The Great American Read

The Great American Read on WCNY 2018

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). It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.

The television series features entertaining and informative documentary segments, with compelling testimonials from celebrities, authors, notable Americans and book lovers across the country. It is comprised of a two-hour launch episode in which the list of 100 books is revealed, five one-hour theme episodes that examine concepts common to groups of books on the list, and a finale, in which the results are announced of a nationwide vote to choose America’s best-loved book.

The series is the centerpiece of an ambitious multi-platform digital, educational and community outreach campaign, designed to get the country reading and passionately talking about books.

Three Central New York libraries received Great American Read grant awards and WCNY is delighted to be working with them. Each library’s Great American Read programs and events are listed below.
Learn More About the Great American Read at the Great New York State Fair! Visit the NYS Libraries exhibit in the Science and Industry building.

The Great American Read Liverpool Library's events

Book Bike: Bringing Books to the Community

Now – September

Location: Many parks, neighborhood events, schools, and businesses in the Liverpool area

Target Audience: families, patrons of all ages

Description: Liverpool Library rides the very popular Book Bike into the community, towing a cart stocked with books and library materials. Patrons will be able to check out Great American Read books as well as vote and hear about related events.

Shelfie Day with Communications Guy Mark B

September 8th, 10:00am – Noon

Celebrate The Great American Read by having your “Shelfie” photo taken by our Communications Specialist Mark Bialczak. Pick out your favorite novel from TGAR’s 100. Think of how you’d like to pose with it in our main library room. We’ll post the photo on our library social media, and on the video that runs on the lobby TV. If you give us your email address, we’ll send you a digital copy.

Expressions of the Theme: Art and Essay Challenge

Now – October 15th

Location: Liverpool Library

Target Audience: Teens and adults

Description: The Great American Read Art and Writing Challenge

The PBS Great American Read television and online series will feature 100 of the best-loved books in America. Five key themes are explored during the series. Liverpool Public Library challenges teens and adults to respond to one of the themes through art and/or writing. Your work will be displayed at the library and you will receive a free t-shirt for entering the challenge.

Enter your drawing, painting, collage, photography, graphic design, essay, or poetry. See for details and submission.

Book Clubs and Book Club Kits

Location: Liverpool Public Library and local community

Target Audience: Adult

Liverpool Library has created 5 Book Club and/or Book to Movie Club kits; each kit containing 12 copies of a Great American Read title and discussion questions. Movie kits will also have one copy of the film version. Patrons will be able to check out a kit and host a book club.

They can also join the library’s club on August 13th to discuss a preselected Great American Read book (Rebecca by Dame Daphne du Maurier).

Debate: What is the best Great American Read book, and why?

September 13th, 7:00 – 8:00 PM

Location: Liverpool Public Library, Carman Community Room

Target audience: Adults and teens

Description: This debate, hosted by Debbie Stack of local PBS station, WCNY, will encourage passionate, yet civil, dialogue. Defend your favorite Great American Read. How does this book challenge your view of social structure? How is a character/theme/situation a reflection of yourself, your fears or desires? Using some of the overarching questions, some lively discussion will connect community members.

Top 10 Reveal: Finale Screening

Tuesday, October 23rd

Location: Liverpool Public Library, Carman Room, 7:00PM – 9:00 PM

Target Audience: All ages

Description: This much anticipated event, in collaboration with our local PBS affiliate, WCNY, will be an exciting finale to our months of reading, voting, and programming. Book clubs will be encouraged to attend and dress or decorate in character of their favorite book. Liverpool Library’s very own top 10 Great American Books will be revealed before the live broadcast on PBS.

Author/speaker event

Date: October 18th

Location: Liverpool Public Library, Carman Room, 7:00PM – 9:00 PM

Target Audience: All ages

Description: Liverpool Library collaborates with Syracuse University, LeMoyne College, Onondaga Community College, and teachers in the school district. Once the book list is revealed, Liverpool Public Library plans to retain a related author or speaker.

Upcoming Kirkland Library Great American Read events

Thursdays at 11:30am
Great American Read-Out
Join us at the Clinton Farmer’s market as special guests read selections from Great American Read titles.

Read & Pass Along
We’re passing along 50 copies of some of the Great American Read titles and seeing how far they can travel. Books are being distributed by Friends, Trustees and volunteers of the Kirkland Town Library and are being tracked through the Book Crossing website. One of our books made it all the way to Crater Lake, Oregon! (see photo)

The Central New area has had many famous writers who either called Central New York home or had some sort of Central New York connection. Arguably, the most famous is L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz.

Although a Chittenango resident, Baum scholars say that he spent part of his later childhood living in Roselawn, a mansion in the small community of Mattydale north of the city of Syracuse. The mansion, purchased by Baum’s father with profits from his oil business, stood along America’s first plank road, constructed of hemlock, a wood yellow in color – perhaps the inspiration for the famed Yellow Brick Road?

He lived in the Fayetteville home of Matilda Joslyn Gage, who was one of the authors of the first three volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage (along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton). Baum had married Gage’s daughter, Maud, in the parlor of the Gage home. It is said that Matilda urged Baum to write down the stories he liked to tell, tales that became the Wizard of Oz series.

John Berendt, who was in the class of 1957 at Syracuse’s Nottingham High School, authored the non-fiction work about a murder trial in Savannah, Georgia, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil that became a movie directed by Clint Eastwood.

Children and adults alike are familiar with the children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, called the most successful picture book after Peter Rabbit. Eric Carle, born in 1929 in Syracuse, wrote over 70 books.

