“To Kill a Mockingbird,” a coming of-age 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 last week on the show’s finale. More than 4 million votes were cast in the six-month-long 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 time-spanning 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
Lee’s slender, Pulitzer Prizewinning 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-year-old 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.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide and remains a fixture on school reading lists. The 1962 screen adaptation won three Oscars, including a best-actor trophy for Gregory Peck’s portrayal of heroic Atticus Finch.
Set in the 1930s South, the book centers on attorney Finch and his young children, daughter Scout and son Jem. When Finch defends an African-American man falsely accused of assaulting a white woman, the trial and its repercussions open Scout’s eyes to the world around her, good and bad.