Harper Lee’s classic 1960 novel of race relations in the American South, To Kill a Mockingbird, has been voted America’s best-loved novel by PBS viewers of The Great American Read.
The show aired the final episode of the documentary on Monday evening, revealing that Lee’s novel beat the Outlander series, by Diana Gabaldon, which came in at #2, to the spot. The other works in the top five, all penned by British authors, were, in descending order, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
“I was nervous at first that [the show] would not generate the kind of interest that I hoped it would,” host Meredith Vieira told Publishers Weekly before the show. “We live such busy lives, and I don’t hear people talking about books very much, or authors. I was so pleasantly surprised to see the reaction from people—that people really did want to engage.”
The TV documentary was organized around Americans’ 100 best-loved novels (chosen by an online poll of readers and a panel of 13 literary experts). The show then offered viewers the chance to vote for their favorite novel of the bunch.
The eight-episode documentary on reading in American life kicked off in May with a two-hour introductory special followed by weekly programs that examined books under a variety of themes, including “Who Am I,” “Heroes,” and “Other Worlds.”
The show spurred nearly 4 million to vote online; it also features a Facebook Book Club with more than 50,000 members. PBS also created video content, aired on its YouTube channel and other social media sites, that generated more than 5 million views. In addition, during the program, Vieira announced that First Book, a nonprofit that donates books to school kids in need, will donate 350,000 books to PBS communities around the country.
“I hope [the finale] generates even more interest, that people will look at the list and go, ‘Wait a minute, how come that’s number one?,’ ” Vieira said. “If it gets people talking even a little bit more, that’s great.”