Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

For the premiere of the 10th anniversary season of “North Carolina Bookwatch” (Friday, 9:30 p.m., UNC-TV), columnist and Raleigh News & Observer book-review editor J. Peder Zane presents his new look at the world’s greatest literary works, “The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books.” Zane writes about the 10 books that have meant the most to a group of acclaimed authors.
Zane suggests to series host D.G. Martin that these lists are “detailed road maps to the land of literary possibilities. Part Rand-McNally, part Zagat’s … (taking) the anxiety out of bibliophilia by offering a comprehensive and authoritative guide to the world”s best books.
“I think part of the inspiration for this project came from a very happy occurrence: with the rise of the Internet, any book is just a click away. The problem is that all of that possibility can lead to paralysis and all of that choice can lead to confusion when it becomes hard to know what to read next,” says Zane.
“So what you’ve seen in this culture is people asking for guidance, and people like Oprah and her book club and book review pages in newspapers become increasingly important. So I asked myself, who knows most about books and what I wanted to create was a book that I would want to own, and that book was a book about books.”
Operating under the theory that no one knows more about great books than great writers, Zane solicited 125 British and American writers (local authors Clyde Edgerton, Reynolds Price and Lee Smith, among them) to “provide a list, ranked, in order, of what (they) consider the 10 greatest works of fiction of all time.” The resulting book provides summaries of 544 books รณ each of which is considered to be among the 10 greatest works ever written by at least one leading writer.
“The draw of determining what are the 10 greatest books of all time is the ‘focusing’ aspect of the project so you can read Lee Smith’s list, Clyde Edgerton’s list, Alan Gurganus’ list; then we printed those lists and tabulated the results to create a ‘super top ten list’ with not only the best fiction, but also the best mysteries and thrillers, the best comic works, and writers with the greatest number of works mentioned,” says Zane. “I think we got it right.”
Already sparking debate, “The Top Ten” will help readers answer the most pressing question of all: What should I read next?
Zane’s national awards include the 1999 Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary from the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
An encore episode airs Sunday, July 8, at 5 p.m.
During the 20-week, 10th anniversary season, guests will also include: Gov. Mike Easley, “Look Out College, Here I Come!”; Michele Bowen, “Holy Ghost Corner”; Neal Thompson, “Driving with the Devil”; Joseph Bathanti, “Coventry”; Joanna Catherine Scott, “The Road from Chapel Hill”; James Dodson, “Beautiful Madness”; Dan Heath, “Made to Stick”; Margaret Maron, “Hard Row”; James Peacock, “Grounded Globalism: How the U.S. South Embraces the World”; Tim Madigan, “I’m Proud of You”;
Melton McLaurin, “The Marines of Montford Point”; Kathryn Stripling Byer, “Coming to Rest”; David Guy, “Jake Fades”; Georgann Eubanks, “Literary Trails of the North Carolina Mountains”; Zelda Lockhart, “Cold Running Creek”; Mike Lassiter “Our Vanishing Americana: A North Carolina Portrait”; Joe and Terry Graedon, “Best Choices from the People’s Pharmacy”; Fred Hobson, “Off the Rim” and William Powell, “Encyclopedia of North Carolina.”
For additional information about series guests and air dates, plus links to the Bookwatch blog and online book club, visit: