first forced to read it in school. I've since obtained my own copy and have been rereading that battered and well-loved tome once every few years. Every time I reread this book, something new strikes me, or I see things from a different perspective than I did the previous year. Obviously the book hasn't changed at all, and thus the change in perspective is entirely to do with changes in me. It's become a barometer of sorts for me, giving way to long though trains and tangents regarding introspection on my own character. How can you not love something that makes you think and rethink yourself?"
The Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan (1678)
"My #1 vote is not on the list. The Bible."
Pillars of The Earth by Ken Follett (1989)
"An epic novel of the Middle Ages and cathedral building in England filled with fascinating characters with all the human foibles, solid background information that gives the incredible storytelling a sound foundation. I have read this book over and over, listened to it on audio books, discussed it with several reading groups. Each time I learn more and up my estimation of what a treasure Ken Follet has given us."
"Story linking real architectural history with the knowledge and brute strength of men who built cathedrals. All without technology; all with faith in the end result, patience and persistence, tragedy along the way. A far cry from the instant gratification of today's culture."
"No reason, just found it interesting."
"Historical fiction about talented stone craftsmen who spent most of their lives creating one or maybe two iconic beautiful churches for the ages."
"I was fascinated by the how structures like cathedrals are created."
"It was hard to choose one — they all have their value and they many have a place in my life. I stared at the list and waffled for nearly a quarter of an hour between Siddhartha and "Pillars of the Earth". Pillars taught me a lot about human nature — good, bad and indifferent. It taught me about human resiliency, grit and vision. Siddhartha taught me about my place in nature and how to be myself. I watch the water through the seasons and I'm reminded of that book all the time."
A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving (1980)
"This is a magical story that touched my heart, made me laugh, made me cry and made me fall in love with Owen Meany. A story of friends, faith, and humanity, as only John Irving can tell it."
"A Prayer for Owen Meany remains at the top of my list. But there were lots of other good choices! This was tough! The Alchemist, The Book Thief...too many books, too little time! Thank you!"
"I read A Prayer for Owen Meany in high school. I remember finishing the book and crying. It’s one of the funniest, most heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read."
"The last sentence in Irving's A Prayer For Owen Meany was heart wrenching to read: so much so that I flipped back to the beginning and read it again, this time savoring every word. I was born in Biddeford ME in 1964 & the Vietnam War was essentially not covered in history books. After reading A Prayer for Owen Meany twice through, my next reads were these books in this order: 1) In Retrospect: The Tragedy & Lessons of Vietnam by Robert S. McNamara; 2) The Long Grey Line: The American Journey of West Point's Class of 1966 by Rick Atkinson; 3) Trail of Tears: The Rise & Fall of The Cherokee Nation by John Ehle. In my mind's eye, that is precisely what a great fictional work should do: beyond escape and entertainment, an exceptional book will also entice and inspire the reader to delve into non-fictional pieces to assist the formation of their own opinions. Something Fifty Shades and several others on this lack. FYI: my second choice is Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises."
"Because it speaks to one of the questions I am most interested in: What makes people believe (or not) or have faith (or not) in God? And because Owen and John's friendship is so honest and strong. Irving's writing is funny, poignant, and to me, APFOM is a perfectly crafted book."
"An epic story of faith and friendship."
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
"It's the perfect novel."
"The clashing of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, the gentle love story of Jane and Mr. Bingley, the scandal of Lydia and Wickham, what's not to like?"
"Spirited female heroine in a time that was out of the norm and thankfully a man that recognized her value."
"The characters are timeless, the observations are acute, and the writing is flawless. That being said, this was a hard choice and came down to what book has called me to reread it most from among many on this list."
"1st adult novel, Modern Library edition, with paper cover listing all other Modern Library titles...my first reading list...I loved the novel and shared it & the list with everyone!"
"Only the best love story ever written! But goodness, only one?!"
"This was very difficult. I wanted to check several. And, when I am forced to winnow it down to one single book, it will always be Austen's P & P. Austen's wit and how Lizzy comes off the page as imperfect, meaning alive, has brought me back so many times to this book. I can't even think how many times I have read it in my 63 years."
