The Great American Read – Watertown Edition

I recently watched the Great American Read on PBS and was reminded just how powerful a great book can be, and how differently books can affect those who read them. If you haven’t heard of the GAR yet, it is a television program and nationwide poll that asks everyone across the country to vote for their favorite novel (picked from a list of 100 titles also selected through a nationwide poll). You can learn more about it and see the list of titles here.

Gone with the Wind coverHere at the WFPL, we’ve been talking a lot about what novels we will be voting for and why. Personally, my vote has to go to Gone With the Wind. My mom gave me her copy of Margaret Mitchell’s novel when I was in middle school and I couldn’t put it down; Scarlett O’Hara (and my mom!) taught me that it’s okay to be a strong, bad-ass woman who knows what she wants and is not afraid to go after it.

Here’s what some of our staff members had to say about their picks:

The Alchemist cover“My favorite book of all time, which also happens to be on the list of 100, is The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. It was mandatory reading for a high school theology class and I assumed it was going to be terrible. However, it turned out to be a book I read once a year.”

Mike, Technical Services

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was the first “grown-up” book I read. My shy sixth grade self challenged the librarian who said it was too hard for me, saying ‘But I want to read it. If it’s here I can read it!” I have read it dozens of times because of its smart and spirited heroine I aspired to be like and its timeless story which captures the complexity of relationships and the bonds of family and friends.”

Stephanie, Circulation


(The Stand by Steven King).”
-Caitlin, Assistant Director

Don Quixote cover“I’m going to have to go with Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. There’s a reason it has inspired an adjective (“quixotic”), an idiom (“tilting at windmills”), and a bazillion other works of art. Since America is a nation of immigrants, I think it’s only appropriate that the Great American Read should come to us from another place and time – and Edith Grossman’s translation is fantastic!”

-Brita, Reference librarian

“The Hunt for Red October. I purchased this book when it was first published for a dear friend that was recovering from a brain aneurysm. ET (Edward Thomas) was such a smart and gifted scientist; it was a challenge to find a book that might hold his interest. He loved the book and that was all I needed. Unfortunately, this amazing young man did not survive a second aneurysm. To this day I see the book and remember him fondly.”

-Maureen, Circulation

 “The Hunger Games because we’re about to live it. I need hope that not all is lost and that people can overcome what seems like insurmountable obstacles. Plus, Katniss kicks ass.”

-Kelly, Teen librarian

Siddhartha cover“My vote is for Siddartha. Almost all of Herman Hesse’s writing grapples with this idea of the “spiritual struggle”, but none of his novels seems to have resonated with American culture quite as much as Siddhartha. Capturing the illuminations of Eastern philosophy through the darkened lens of a tortured German artist, Hesse does more for the soul in around 150 pages than most books three times its size are willing to attempt.”

-Joe, Circulation

“Harry Potter, honestly, means more to me than I can possibly express. Growing up with the “Golden Trio,” I read the books with my mom; I met my best friends from camp and college because of Harry Potter; and to this day, I still attend the annual Yule Ball in Cambridge. There’s no other book or series that has seeped itself into my life so completely, and despite its flaws, I’ll carry it with me always.”

-Kazia, Children’s librarian

 “The Lord of the Rings. I discovered this book when I was 12 and read it and reread it 5 times before I stopped. It was the first book of fantasy that absolutely absorbed me and I judge all others against it.”

-Brian, Circulation

“I love many of the novels on this list. I can read The Outsiders or Lord of the Rings year after year, and never tire of the worlds to which they transport me. But are they important for everyone to read? No.   There are other books on this list that are weighty and very important, but I never got caught up in the story or characters. There is only one book on this list that combines peerless storytelling with a portrait of race and justice in America that needed to be told – still needs to be told – and all done through the voice of an unforgettable girl named Scout. To Kill a Mockingbird. This time. Every time. Always.”

-Jill, Reference librarian

The Lord of the Rings (Series) coverMy vote is abso-LUTELY for The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. These books mean so much to me: the kind world of the Shire drew me in to a tale full of adventure and friendship that I’ve carried with me from elementary school until now. My neighborhood friends and I pretended to be Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin on a dire quest to return the one ring to Mordor, which was actually just my basement, but it was scary all the same when we were 4th graders. Without the fantasy world of Middle Earth, so many books, movies, and most of all Dungeons & Dragons wouldn’t exist today and I can’t even bear to think about a world like that.”

-Megan, Circulation

“I am choosing Pride and Prejudice because it was given to me by a favorite aunt when I was 12. She recognized my love of reading and knew I would love it….and I did!”

-Christine, Circulation

The Chronicles of Narnia. Although I missed the allegory when I was younger, Narnia helped shape my young imagination and still informs my secular lifestyle.”

Liz, Hatch coordinator

“I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice watching the Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier version when I was really young. I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time when I was 10, and I re-read it every couple of years. There’s always something new I notice about it each time I re-read, no matter how many times I’ve read it before.”

-Kerri, Reference librarian


 “1984 because each time I read it the line between science fiction and reality gets shorter.”

-Aimee, Reference librarian



My pick from this list is going to be The Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut is one of my all-time favorites — his writing pulls off the rare feat of being profound while employing a remarkable economy of language. Plus, the man was wickedly funny!”

-Joel, Circulation

So what would you vote for? Come fill out a paper ballot at the library, or vote online here. Share with us why you loved this book, a memory from when you first read it, a special person who gave it to you or anything else that comes to mind! We will publish the results of our own Watertown version of the Great American Read at the end of the summer, and will also be displaying some of your comments at the library- stay tuned!

-Katie, Circulation







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s