The Great American Read

I recently finished “Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” (someone I know was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given about 10 months) and decided perhaps to switch to some good fiction to leave the cancer ward behind. PBS is holding The Great American Read this summer and I thought picking titles from their list would be interesting. It’s a mixed bag, to say the least. Here

I’ve read 23 of the titles. I’m wondering, should I just randomly select one that I haven’t read yet or should I look before I leap into something I may not enjoy?

29 Comments on The Great American Read

  1. Interesting collection. Why have the Twilight series and 50 shades of Grey?

    It has been a very long time since I read a fiction novel. I seem to be stuck in the Historical or Historical fiction section. I enjoyed a couple by Marie Sandoz lately. The Beaver Men and Crazy Horse, both have local relevance to me. Currently reading The Golden Spruce.

  2. I think I’ve read 27. The number would be higher if I counted several I started but couldn’t finish because they stunk.

    If you haven’t read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry you should. And if you enjoy that one, head straight for Wind, Sand and Stars. It’s very different, but vividly captivating.

  3. Pancreatic cancer is so tough. I just learned of someone else today who has it.

    Good idea to switch to something a little more lighthearted.

    I didn’t count, but I’m familiar with most of the classic titles. I don’t read much fiction (unless you count the Left’s headlines on BadBlue). I’m with Frank, I prefer reading history because it’s so fascinating to me.

    Generally speaking, I wouldn’t trust a book list from PBS. The classics are no-brainers. The others? Probably indoctrination.

  4. Forget, “The Grapes of Wrath.” Yeah, yeah, a one legged whore in the middle and booby chewing in the final scene, but come on! Read, “The Murder.”

    Wife: “Is you gonna beat me again for that?”

    Husband: “No, not for that.”

  5. if it’s fiction you want, why not go w/ … ?
    ‘A Higher Royalty’ ~ James Comey
    ‘Lies Of My Father’ ~ Barry Sotero Bill Ayers
    ‘WTF Happened’ ~ Hillary Clinton

  6. I’ve read 40 of those on the list but man it includes some real trash. 50 Shades of Gray? (Haven’t read it) Gone Girl and The Davinci Code ? ( read those and wish I hadn’t)

    The Book Thief is good and a couple not on the list I liked “A Gentleman In Moscow” and “A Man Called Ove”.

    Currently off fiction and obsessed with Jordan Peterson. Slogging my way through Maps of Meaning now.

  7. I’ve read 21 of these titles, counting series only as one even though I’ve read the whole of each series’ first title I counted.

    By the way, heard about _Emperor of Maladies_ from Prager’s show a few years back and have been wanting to read it. Some other titles on there I’d like to check out.

    I recommend leaping into a book – if you don’t like it after the first few chapters, just put it down. It’s worth the venture into other realms.

    I like historical fiction as well (especially 1066, WoR and our glorious Revolution), though I confess right now I’m a bit fried so I’m binging on Sophie Kinsella _Shopaholic_ books.

  8. When I face my own mortality I think I’ll look for something simple that helps me appreciate my life. “A walk in the woods” by Bill Bryson is a good example. Calvin and Hobbes is good too.

  9. BB — thanks! Just finished chemo a couple weeks ago and now wait ’til first week of July to see if any of it worked. So hard to regain stamina!

    Molon Labe — Stop! You’re cracking me up!

  10. I have read 39 1/3 of those. (Game of Thrones is merely a potboiler.)
    The list, compiled by PBS, is suspect.
    Toni Morrison pffft.
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn SUCKED.

  11. AA, stay strong, there plenty of us praying for you. A little bit of humor can really help, I recommend something lighthearted and easy reading. If you’ve never read “A Walk in the Woods”, I think you would like it. No politics, no war stories, just a guy that sets out to walk the Appalachian Trail. It has a good ending too.

