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illustration of Gulliver standing among the Lilliputuans, from Gulliver's Travels

What Are You Reading This Summer?

August 2018

The Summer Reading Program often focuses on children and young adults, but summer reading is not just for kids!  Many public libraries also have reading programs for adults, and this year, PBS's The Great American Read is also encouraging adults not only to read but to vote for their favorite book. Our August exhibit focuses on books in our collections that are on The Great American Read book list.

PBS launched The Great American Read in May with a list of "America's 100 most-loved books" (or book series), with a goal of eventually selecting just one as the country's favorite. The full series begins in September, but readers have already started voting for their choices and can continue doing so until mid-October. The winner will be announced on the concluding episode of The Great American Read later in the fall, so summer is a great time to check out some of these titles.

first display case, with Spanish Summer Reading poster and Great American Read poster and book list.

The Great American Read book list is composed of young adult and adult books, drawn from both classics and popular fiction spanning over 400 years: the oldest book on the list is Don Quixote, originally published in 1605; the newest is Ghost, a young adult novel just published in 2016.

If you are looking for some summer reading, you can download a spreadsheet with the complete list along with additional data (compiled mainly from Wikipedia) that allows you sort the list by title, date originally published, author, author's gender or nationality, and audience (adult or young adult). The last three columns indicate if the NYS Library has the title in print, audio or Braille; the last two formats are available from the Talking Book and Braille Library.

As a government library and a research library, the New York State Library does not currently collect a lot of popular fiction. However, we do have many of the older "classics" on The Great American Read list. Some of the older books on display include:

  • Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. This is the oldest book on the list, originally published in Spanish in 1605. This English translation was published in 1848.
  • The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. Originally published in 1678, the two editions on display were published in 1882 and 1926.
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. Originally published in 1726 (and the only 18th century book on the list) this illustrated edition is from 1865. (A children's version of this book is also displayed in another case.)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Originally published in French in 1844, the English edition on display was published about 1877 in The Seaside Library, a periodical that offered a complete novel every issue.

Books for Children and Young Adults

Third display case, with children's and young adult books from the Great American Read.

The Great American Read book list includes several children's and young adult books.  The display includes several books from the Research Library's collections, as well as examples of audio and braille books from the Talking Book and Braille Library:

  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White with pictures by Garth Williams (1952).
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. First published in 1868, the version on display, illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith, is from 1926.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. First published 1943, this version is from 2001.
  • Los Juegos del Hambre (The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins. First published in 2008, this audio version, in Spanish, is from the Talking Book and Braille Library (TBBL).
  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds. The most recent book on the list, published in 2016, is available from TBBL in both braille and audio format.
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. First published in 1865, this version, with illustrations by John Tenniel, in from 1945.
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. First published in 1726; this version was abbreviated and illustrated for children circa 1882.


book: Wuthering Heights

Given this list is titled The Great American Read, it's no surprise that the majority of books on it are by American authors. However, over a third (36 titles) are by authors from other countries. The most frequently represented country outside the U.S. is the United Kingdom, with 19 titles – again, not unexpected, given our overlapping history and shared language. Some examples from British authors:

  • The Lord of the Rings (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien. First published in 1954, this illustrated edition, which includes all three books, is from 2002.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. First published in 1813, the annotated edition on display is much more recent, from 2010.
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. First published in 1847, the edition displayed was published in 1940.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. First published in 1818, this edition is from the early 20th century.

The book list also includes titles by authors from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Nigeria, Russia, Spain and Venezuela, including:

  • Doña Bárbára by Rómul Gallegos (Venezuela). First published in 1929, th edition displayed is from 1942.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (Argentina). First published in 1967, the edition on display is from 1995.
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (Germany). First published in 1922, the edition on display is from 1957.
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria). First published in 1958, the edition on display is from 1992.

Books by American authors on exhibit included:

book: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville\
  • Moby-Dick, or the Whale by Herman Melville. The edition displayed is from 1952, but Moby-Dick was first published in 1851, making it the earliest American book on the list.
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. First published in 1932, an edition from 1951 is on display.
  • Trimalchio: An Early Version of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Although The Great Gatsby, originally published in 1925, is the title actually on the list, what the Library has on display is Trimalchio, Fitzgerald's earlier version of story, which was published in 2000 as part of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (1989).
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Originally published in 1952, the edition exhibited is from 2002.
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison. Originally published in 1987,the edition exhibited is from 1994.
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (1989).
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. First published in 1961, the edition exhibited is from 1994.
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. First published in 2004, the edition exhibited is from 2005.
PBS poster: Join The Great American Read

Exhibit curated by Diane Madrigal, with assistance from Stephanie Barrett and Giridhar Gowdar.

Last Updated: November 2, 2021