Your Favorites | The Great American Read

What's your favorite book?

Why do you love it? What characters, passages and storylines are most memorable? Did you read it alone or with a class or book club? Tell us about the book that made the biggest impression on you with your own review.

If submitting on behalf of a book club, we'll show this name instead of yours.
20-word minimum, 120-word maximum

Middlemarch

by George Eliot

I don't normally re-read books, but this is one I could return to again and again. Eliot's psychological insight is amazing and unmatched; these are some of the most real characters I've ever met.

Daniel

Ravenswood

Time and Again

by Jack Finney

A wonderfully written illustrated novel about time travel and a great suspense story to boot! My father (a history teacher) gave me this book as a gift when it came out (I was 13) and I've always loved it. A true page-turner and a wonderful fantasy.

Julia

Chicago

The Martian Chronicles

by Ray Bradbury

Although it's a collection of short stories, The Martian Chronicles is one of my favorites of all-time from a young age. Bradbury tells at least a dozen different stories about future life on Mars which aren't explicitly interconnected, but are woven in such a way as to be cohesive and fascinating.

Justin

Denver, CO

1984

by George Orwell

A haunting cautionary tale of what happens when truth is purposefully twisted, self-serving leaders rise to power, and citizens become passive members of democracy. That it's a great read is icing on the cake!

Grant

Uptown

Rosie Revere the Engineer

by Andrea Beaty

My favorite book is Rosie Revere the Engineer for the impact I see on my daughters. Every day, my daughters are bombarded with messages from society that they “cannot.” Society says girls cannot be scientists, girls cannot be hockey players, girls cannot be president, girls cannot front rock bands etc. The book tackles this. The heroine, Rosie, dreams of being an engineer. An uncle laughs at her dreams and demoralizes her. But with her aunt’s encouragement, she builds a great flying machine! Rosie realizes it’s okay to fail and it’s a step to reaching your dreams. Both boys and girls need to see girls reach their dreams. And I’m glad that books are being created now to teach everyone this.

Charity Haines

Chicago

Ready Player One

by Ernest Cline

This book just gives me hope that if you put in the work, you will find yourself going places you never dreamed of going. And that the outcome you're working toward is never the one you end up at, but the one you needed.

Alexa Hansen

Niles

Welcome to the Monkey House

by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut is my all-time favorite author. I love this book because I get small snippets into his brain; each story is different and it shows the depth and creativity Vonnegut had as a writer. I was really excited to see his book, The Sirens of Titan, on the Great American Read list because he is an exceptional writer and I hope more readers get a chance to experience his books.

Robin

Lincoln Square

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Atticus Finch continues to be a touchstone of goodness and justice that resonates completely relevant today. It is equally heart-warming and heart-breaking to see both beauty and hate in the world through young Scout's eyes.

Victoria

Niles

Middlemarch

by George Eliot

A novel for all ages, changes, and times that offers new rewards with every rereading. It offers a unique combination of wisdom, compassion, and intellectual depth.

Nancy

River Forest

Feed

by M..T. Anderson

I have lots of favorite books, but this 2002 title has stuck with me more than any others as it has come true over the years. From its opening sentence ("We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck") this captures the degradation of language and experience for humanity as a commercial feed implanted in brains changes people shaping their experiences and thought processes. This young adult novel is perceptive, touching and remarkably prophetic as the disengaged main character Titus tries to connect with a girl who has no feed.

Susan Lempke

Chicago

The Long Goodbye

by Raymond Chandler

Troubled souls, and slams on advertising, empty commercialism and of course how power corrupts. America's tortured soul laid bare and a knight in not so shiny armor kicking up against it. Ain't that America?

Michael Elsey

Chicago

The House of Mirth

by Edith Wharton

Wharton's character of Lily Bart is one of my favorite of all time. Pinned in and confused by society's supposed requirements of the time, Bart struggles continually between true love and acceptance, never really finding the proper middle ground. The first Wharton book I read, which led me to a love of the author and all of her writings.

Cecilia Cygnar

Niles

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre shows me different versions of myself each time I read it it; and I , too, “would always rather be happy than dignified".

Jamie

Lincoln Square

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

As far as I am concerned, this book is a must read by all. It's timely, topical, realistic, heartwarming, and heart wrenching. The authors paints a fictional story of family and friends and gives new insight into real life, difficult situations that are occurring regularly in the news. Young Adult books, and this one especially, are among some of the best and powerful works of fiction that are out there today.