  12. “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway is the best novel he ever wrote. “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurer is an almost a flawless mystery novel. “The Picture of Dorian Grey” by Oscar Wilde, “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad are novellas that can be read in a short day. “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London and “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville are wonderfully dated slogs. “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell is much better than the film, and is a terrific historical novel. Everyone should read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain, but only if they also read “The Aventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Most people read these books in high school or college, because they have to, but they are so much more meaningful and enjoyable after life shows you what the authors were really writing about. There are a number of these that seem too topical for PBS to be recommending. “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand and “Nighteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell almost seem like they were planted on the list to show how inclusive and open the Socialists are at our government subsidized mouthpiece for the Democrat Party.

  13. If your going to read Hemingway (They are all good), you NEED to read Islands in the Stream. He committed suicide before it was completed. His publisher and a family member completed the last chapter. Awesome read.

  14. Thank you, Joe! I’ll check it out (from the library). 🙂 I like good stories. I’m trying to think back to the last non-history book I’ve read. It’s been a long time. I’m always rereading stuff I love.

  15. A ‘Confederacy of Dunces’ is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.
    ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ I bought, read 30 pages and was so bored by the dreadful, trite writing I deleted it from Kindle and my Cloud. Never did get to a sex scene.

    I read about 1/2 on the list. Some were fine reading as a teenage but I would not revisit today – Vonnegut, Hesse.

  16. AA you’re on my permanent prayer list. Injectible Procrit was the stuff they gave me after chemo 14 years ago. I hope there is better stuff available today. Sometimes it hard to get through the doc’s head about the fatigue.

  17. If you want a good non-American read try Stella Gibbons ‘Cold Comfort Farm’. Black humor from the 1930’s. ‘I saw something nasty in the wood shed.’

  18. Lost a friend to pancreatic cancer about 5 years ago (only guy I met in my industry in 20 years who was actually enjoyable to spend time with), it was brutal how hard and fast it hit him and how little I got to talk with him before he was gone. My heart goes out to you.

    I do have a recommendation – you may want to forward the following technical jargon link to your friend who was diagnosed, as there seems to be great promise with this new treatment. I read about a woman with stage 4 terminal breast cancer who was given a few months, she tried the experimental treatment, and made a fast and amazing full recovery. She actually said she could physically touch and feel the tumor shrinking week by week! Anyway, just a though in hopes that new options like this can save more lives without the issues of chemo being the normal course –


    Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend’s mother. Owen doesn’t believe in accidents; he believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul is both extraordinary and terrifying. At moments a comic, self-deluded victim, but in the end the principal, tragic actor in a divine plan, Owen Meany is the most heartbreaking hero John Irving has yet created.
    Prayers for you AA

  20. I’m currently listening to the audiobook “Ghost in the Wires” by Kevin Mitnick. I knew a bit about phreaking going in, but this book is an eye-opener. For people with the right skill set, there is no such thing as privacy in the digital realm.

  21. Surprising that I’ve read more of those on the list than I’d have thought possible. Not many, of course.
    I’ve discovered that I can usually get something out of most – even if it’s a slanted piece of work.
    “Russia at War” by Werth, for instance. Dude slobbered all over Stalin’s ass (metaphorically) but it contained many gems. Did you know that “ANTIFA” was a Stalinist organization in Berlin in late ’45 designed to stamp out all opposition to Stalinism? Well, I didn’t.

    izlamo delenda est …

  22. If I got cancer, I’d want to try smallpox vaccine.

    This was actually first tried in the early 1900s, it sounds way better than chemotherapy. Reading about it really changed my perception of the medical industry. Most people may mean well, but “community organizers” tend to dominate organisations and promote selfish political monopoly tactics.

  23. If you haven’t read The Count of Monte Cristo yet, the best translation is by Robin Buss, he wrote the forward for that edition as well (unabridged and uncensored Penguin Classic) – it looks like it’s the edition mentioned in the list you linked to.

    Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander series is outstanding. I read the series several years ago and am now listening to the series through the library app when driving and working. The audio book narration is outstanding.

    A terrific nonfiction book is The River of Doubt by Candace Millard, about Teddy Roosevelt’s journey down an uncharted Amazon river. Have some patience with the first 100 pages and you’ll be rewarded with an unbelievable story.


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