Oklahoma’s gateway to humanities education, community conversation, and cultural experiences.

The Great American Read


In May 2018, PBS officially launched its exciting 8-part documentary series, The Great American Read, an exploration of the joy of reading and a quest to discover America’s Best-Loved Book! After a nationwide survey, and consultation with a panel of literary experts, PBS has curated a list of 100 titles to be considered for this honor. Meredith Vieira hosts the inspiring series airing on local affiliate OETA.

Oklahoma Humanities (OH) and Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) have joined with other Oklahoma partners to celebrate the passion and joy of reading by creating a special edition of Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma, OH’s premier reading and discussion program!

Each of the fictional works on PBS’s list reveals our nation’s diverse preferences in literature and the power it has to broaden our views of the world and to change our lives in unexpected ways. Adding a humanities scholar to the conversation expands our knowledge of the author and the book and enriches our understanding. Using literature as a foundation for dialogue, Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma provides a space where people can listen to different points of view, share ideas, and engage thoughtfully.


Oklahoma libraries and other nonprofit organizations are invited to take a deeper dive into the content of four books from The Great American Read’s list of 100 titles. Twenty small grants of up to $250 will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The grant will cover the cost of a humanities scholar to give a presentation about a book, refreshments, publicity and supplies. A simple application is required, and OH will connect applicants with trained scholars in your area. Each scholar’s talk will be followed by a group discussion of the book. In addition to the grant, OH will lend books for participants in each community. These programs will take place from June through December.

Books selected for further exploration are 1984 by George Orwell, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, and The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. Learn about each book and its author by clicking the book covers below.

In reviewing the list of 100 novels, OH and ODL initially considered any Oklahoma connections with the titles. Three titles on the list were written by Oklahoma authors, The Outsiders, Invisible Man, and Where the Red Fern Grows. Another is eternally wed to the state, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. We eliminated Steinbeck’s novel since many programs have been held on that book over the years. Of the three remaining titles, two have blazed new trails in American literature and seemed like obvious choices.

Two other titles stood out to selectors since they have landed on recent bestsellers lists years after their publication: The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984. The rise in popularity of authoritarian politics in western democracies has helped these two titles find new readers at this moment in time. In addition, The Handmaid’s Tale has benefited from a Hulu series based on the novel.

Host sites may only receive one grant; however, they may request to borrow other titles without additional grant funds in an effort to encourage continued community conversations! Books will be loaned for one month at a time.

Encourage your local library to apply for this thought-provoking and fun way to participate in The Great American Read!

The Great American Read Grant Guidelines
The Great American Read Grant Budget Form


Oklahoma Humanities and the Oklahoma Department of Libraries thank their national, state, and community partners for supporting this project.