"Greatest book ever. Each time I read it I find something new and wonderful."
"A story full of family, romance, status, friendship, mystery and love!"
"Besides the social commentary and focus on class distinctions, there is a love story and remarkable characters with all their idiosyncrasies intact."
"I first read Pride and Prejudice at age 16, and I must say, I did not completely understand it. I read it again at 19 and thought it was brilliant. I have read it at least 5 times (and all of her other novels at least two times). I love the insight, the wit, the young woman's point of view, the picture of the customs and concerns of another time and place. I have seen most of the movie/television adaptations of Austen's novels as well. They wear well. I highly recommend the film Bride and Prejudice to anyone who enjoys Austen, but has not seen it: Austen goes Bollywood and it totally works. Actually, it has been a few years, so it is probably time to pick up the novel again. (NOTE: Strong second choice: Things Fall Apart -- which I have read more than 20 times as I taught it in High School Social Studies.)"
"My go to book when I have nothing to read also, my go to book to escape all my worries."
"There is so much to learn about human nature through reading this book over and over. It is brilliantly crafted and very funny."
"I read this book when I was 15, stayed up all night, fell in love with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy!"
Because it's my favorite.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011)
"McArthur Library has selected Ready Player One for our Great American Read book. We have very active programming for all ages, but wanted to select a book we love and that we could share with young adults, new adults and adults. This book has it all! A great and innovative plot, good writing and super fun throwbacks to the 1980's. Can't wait to re-read this book and share it with others."
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
"Rebecca is one of the most interesting books ever written. It's a unique psychological mystery with an unnamed narrator whose life is dominated by the shadow of her husband's first wife. Love and hate, dominance and submission, obsession and repulsion: there is nothing humdrum in this novel. It is epic."
A Separate Peace by John Knowles (1959)
"As a teenager without many formative "life experiences" this book brought to light so many emotions and enabled my young mind to become aware of complicated issues. It was so very many years ago now but whenever I am asked for a book recommendation by a patron this one always comes to mind. Not a "happy" book but an important one."
The Shack by William P. Young (2007)
"It challenged my views about the deity."
"My first time reading about God that really deeply touched me."
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1922)
"Profound. Inspiring. Life-changing."
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
"This is the perfect novel. Hemingway is at the top of his form. I have read it every few years since I was a young woman. It never loses its freshness."
The Stand by Stephen King (1978)
"Classic good vs evil. Memorable characters. Pop culture. A riveting story. And, Maine's beloved Stephen King."
"This story changed my life. It made me want to love to read again."
Tales of The City (series) by Armistead Maupin (1978)
"It challenged our concept of family and so beautifully reflected the changing attitudes of its time."
"Opened my eyes to a diverse world."
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)
"It takes place in a time that reminds me of my early years & the sense of tenacity is very powerful."
"This book just spoke to me. I have re-read it many times! But to be fair, many of the books on this list are favorites of mine."
"Wow, it's nearly impossible to pick a single "favorite". I'm sure most have many "favorites". From this list I picked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because it made me think of how life might have been for my parents growing up. It just seemed raw and real and hearing stories from when my parents were growing up, or first married, this story Seemed to give insight on what their lives may have been like. My second favorite (or maybe tied for #1) is Anne of Green Gables. I have read and re-read this book many, many times!!"
"I read and reread this novel as a tween and teen. Its themes around prejudice, sexuality, and striving still reverberate in my mind today."
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)
"Every time I read Where the Red Fern Grows to one of my children I cried even though I knew how it was going to end. Such a sweet and simple story. The one children's book I didn't mind reading over and over again."
"This book is so much about life and all we encounter and accept. Great for children."
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847)
"A definite classic that will make a great book for the discussion at our book club meeting."
"This was very hard as I've loved different books more at different times in my life. In the end, I'm selecting Wuthering Heights as it's the book I've picked up and read the most times. There is an eloquence in the writing style that draws you in instantly — creating characters of such depth — that I can never put it down — despite knowing the finale each time. Thanks for putting this together."