Raymond Carver, born in Oregon, taught at Syracuse University. A short-story writer and poet, he is credited with reviving the short story genre in the 1980s. Cathedral, his collection of short stories, is usually considered his best work. The Syracuse home he shared with poet Tess Gallagher, who became his wife, was so popular it was said that they hung a sign outside of it that said “Writers At Work” to get some peace and quiet!

Bruce Coville, a Syracuse native, has over 100 young readers’ books to his credit, including many audio books.

Stephen Crane, author of Red Badge of Courage, often required high school reading, attended Syracuse University in 1891 and wrote for Syracuse newspapers. The New Jersey native never graduated from SU and died of tuberculosis at age 28.

Donna Woolfolk Cross, born in New York City who has taught at Onondaga Community College, is the author of several non-fiction works and the novel, Pope Joan, about a female Catholic pope from 853 to 855.

Junot Díaz, born in the Dominican Republic, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. He is a former Syracuse University English professor.

We have all heard of Charles Dickens. He visited Syracuse in 1868, where he gave a reading from his A Christmas Carol. He described Syracuse as “the most wonderful, out-of-the-world place, which looks like it had begun to be built yesterday and was going to be imperfectly knocked together with a nail or two the day after tomorrow.”

Amy Dickinson was born and still lives in the Ithaca area. She is the author of The Mighty Queens of Freeville and is the syndicated advice columnist, “Ask Amy.”

We have Helen Durney to thank for Dumbo, the Flying Elephant! She was a Syracuse artist who, in the 1920s, lived in Syracuse with her parents. According to Dick Case a Syracuse newspaper reporter and author, Helen was the illustrator of the book, Dumbo, The Flying Elephant, by Helen Aberson and her husband, Harold Pearl, who created him in 1938. Helen was a native Syracusan; Harold came to the city from New York City to manage the Eckel Theater.

The beloved, The Black Stallion, was written by Walter Farley, known for his works for children. He was born 1915 in Syracuse and grew up on Tipperary Hill.

  1. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, among other works, spent part of his childhood in Syracuse.

Tim Green is a Liverpool native, Syracuse University graduate and retired NFL football player who has become a best-selling author of both adult and children’s fiction.

Alex Haley, author of Roots among other works, was born in Ithaca and spent several years in his childhood there.

Texan Mary Karr, a Syracuse University professor of literature and creative writing, authored The Liar’s Club among other books and poems. Well-known author Joyce Carol Oates, a Lockport, NY native, graduated as valedictorian of her Syracuse University class in 1960 with a degree in English. She has written numerous stories, poems, essays, and books including them, which won the National Book Award.

Rod Serling, playwright, screenwriter, and The Twilight Zone TV series writer and producer, was born in 1924 in Syracuse and grew up in Binghamton.

E.B. White, author of the timeless children’s classics, Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little was a Cornell University graduate.

The short story writer and novelist, Tobias Wolff, had a 17 year teaching career at Syracuse University. Some of his better-known works are This Boy’s Life and In Pharaoh’s Army.

There are so many other published writers connected to Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Mohawk Valley, including WCNY’s own Debbie Stack, who with Captain Ron Marquisee, co-authored Cruising America’s Waterways: The Erie Canal. If you’d like to share information about other area writers, please send it to

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Major production funding provided by Anne Ray Foundation, A Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropy. Engagement funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Anne Ray Foundation, A Margaret A Cargill Philanthropy.

Title: George Saunders on Writing Fiction
Description: George Saunders is a celebrated author and Professor of English at Syracuse University. He is the author of numerous short stories, essays, and novels including Lincoln in the Bardo (2017), Pastoralia (2000), and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996). In this segment, Saunders sits down with WCNY’s Kevin Miller to discuss the art of fiction writing, writer’s block, and finding an authentic voice as an author.
Featured Individuals: George Saunders – Author; Kevin Miller – WCNY Host

Title: Tina Nabinger discusses her unique Book Cooks Library Program
Description: Tina Nabinger, a teacher and librarian from Central New York, has combined her love of books and cooking to create an innovative new program for her elementary students called Book Cooks. In this segment, Nabinger discusses Book Cooks, helping children find that perfect book, and the importance of reading every day.
Featured Individuals: Tina Nabinger – teacher and librarian at Minoa Elementary School

Title: The YMCA Young Authors Academy
Description: Young writers who show promise and aptitude find their voice at this workshop series led by a professional author and poet. The YMCA hosts ongoing sessions where high school aged writers are treated as artists – and taught advanced writing, comprehension and analytical skills. The leader and guest authors provide insight and feedback on the writing projects that the young writers are drafting. All participants are encouraged to share their ideas, their perspectives, their struggles and triumphs with their mentors and each other – all in attempt to help foster the next generation of great authors.
Featuring: Georgia Popoff, Poet

Title: The Book Barn of the Finger lakes
Description: At the Book Barn of the Finger Lakes, the art of independent bookselling is alive and well. Owner and architect Vladimir Dragan shares his experiences culling America’s published literature to find and make available those works often overlooked or long forgotten. We learn what trends he has seen come and go, what makes a novel great, why lesser known authors should get more attention and how he is preserving the depth of American literature when libraries don’t have the room.
Featuring: Vladimir Dragan, Owner
Facebook: @bookbarnofthefingerlakes

Title: Jackie Warren Moore – Poet
Description: Poet Jackie Warren Moore talks about how reading as a young child saved her life.

Title: Jaime Alicea – Superintendent Syracuse City Schools
Description: The Syracuse City School Superintendent talks about the role of reading in a well- rounded education.

Title: Dave Eichorn – Meteorologist and Wood Craftsman

Description: Dave Eichorn shares his story on why a book about a rare tree changed his entire approach to reading and his craft.