“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

George R.R. Martin's quote from "A Dance with Dragons" is a fitting introduction to a new PBS series that seeks an answer to "What's America's best-loved novel?"

The winner will be decided by a national vote. And you can vote as many times as you want, so no need to limit yourself to just one book.

PBS has helped corral the choices for its multiplatform "The Great American Read" through a YouGov public opinion poll yielding a list of America's 100 favorite novels.

The prolific and popular Martin, whose fantasy "A Game of Thrones" made the list, says in the series' two-hour premiere airing at 7 p.m. Tuesday that he'll vote for J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy "The Lord of the Rings," one of the best-selling novels of all time.

Martin is among several authors, celebrities and members of the book-reading public who'll share their opinions over the eight-part series with host Meredith Vieira on everything from the oldest on the list, 1605's "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes, to the most-recently published, 2016's "Ghost" by Jason Reynolds.

After Tuesday night's premiere, "The Great American Read" will return in the fall with several themed episodes leading up to the October finale in which "America's Best-Loved Novel" will be revealed. "The Read" also will include public events, social media elements and national reading clubs, as the nation celebrates books and reading. For more information and how to vote, visit pbs.org/greatamericanread.

Of Louisiana interest in the first episode is a comparison of the two-part "Quixote" classic to John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces," which hit shelves in 1980, 11 years after Toole's suicide. 

"It wasn't just a New Orleans novel; it was like the greatest unpublished novel of all time," says New Orleans native, journalist, professor and author Walter Isaacson of the first time he laid eyes on the Big Easy-set manuscript.

"Dunces" unfolds around central character Ignatius J. Reilly, a 30-year-old educated loafer living with his mother in Uptown. His search for employment morphs into a comical adventure when some lively French Quarter characters enter the picture.

"I would say it's 'Don Quixote' set in New Orleans," Isaacson says. "In fact, 'Confederacy of Dunces' echoes 'Don Quixote' because the Man of LaMancha (Quixote's lead character) — he's a little bit nuts (a trait Ignatius also demonstrates)." 

Even closer to home, "Hidden Figures" by Margot Lee Shetterly, "An American Marriage" by Tayari Jones and "The Rooster Bar" by John Grisham are the East Baton Rouge Parish Library's most-circulated books for 2018 thus far. Although none of these made PBS' list, "Hidden Figures" is the library's 2018 One Book One Community selection. 

Filling out the library's top 10 are: "Origin" by Dan Brown, "The Midnight Line" by Lee Child, "Robicheaux" by part-time Louisianian James Lee Burke, "End Game" by David Baldacci, "Haunted" by James Patterson, "The People vs. Alex Cross" by Patterson and "The Great Alone" by Kristin Hannah.

Parish residents do like to read, as evidenced by the latest figures from the library, which has more than 2 million items in its collections.

More than 23,000 new library cards were issued in 2017, bringing the total active patron count to 296,417, according to Kayla D. Perkins, the library's public relations coordinator.

In spite of continuing disruptions from the 2016 flood, circulation remained steady at 2,924,461 items in 2017, Perkins noted, with digital circulation accounting for the largest percentage of growth.

And, while still not at pre-flood levels, visits to the parish libraries numbered 2,131,182 in 2017, Perkins said.


What EBR's reading 

1. "Hidden Figures" by Margot Lee Shetterly (One Book One Community selection)

2. "An American Marriage" by Tayari Jones

3. "The Rooster Bar" by John Grisham

4. "Origin" by Dan Brown

5. "The Midnight Line" by Lee Child

6. "Robicheaux" by James Lee Burke

7. "End Game" by David Baldacci

8. "Haunted" by James Patterson

9. "The People vs. Alex Cross" by James Patterson

10. "The Great Alone" by Kristin Hannah


America's 100 Favorite Novels

  1. "1984" by George Orwell
  2. "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole
  3. "A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin
  4. "A Prayer For Owen Meany" by John Irving
  5. "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles
  6. "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith
  7. "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain
  8. "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho
  9. "Alex Cross Mysteries" (series) by James Patterson
  10. "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll
  11. "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  12. "And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie
  13. "Anne of Green Gables" by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  14. "Another Country" by James Baldwin
  15. "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand
  16. "Beloved" by Toni Morrison
  17. "Bless Me, Ultima" by Rudolfo Anaya
  18. "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak
  19. "The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao" by Junot Díaz
  20. "The Call Of The Wild" by Jack London
  21. "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
  22. "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger
  23. "Charlotte's Web" by E. B. White
  24. "The Chronicles of Narnia" (series) by C.S. Lewis
  25. "Clan of the Cave Bear" by Jean M. Auel
  26. "Coldest Winter Ever" by Sister Souljah
  27. "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker
  28. "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas
  29. "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  30. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon
  31. "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown
  32. "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes
  33. "Doña Bárbára" by Rómulo Gallegos
  34. "Dune" by Frank Herbert
  35. "Fifty Shades Of Grey" (series) by E. L. James
  36. "Flowers In The Attic" V.C. Andrews Foundation (series) by Isaac Asimov
  37. "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley
  38. "Game of Thrones" (series) by George R.R. Martin
  39. "Ghost" by Jason Reynolds
  40. "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson
  41. "The Giver" by Lois Lowry
  42. "The Godfather" by Mario Puzo
  43. "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn
  44. "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell
  45. "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck
  46. "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens
  47. "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  48. "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift
  49. "The Handmaid’s Tale" by Margaret Atwood
  50. "Harry Potter" (series) by J.K. Rowling
  51. "Hatchet" (series) by Gary Paulsen
  52. "Heart Of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad
  53. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
  54. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy" by Douglas Adams
  55. "The Hunger Games" (series) by Suzanne Collins
  56. "The Hunt For Red October" by Tom Clancy
  57. "The Intuitionist" by Colson Whitehead
  58. "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison
  59. "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë
  60. "The Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan
  61. "Jurassic Park" by Michael Crichton
  62. "Left Behind" (series) by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
  63. "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  64. "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott
  65. "Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry
  66. "Looking for Alaska" by John Green
  67. "The Lord of the Rings" (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien
  68. "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold
  69. "The Martian" by Andy Weir
  70. "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden
  71. "Mind Invaders" by Dave Hunt
  72. "Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville
  73. "The Notebook" by Nicholas Sparks
  74. "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez
  75. "Outlander" (series) by Diana Gabaldon
  76. "The Outsiders" by S. E. Hinton
  77. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde
  78. "The Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan
  79. "The Pillars of The Earth" by Ken Follett
  80. "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen
  81. "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline
  82. "Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier
  83. "The Shack" by William P. Young
  84. "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse
  85. "The Sirens Of Titan" by Kurt Vonnegut
  86. "The Stand" by Stephen King
  87. "The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway
  88. "Swan Song" by Robert R. McCammon
  89. "Tales of The City" (series) by Armistead Maupin
  90. "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston
  91. "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe
  92. "This Present Darkness" by Frank. E. Peretti
  93. "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
  94. "The Twilight Saga" (series) by Stephenie Meyer
  95. "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy
  96. "Watchers" by Dean Koontz
  97. "The Wheel of Time" (series) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
  98. "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls
  99. "White Teeth" by Zadie Smith
  100. "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë

'The Great American Read'

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday.

CHANNEL: WLPB, Channel 27 (cable Channel 12).

INFO: pbs.org/the-great-american-read/home/

Follow Judy Bergeron on Twitter, @judybergeronbr.