America's Favorite Novels
Earlier this month, PBS commissioned a YouGov survey to determine Americans’ 100 favorite novels. The results are both surprising and completely predictable: contemporary favorites are placed alongside classic literature, iconic fantasy series by cult literary favorites. Did your favorites make the list? Your most overrated? Click through for a sampling of what America has decided.
1984 by George Orwell
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Having sold approximately 70 million copies, the Game of Thrones book series is without question a major success. In 2011, the number of fans only grew when HBO’s smash hit adaptation premiered. The show has become a cultural phenomenon and with the final season set to premiere 2019 after a yearlong break, HBO is said to be developing a prequel.Buy Here
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This dystopian YA series not only gave us a highly successful film franchise, but also made Jennifer Lawrence a household name.Buy Here
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Originally published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables has stood the test of time as a constant favorite, and has been adapted for film several times throughout the years. Most recently, the story was taken on by Netflix and Moira Walley-Beckett (Breaking Bad) with the original series Anne with an E. After a successful first season, the show received a second season order set to premiere later this year.Buy Here
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Orignally pubished in 1954, the first volume of Tolkien’s three part saga, The Fellowship of the Ring laid the groundwork for a hugely successful book and film series with a passionate fanbase that only grew with the release of each subsequent film. (Note: This placement recognizes the entire series.)Buy Here
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Having sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, Markus Zusak’s novel spent more than 500 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. The Book Thief‘s 2013 film adaptation wasn’t well-received by critics, but it did net an Oscar nomination John Williams’ score and performed well at the box office.Buy Here
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller’s satirical novel was first released in 1961. While the initial reviews varied, it has gone on to be regarded as one of the most significant novels of the 20th century. The novel was first adapted for film in 1970 and is set to take a turn on the small screen in an upcoming Hulu series of the same name directed by George Clooney and starring Christopher Abbot, Kyle Chandler, and Hugh Laurie.Buy Here
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
“Call me Ishmael.” Moby Dick’s opening line is regarded as one of the most essential in literary history. Melville’s classic is seminal in American culture and has been adapted into multiple films. The first, written by John Huston, Norman Corwin, and Ray Bradbury, starred Gregory Peck and Orson Wells, and was released in 1956.Buy Here
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Author Alice Walker received much critical acclaim for her groundbreaking novel, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. Steven Spielberg’s film version was released two years later in 1985, with Oprah Winfrey netting an Oscar nomination for her first film role. In 2005, The Color Purple was brought to Broadway and the show garnered 11 Tony nominations; its recent revival enjoyed even more critical success.Buy Here
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Yes, really. Going from Twilight fan fiction to a string of successful films, Fifty Shades of Grey showcases, among other things, the potential power of self-publishing and of steamy romance.Buy Here
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Spawning two film franchises over the past 25 years, the universe that Michael Crichton created in Jurassic Park has remained beloved by readers and moviegoers alike. The next film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, comes to theaters in June.Buy Here
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
First published in 1818, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has cemented itself in modern culture as one of the most popular monster stories of all time.Buy Here
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Written by former EW TV critic Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl has quietly transformed publishing into a haven for dark, twisty, female-led thrillers. The book captivated readers and has sold millions of copies; in 2014, it was adapted into an acclaimed film directed by David Fincher, produced by Reese Witherspoon, and starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.Buy Here
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s second novel, Pride and Prejudice, has had an undeniable impact on Western storytelling. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s love story may be literature’s most iconic.Buy Here
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Originally published in 1960 and read in schools across the country, To Kill a Mockingbird‘s exploration of ethics and morality never goes out of style. Just before her death, Lee published a decades-in-the-making sequel, Go Set a Watchman, which was met with mixed reviews. It’s the only other novel she ever published.Buy Here
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Alan Ladd, Robert Redford, and Leonardo DiCaprio have all taken on the titular role of Fitzgerald’s timeless tale of opulence. Its themes of delusion and failure continue to resonate with readers, and its glamorous setting still inspires many a costume party.Buy Here
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood wrote this feminist novel in 1984 while living in West Berlin, which was still circled by the Berlin Wall. With the Society empire still in place, she felt the symptoms of a repressed society all around her.
