Read Alabama

The Great American Read is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels, as chosen in a national survey. Out of 100 books chosen from anywhere in the world, 5 authors of these books have strong connections to Alabama.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice. It views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime. One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country.

Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She is the author of the To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman. Ms. Lee received the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and numerous other literary awards and honors. She died on February 19, 2016.

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Swan Song, Robert R. McCammon

Robert McCammon’s Swan Song is about a wasteland populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, with Earth’s last survivors drawn into a final battle between good and evil. There’s Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets, Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station, and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town to aid healing and recovery. The ancient force behind Earth’s devastation is looking for recruits for its relentless army, and Swan may be its first target.

Robert McCammon is the New York Times bestselling author of Boy's Life and Gone South, among many critically acclaimed works of fiction. He is a recipient of the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award, the Grand Master Award from the World Horror Convention, and is a World Fantasy Award winner. McCammon lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God, brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama and moved to Eatonville, Florida, with her family in 1894. She was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. Hurston wrote four novels (Jonah’s Gourd Vine, 1934; Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937; Moses, Man of the Mountain, 1939; and Seraph on the Suwanee, 1948); two books of folklore (Mules and Men, 1935, and Tell My Horse, 1938); an autobiography (Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942); and over fifty short stories, essays, and plays.

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The Hunger Games (Series), Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games takes place in a dystopian society where each year, two people are randomly chosen from each of the 12 districts of Panem to take part in the eponymous 'Hunger Games', where only one winner is left alive at the end. Reality TV is satirized, too, with contestants playing up to stereotypes, knowing that wealthy residents of the Capitol can support their favorite 'contestants' with extra weapons or food. Collins' view of mass media as creating conflict and division between people is obvious. Her trilogy of books leaves us with a clear idea of how we, as a society, should look to overcome the ways in which those above us try to divide and conquer, and instead rise in resistance.

Suzanne Collins was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1962. She was the daughter of an Air Force pilot, and her family moved several times when she was young.  Suzanne attended high school at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and graduated in 1980. She explored themes of war and violence for a YA audience with the Underland Chronicles and The Hunger Games Trilogy. The Hunger Games (2008) was an instant bestseller, appealing to both teen readers and adults. The book appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 260 consecutive weeks (more than five consecutive years), and there are more than 100 million copies of all three books in the trilogy, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire (2009), and Mockingjay (2010), in print and digital formats worldwide.

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Looking For Alaska, John Green

John Green’s Looking For Alaska tells the story of Miles Halter who is fascinated by famous last words—and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called “The Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young, who will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps. Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. Based on Green’s own high school years at the Indian Springs School in Birmingham, Alabama, this modern classic marked his arrival as a groundbreaking new voice in contemporary fiction.

John Green is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Turtles All the Way Down, Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, and The Fault in Our Stars. His many accolades include the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award. Green has twice been a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. With his brother, Hank, he is one half of the Vlogbrothers (youtube.com/vlogbrothers) and co-created the online educational series CrashCourse (youtube.com/crashcourse). You can join the millions who follow him on Twitter @johngreen and Instagram @johngreenwritesbooks or visit him online at johngreenbooks.com. John attended Indian Springs School outside of Birmingham, Alabama, graduating in 1995. He later used Indian Springs as the inspiration for the main setting of his first book, Looking for Alaska. He currently lives with his family in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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For more information on the Great American Read visit https://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/home/