Vicki

Kankakee

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

by J.K. Rowling

This is the first novel my son and I read together. He was so intrigued by Harry and his hardships. I loved the lesson it taught that through determination we can overcome the most dire circumstances. We learned that something truly magical can be found in an ordinary life.

Marissa

Kankakee

Clan of the Cave Bear

by Jean Auel

It gives you a feeling of what life was like in prehistoric times. Very interesting view of herbal medicines and survival techniques. The descriptions are almost as if personally experienced!

Adrienne Szulczynski

Edison Park

LITTLE, BIG

by John Crowley

Possibly the best adult fairy tale ever written in English. It works in every way.
There is no part of America that doesn't fall under its spell.

Jamie Gump

Chicago

The Haunting of Hill House

by Shirley Jackson

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream." At once the most terrifying and the most beautiful book I've ever read. Shirley Jackson is a master.

Julia

Logan Square

Harriet the Spy

by Louise Fitzhugh

This is my favorite book because Ms. Fitzhugh made me reach deep and see the world through her eyes. I've read this book many, many times and each time I learn something new...

Jacqueline Parker

Kankakee, Illinois

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by Betty Smith

The unique time and place that Betty Smith creates resonated with me. My family came to America about this time, so the heart ache, love, struggles and laughter helped me to see the human experience from that era. Through Francie's eyes, Smith is able to show us there can be love, beauty and dignity even in the most challenging of places.

Joan L

Arlington Heights

American Gods

by Neil Gaiman

It captures the spirit of America on multiple levels. The characters wind across its landscape, visiting America's dying small towns and roadside attractions. It exposes America's preoccupation with all things new, while honoring the our old world roots.

Mary R.

Andersonville

Tender is the Night

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have so many favorites - this is just one. Time, place, characters -- all so memorable in this classic.

Anne

Chicago

The Red Tent

by Anita Diamant

This hits all the marks for me as someone who is fascinated by women's roles in Christianity. This gives a voice to those who don't have one in biblical texts and emphasizes the beauty of womanhood, storytelling, the feminine body and the ritual of menstruation.

Caitrin

Lincoln Square

My Brilliant Friend

by Elena Ferrante

This book not only transports you to another time and place, it draws you into an intimate friendship -- with all of its complications -- that spans decades. The story's twists and turns make this book a difficult one to put down, and if you like it, there are three more in the series!

Rebecca Palmore

CHICAGO

Housekeeping

by Marilynne Robinson

Reading this novel is almost like reading 200 pages of poetry, that's how beautiful it is. This is a story of two young girls who get bounced around from home to home. You could also say it is about mental illness or homelessness, but I think those are superficial interpretations. Most essentially it is about loss and longing, in many forms. It is also about women's roles and the tension between following societal norms and chasing to live outside of them. I first read this book for a college class, but have read it over and over again across the years. It is simply beautiful.

Laura Sabino

Evanston

Atlas Shrugged

by Ayn Rand

Although I do not ascribe to her political views, I love the characters in the book and how the heroine is strong and gets done whatever needs to be done.

Linda Lanshe

Bethlehem

The House of the Spirits

by Isabel Allende

This is one of those books that I re-read every few years, and I take new things away from it each time. It is a book that challenges you, even as it pulls you in. The writing is poetic, the characters (whether you like them or not) are engaging, and through the story of one family, you explore politics, revolution, and the ways the past influences the present.

L. Chan

Evanston

Confederacy of Dunces

by John Kennedy Toole

It's always a joy to pick this book up and follow the absolutely farcical exploits of the dunce Ignatius Jacques Reilly set against such a vivid depiction of New Orleans.

Michael

Lake View

Another Country/The Great Gatsby

by James Baldwin/F. Scott Fitzgerald

Two...James Baldwin’s “Another Country” for a powerful perspective on the black experience....and Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” for old romantic reasons.

Jon Kavanaugh

St. Paul, Minnesota

Harry Potter

by J. K. Rowling

My husband would read Harry Potter to our son at bedtime. These became the first books that he then read on his own. Our daughter has read them multiple times and still does (she is in her late 20s!) I enjoyed them myself! I feel they brought reading back as something kids wanted to do.

Pam

Chicago, IL

Gilead

by Marilynne Robinson

Of all the books I've ever read that are written in the first person, this one has the most consistent, eloquent voice, and gives the clearest picture of the narrator. It is so wistful and funny and true, and John Ames, in his modest, unassuming life and quiet musings, is one of the great characters of all literature.

