The Great American Read - Monthly Top 5 List

The Great American Read — Top 5 Monthly Reads

Each month we’ll offer a list of five books from “The Great American Read” Top 100 list, as recommended by some of the most avid readers who work here at Arizona PBS. This a great chance to experience a literary classic for the first time — or to re-read a book from a fresh perspective. You can check out these books at your leisure throughout the summer, or you can devour each book at breakneck speed. Either way, we hope you enjoy this summer-long journey to find America’s favorite novel.

Top 5 Books — July

    • The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

      • Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling, we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared. A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind.
    • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

      • A voyaging English surgeon recounts how he is repeatedly washed ashore on new lands inhabited by strange people (the Houyhnhnms, the Yahoos, Liliputians, and the Brobdingnagians among them). Each experience—some more dangerous than others—teaches Gulliver something about the nature of humanity and politics, and he returns to England each time with new understanding.
    • Hatchet (Series) by Gary Paulsen

      • Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson, haunted by his secret knowledge of his mother’s infidelity, is traveling by single-engine plane to visit his father for the first time since the divorce. When the plane crashes, Brian is the sole survivor. Alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present, it takes all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive.
    • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
      • Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers.

    • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
      • “Call me Ishmael.” And so begins one the most famous journeys in literature—the voyage of the whaling ship Pequod. Ishmael quickly learns that the Pequod’s manaical Captain Ahab sails for revenge against the elusive Moby Dick, a sperm whale who scuttled Ahab’s former vessel and left him crippled during his last whaling voyage. The divisions between man and nature begin to blur — as do the lines between good and evil, as the fates of the ship’s crewmen become increasingly unclear…


Top 5 Books — June

    • 1984 by George Orwell

      • In 1984, London is a grim city in the totalitarian state of Oceania where Big Brother is always watching you and the Thought Police can practically read your mind. Winston Smith is a man in grave danger for the simple reason that his memory still functions. Drawn into a forbidden love affair, Winston finds the courage to join a secret revolutionary organization called The Brotherhood, dedicated to the destruction of the Party. Together with his beloved Julia, he hazards his life in a deadly match against the powers that be. Though the year 1984 now exists in the past, Orwell’s novel remains an urgent call for the individual willing to speak truth to power.
    • The Call of the Wild by Jack London

      • Set in the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s, the protagonist of this short adventure novel is Buck, who is part sheepdog, part Saint Bernard. Kidnapped from a ranch in the Santa Clara Valley, Buck is sold to dog traders and sent to Yukon, Canada, to become a sled dog. Buck is taken aback by the harshness of life in the Klondike, which stands in stark contrast to his life in California. He soon begins to embrace that harshness to survive: “the law of club and fang.” When he’s confronted by a pack of wolves, he eventually answers “the call of the wild” and becomes their leader.
    • The Color Purple by Alice Walker

      • This is the story of two sisters — one a missionary in Africa and the other a child wife living in the South — who sustain their loyalty to and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic novel of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.
    • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
      • Oscar Wilde’s Gothic novel about the price of vanity and selfishness begins with a young artist named Basil, who has just finished his masterpiece: a portrait of his young and beautiful friend Dorian Gray. After wishing that he could remain attractively youthful while the painting ages in his stead, Dorian finds that this wish has come true: he remains free to live a hedonistic and venal lifestyle while only the painting bears the marks of his cruelty and age. Twenty years later, Dorian’s crimes finally begin to catch up with him.

    • Tales of the City (Series) by Armistead Maupin
      • The first of seven novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a wry comedy of manners and a deeply involving portrait of a vanishered era. Books in the series include Tales of the City, More Tales of the City and Further Tales of the City.



Top 5 Books — May

    • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

      • Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s telling the stories. In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting regularly to eat dim sum, play mahjong and talk about their lives. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Forty years later the stories and history continue with their daughters. With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters.
    • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

      • A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel tells with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha. Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at one haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha, beginning in a poor fishing village in 1929. As a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We enter a world where appearances are paramount, where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men and where love is scorned as illusion.
    • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

      • Little Women follows the close-knit sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March as they grow from children into young women during the Civil War. Living with their mother in Massachusetts, and adjusting to their poorer circumstances while their father serves in the military, the March girls grapple with first love, tremendous loss and the gaps between who they are and who they would like to be. Set in New England during a time of great national crisis, it is a classic coming-of-age story beloved by generations.
    • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
      • Jane Austen’s most beloved novel follows the clever and kind, but “obstinate, headstrong,” young woman Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters as they navigate the intricacies of English society in the Regency period. Resistant to her mother’s avowal that she must marry “a single man in possession of a good fortune,” Elizabeth meets the wealthy but aloof Mr. Darcy at a country ball, where her sister Jane and his rich friend Bingley form an attachment despite their class differences. With one bachelor enchanted and the other unimpressed, will the Bennet sisters find love without compromising their dignity?

    • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
      • “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten — a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. The second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim’s first wife — the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.


  1. Have you read these books? Do you think another novel should’ve made our Top 5 lists? Join “The Great American Read” conversation on Facebook and Twitter, and let us know what you think using #GreatReadPBS and #GreatReadAZPBS. PLUS: Don’t forget to vote daily this summer for your favorite American novel.
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