Friday, November 23, 2018

The Great American Read-Nonfiction Edition


I thought I would take a break from the recent election to discuss another topic I was thinking about.  I really enjoyed watching The Great American Read (GAR) on PBS last fall.  They put together a list of 100 novels and or series of books and profiled them on their program.  They had celebrities endorse their favorites on the list and then asked viewers to go on their website and vote for the ones that they liked.  You can see the list of books they chose and who won here.  To Kill a Mockingbird won the online poll (people could vote for more than one and more than once) followed by the novel series Outlander and Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, and The Lord of the Rings series.


All of this is interesting but I wonder why non fiction books do not receive the same attention.  They can have at least as great of an impact on society as 1984 or Huckleberry Finn (it didn't make the GAR list of 100 but Tom Sawyer did).  The most impactful books are often the most controversial such as Charles Darwin's the Origin of Species or Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto.  Others can fill a void such as Dr. Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care.  

Like fiction, nonfiction covers a wide variety of Genre's.  26 of the 100 books in the GAR poll were science fiction/fantasy as were three out of the top five finalists in the poll.  Nonfiction can cover any book based in fact be it a cookbook, a dictionary, biography, science, or history.  To their followers religious texts like the Bible, The Quran, or the writings of the Buddha are factual books but nonbelievers of those faiths may not see it that way.  The biggest challenge is which books to include.  

Goodreads has an online poll for the best nonfiction books of this year with the sub-genres of biography, history, and science.  Robert McRum published his own list in the Guardian of his top 100 nonfiction books of all time written in English presented in chronological order.  I say why not have the crowd weigh in on the top text books of all time?  Why just focus on English texts?  I might be willing to create such an online poll if no one else will.  I have advertised many nonfiction books on this site

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