In 2016, Hulu adapted the story into an Emmy-winning series. As movements like #MeToo move to the fore and dangerous anti-woman policies continue to make progress around the country, this vision of a dystopian near-future in which women’s free will is stripped feels hauntingly prescient.Buy Here
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
The seven Harry Potter novels were published between 1997 and 2007, providing the basis for an equally successful series of films, a theme park ride, and a record-breaking Broadway play. The Harry Potter movies comprise the third highest-grossing film franchise of all time. In recent years, the universe has been expanded with the Fantastic Beast films, with a new one set to be released in November 2018.Buy Here
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Released in 1991, Outlander tells the story of World War II nurse Claire Fraser as she finds herself transported to Scotland in 1743. The Outlander series has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, and now like Game of Thrones, its world has been realized for the screen. The acclaimed Starz drama allows old fans to enjoy the love story of Jamie and Claire all over again, and new ones to bask in it for the first time.Buy Here
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Originally published in Portuguese, Paulo Coelho’s best-selling and inspirational novel has sold more than 65 million copies. Film rights have bounced around Hollywood for years, but the story has yet to be translated to the screen.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Originally published in 1957, Ayn Rand’s polarizing epic is a 1,200-page novel celebrating capitalist philosophy. In 2011, the first film in a three-part saga was released, starring Orange is the New Black‘s Taylor Schilling. Part two and three were released in 2012 and 2014 respectively. All three performed poorly at the box office and were panned by critics.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
This enchanting seven-book series has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and spawned three blockbuster films.
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
The unexpected friendship between a pig and a spider doesn’t exactly sound like a cultural phenomenon, but E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web defied the odds. Published in 1952, the novel has been a staple in children’s literature for years.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Dan Brown’s series of mystery thrillers were embraced by critics and quickly adapted to film. A film of the same name was released in 2006, starring Tom Hanks and Sir Ian McKellen; both the books and films faced extreme backlash from the Catholic church and the Christian community as a whole, and the film was banned in several countries.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Consisting of 18 novels, several screen adaptations — including David Fincher’s 1984 film — comic books, and games for both board and screen, this franchise has a relatively small but intensely passionate fan base. The first novel won both the Nebula and Hugo awards— science fiction’s highest prizes.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Published in 1969, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is best known, now, for laying the groundwork for Francis Ford Coppola’s groundbreaking and definitive cinematic trilogy.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Originally a radio series on BBC, Douglas Adams adapted his radio show into a string of successful novels. This intergalactic science fiction phenomenon has also been adapted into comic books, a stage production, and video game. In 2005 a feature film was released, with Adams writing the screenplay.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Translated into 250 languages and dialects, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s French classic The Little Prince has inspired everything from a Japanese museum to operas and plays. Mark Osborne’s 2015 adaptation world premiered at Cannes Film Festival and was well received by critics.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, told by four narrators, is an exploration of the bond between mother and daughter and the perseverance and loss endured by a group of recent Chinese immigrant women. The novel takes us to 1949 San Francisco where the group meets to eat, talk, and play the Chinese game mahjong. When one of the women dies, her daughter takes her place and learns more about her culture and her mother than she thought possible.
Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Originally published in 1868, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women celebrates its 150th anniversary this year with a string of adaptations following suit, including a graphic novel, a modern-day retelling, and a three-part series on PBS.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
John Green’s first novel is also one of his most beloved. Fans have been hoping for a film adaptation for years and with the announcement in 2015 that they’d found their director and a script had been written, it finally looked as though they were going to get it. However, a year later, Green reported there were no longer any plans to make the film… and that his attempts to buy the rights back from Paramount had failed.
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
S.E. Hinton began writing her American classic when she was 15 and was published when she was 18. The novel was adapted for film in 1983 by Francis Ford Coppola. It starred a young Tom Cruise along with Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, and Diane Lane. Hinton has gone on to write several novels, but none have reached the success of her first.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Stand by Stephen King
First turned into a miniseries for ABC in 1994, The Stand is an expansion of King’s short story “Night Surf” and tells the story of a superflu that kills the majority of the world’s population. King’s 1978 novel is set to be adapted again into a 10-part series.
The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer
Sparkling vampires and romantic entanglements with questionable age differences and instances of stalking and abuse dominated teen fandom for nearly a decade between a string of successful novels and films that catapulted its actors to instant fame.