Elizabeth Gardner

Riverside

Catch 22

by Joseph Heller

Poignant, timely, engrossing, great summer read. Masterful writing. I'm having my kids and family read it now because they didn't have to read it for school.

Kevin

Albany Park

Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

I loved this book as a child and I've read it many times since. The voice, the characters, the story are so particular to this writer.

Shelly W.

Oak Park

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Not only is story inspirational and (unfortunately) still relevant almost 60 years after it was written, but the quality of the writing itself is something that is (mostly) lacking in todays best sellers.

Tony Hautzinger

Chicago

The Trustee from the Toolroom

by Nevil Shute

Serendipity and High-Seas adventure - every time it restores my faith in people‘s goodness. The underdog saves the day because he follows his heart.

Peg

Burr Ridge

War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

The most majestic, sweeping, compelling and moving book. The weaving of an epic tale about war, love and humanity is truly universal.and well worth every word of its 1500 or so pages.

Alexander S

Hyde Park, Chicago

Devil in the White City

by Erik Larson

I love historical fiction and having grown up in Chicago (not during that time!) it was such an interesting read.

Elise OConnor

Philadelphia

The Third Eye

by Lois Duncan

I've read this book so many times you can barely read the title from the binding. This book combines all of the things I look for in a book: suspense, supernatural activity and a female lead. I first read it as a teen, but still find it highly entertaining.

Kristen

West Loop

The Secret Rescue

by Cate Lineberry

Untold story of American nurses and medics behind enemy lines Shot down 1943 landing occupied Albania there struggle to survive

Carol Zoladz

Kankakee Public Library

Gone Girl

by Gillian Flynn

A modern feminist story with a complex female character who is not always as she seems. The "Cool Girl" monologue is brilliant commentary on the unending expectations and policing of women's behavior.

Laura W.

Lakeview

A Million Junes

by Emily Henry

A beautifully written work of fantasy fiction that deals with themes of loss, love, and grief in a way that shattered by heart into a million pieces. Reading it as I was dealing with a monumental loss in my own life was the best kind of catharsis. My favorite book of 2017.

Katie Meyers

Crystal Lake

A Court of Thorns and Roses Series

by Sarah J. Maas

It is a wonderful series filled with adventure, love, and fairies! It is a book that draws you in and you are unable to put it down. I read the entire series in a few days and wanted to read it again. The second book continues the series and puts a whole new spin on things, making this a great series!

Seanine Brady

Crystal Lake

A Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towles

This book spans many key events of the 20th century from a perspective we know little about. Civility and manners are key to the hero's existence, but so is kindness and intellect. It is especially poignant given where the world finds itself 100 years after this book begins.

Rachel Gibbons

Rogers Park

Uprooted

by Naomi Novik

One of the best fantasies I’ve read: romantic and so original, especially in the way in which magic is used. The language of the magic moves along like a river and it was a lovely ride. The two main characters were very special and I loved their spiky relationship.

Mary Robinson

Crystal Lake

The Hundred Year House

by Rebecca Makkai

I love the multilayer reveal in this very clever mystery and story of multiple generations over several decades. Not at all what I expected and one of the few books I have read over and over again.

Caroline Goldthorpe

West Suburbs

The Lord of the Rings

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien was a master not only of languages, but world building. The book encompasses the themes of loyalty, friendship and dedication with so many of the relationships he created. Even after first reading the book over 40 years ago and countless times since, there are still so many quotes that bring me to tears.

Brigitte

Toronto, Ontario

Charlotte's Web

by E.B. White

Charlotte's Web is the quintessential book depicting the value of friendship and kindness. This title is always the first one I think of when I'm asked what my favorite book is, probably because I feel that we need more Charlottes in this world. Having someone by your side when the going gets rough means so much. The sweet, lyrical way that E.B. White tells the story makes it a perfect read-aloud.

Terri

Woodstock

The Far Pavilions

by M. M. Kaye

Ash is a nineteenth century English orphan raised as an Indian in this epic of empire, mutiny, and war. History and politics come alive as he struggles with love and hate, tragedy and revenge, in what is now India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The paperback is almost a thousand pages long: I bought it at a garage sale the summer before I started high school, and finished it in a week.

Anna

Elgin

The Lorax

by Dr. Seuss

I loved this book when my mom read it to me as a child and my son loves reading it with me. The colorful illustrations, rhyming, and made-up words make it an enjoyable read. I also love the important message that we all need to work together to protect our environment.

