‘Mockingbird’ wins vote as America’s best‑loved
LOS ANGELES — “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a coming-ofage story about racism and injustice, overpowered wizards and time travelers to be voted America’s best-loved novel by readers nationwide.
The 1960 book by
Harper Lee emerged as
No. 1 in PBS’
“The Great American Read” survey, whose results were announced recently on the show’s finale. More than 4 million votes were cast in the 6-monthlong contest that put 100 titles to the test. Books that were published as a series counted as a single entry.
The other top-five finishers in order of votes were Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series about a timespanning love; J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” boy wizard tales; Jane Austen’s romance “Pride and Prejudice”; and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” fantasy saga.
Turns out the contest was a “Mockingbird” runaway.
“The novel started out at No. 1 on the first day of the vote, and it never wavered,” series host Meredith Vieira said.
Joining her to sing its praises was writer Aaron Sorkin, whose adaptation of “Mockingbird” starts Broadway previews next month, and cast members. Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “The Social Network”) said reading Lee’s novel was his first brush with “astonishing writing.”
“There is soul-crushing injustice in this book that still exists,” he said. “And at the center, morality, decency and what it is to be a person strikes us.”
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, who portrays Calpurnia in the play, marveled at Lee’s achievement.
“I was most impressed that a woman wrote that way” during that era, the actress said, and that Lee was so “deeply involved on the right side of right.”
Lee’s slender, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel proved enduring enough to overcome the popularity of hefty epics adapted as blockbuster movie franchises (the Potter and Tolkien works) or for TV (“Outlander”). Even “Pride and Prejudice,” the 200-yearold inspiration for numerous TV and movie versions and with an army of “Janeites” devoted to Austen and her work, couldn’t best Lee’s novel.
Debbie Ford of Orion, Illinois, an “Outlander” fan whose love of the books was showcased on an episode of “The Great American Read,” expressed disappointment they didn’t win. But she delighted in the attention they — and the joy of reading — received. “I believe this PBS series has reminded some of us again that reading is important, and it has exposed us to books that we may not ordinarily pick up. And that’s such a good thing!”