The Great American Read; Fire and Fury on the Small Screen | Book Pulse

The Great American Read

PBS announces an eight-part TV show on books, The Great American Read. The series is “designed to spark a national conversation about reading and the books that have inspired, moved, and shaped us.”

The LA Times reports that the show is “influenced by The Big Read, a 2003 BBC television program that sought to determine the best British novel of all time [which] ended with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings beating out Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for the top honor.”

Starting with a list of 100 books, the audience will vote for favorites. In a press release, PBS said that the American public picked a base list of books via a YouGov survey that was then reviewed by a committee that included librarian Nancy Pearl.

The show begins with a two-hour special on May 22.

Briefly Noted

The NYT reviews Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick J. Deneen (Yale Univ.), writing that it “is a book that reads like an attempt to enunciate a primal scream, a deeply exasperating volume that nevertheless articulates something important in this age of disillusionment.” The paper considers The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad (Tim Duggan Bks: Random), writing, it “is difficult to process. It is a call to action, but as it places Murad’s tragedy in the larger narrative of Iraqi history and American intervention, it leaves the reader with urgent, incendiary questions: What have we done, and what can we do?” Of Winter by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Penguin), the paper says the collection of short essays reads “not just as though their initiating subjects were noticed quickly but as though they were written quickly; they seem uninterested in pursuing the goals of the short essay, which are precision, originality and speed.”

Michael Dirda reviews The Last London: True Fictions from an Unreal City by Iain Sinclair (Oneworld) for The Washington Post, calling him a “marvelous essayist” and writing “you don’t read Iain Sinclair just because he’s an expert on London’s multilayered urban life; what matters, as with [James] Joyce, is his prose, page after page of verbal riffs and astonishments.”

USA Today reviews Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee (Pamela Dorman Bks: Penguin), giving it 3.5 out of four stars and writing, “If you love anyone at all, this book is going to get you.” The paper also reviews How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (Crown). It gets 3.5 stars as well; the paper calls it “carefully researched and persuasive.”

NPR reviews Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin (Delacorte; LJ stars) writing “Melanie Benjamin, who has built an entire oeuvre out of dramatizing the lives of real historical heroines, delivers what in Variety lingo would be termed a boffo production… Inspiration is a rare and unexpected gift in a book filled with the fluff of Hollywood, but Benjamin provides it.”

Carl Hiaasen is writing an advice book illustrated by Roz Chast, Assume the Worst: The Graduation Speech You’ll Never Hear (Knopf). Entertainment Weekly has an interview with Hiaasen about the book.

Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o is writing a children’s book. It is due out next January.

Author Leslie Jamison has an essay about anger in the NYT Magazine.

A NYT reporter who covers the book industry talks about the current state of publishing, bookstores, and technology.

Entertainment Weekly interviews Mark Miller about his new Kick-Ass comic and previews Ghostbuster’s Daughter: Life with My Dad, Harold Ramis by Violet Ramis Stiel (Blue Rider: Penguin).

Authors on Air:

Screen rights to Fire and Fury have been sold with plans to turn it into a TV series. The Hollywood Reporter says that Wolff is on board to executive produce the series. The site further reports Fire and Fury “is currently the best-selling book of any genre worldwide.” A studio is not yet attached.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s You Think It, I’ll Say It (Random; LJ stars) is being adapted into a “10-episode, half-hour comedy” show reports Variety. Kristen Wiig will star and Reese Witherspoon will executive produce. The show will air on Apple; it is their “first half-hour scripted comedy order.”

NPR’s All Things Considered interviews Daniel Pink, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Riverhead). NPR’s Fresh Air features Jeanne Lenzer, The Danger Within Us: America’s Untested, Unregulated Medical Device Industry and One Man’s Battle To Survive It (Little, Brown; LJ stars). Both books got a boost from the coverage.

Speaking of boosts, an episode of Expedition Unknown revives interest in a 1980s treasure hunt book—at least for a moment.

Anthony Bourdain and CBS This Morning help push Hawker Fare: Stories & Recipes from a Refugee Chef’s Isan Thai & Lao Roots by James Syhabout with John Birdsall (Anthony Bourdain/Ecco: HarperCollins).

I Love Dick has been canceled by Amazon.

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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt is LJ's reader's advisory columnist. She writes The Reader's Shelf, RA Crossroads, Book Pulse, and Wyatt's World columns. She is currently revising The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 3d ed. (ALA Editions, 2018). Contact her at

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