Ashlee

Crystal Lake

The Sandman

by Neil Gaiman

Did you ever wonder how dreams enter your mind? The surprising truth is revealed! Read it when you can't sleep.

Linda

Chicago

Forever Amber

by Kathleen Winsor

I've read this book at least a dozen times and always hope it will end differently. It features an orphaned baby girl, of suspected nobility, who's left on the doorstop of a poor farmer's family in the 17th century English countryside. She grows into a beautiful, saucy, self absorbed young woman and falls in love with a soldier, Bruce, who passes through the village while returning from fighting to place King Charles II on the throne after years of exile. Amber experiences many adventures and goes from country wench to duchess and mistress of a king in this epic story.

Melissa

Crystal Lake

The Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster

I first experienced this book when my 5th grade teacher read it aloud to our class, and it opened my imagination to the wonders of math and the power of language, and the dangers of taking things for granted. I've read it over and over again, to myself and aloud to nieces and nephews, and discover something new each time. This is my go-to book to hand to a reluctant reader, and it always wins them over. I read it whenever I need a reminder to pay attention to the world around me!

Penny

Elgin

The Hungry Caterpillar

by Eric Carle

This book taught me the relationship between nourishment and growth. The caterpillar grows as it consumes food, as I consume the book.

Barbara Zukowski

Norridge

The Princess Bride

by William Goldman

I re-read this book every few years and catch things I've never noticed before. Goldman plays with the format of a novel in such interesting ways and the novel gives much richer backstories to all of the characters we know and love from the movie. I can't recommend this book enough.

Portia

Lincoln Square

Middlemarch

by George Eliot

I love this book because it delivers on the promise of its title. It is the story of a group of people in this town, at this time in history, dealing with the changes in the world around them, and the changes in themselves.

Deb Watrach

River Forest, IL

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

by Michael Chabon

A recent award-winning novel and grand read, I think that it merits a second look or first as the case may be. The prose is artful and the characters inspired.

Bruce

Chicago

Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

by Hemingway

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” showcases a self-doubting man (personifies me; you?) who explodes from self-made shackles after facing-down a charging, life-threatening buffalo. “Big Two-Hearted River” welcomes you to Northern Michigan, a pastoral playground – pine forests, teaming with fresh, clean, trout-filled waters. A fishing fool since early youth, it’s delightful. Often wondering WHY’s Hemingway’s writing so captivating – particularly, his ability to make me “feel good;” even his horrific war depictions such as “A Way You’ll Never Be” resonate, and leave me feeling uplifted (bc I’m not there?). To me, Ernest Hemingway is absolutely fascinating, not only for his writing, but life. There are reasons he’s the 2nd-most researched writer behind Shakespeare.

Mike Timmons

Orland Park

The Tin Drum

by Gunther Grass

I first read this book in the mid-60's, and it has always been the formative book for my reading ever since. It is the only book that I read in that era that I really remember now. A new translation had appeared a few years ago. I bought it then, but didn't get to read it until April or May. It still hit like it had nearly 40 years before. Although I had read everything Grass has written in the meantime, this book still struck me as something totally different -- clear steps above -- other books I have read.in the last 60 years.

PATRICK PALMER

CHICAGO

The Power and The Glory

by Graham Greene

A miserable, hopeless “whiskey priest” redeemed not in spite of his human frailty, but because of it.

“He couldn’t see her in the darkness, but there were plenty of faces he could remember from the old days which fitted the voice. When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always feel pity...When you saw the lies at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination.”

“It was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or a civilization – it [the world] needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.”

Mike

Hyde Park, Chicago

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre is the ultimate love story. As the reader, you experience a myriad of emotions from anger, to heartbreak, to peace. It's one of the only books that I re-read on a regular basis.

Gina Woodward

Canyon

Slaughterhouse Five

by Kurt Vonnegut

It is an incredibly creative telling of the horrors of war and it's inerrant insanity. It is one of the early books I read that gave me a joy of reading and showed me that there are no boundaries in great storytelling.

Steven

Glendale hts

Devil in the White City

by Erik Larson




This is my favorite book because it has all the things I love in a great read, mystery, suspense, intrigue and history all written against the background of a true crime story during the 1893 World's Fair. Best of all it happens in places I can identify with because it's my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. It's a slice of American history that I found as good as "apple pie". I have become a great fan of Erik Larson's since reading this book. If you're a history buff like myself, don't miss this read. I think you too will be coming back for more!

Claudia A. Pate

Chicago