• 66°

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ America’s choice for best-loved novel

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “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 Tuesday 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 Vieira said.

Joining her to sing the book’s praises was writer Aaron Sorkin, whose adaptation of “Mockingbird” starts Broadway previews next month, and cast members. Sorkin (“The West Wing,” ”The Social Network”) said reading Lee’s novel was his first brush with “astonishing writing.”

“There is soul-crushing injustice in this book that still exists,” he said. “And at the center, morality, decency and what it is to be a person strikes us.”

LaTanya Richardson Jackson, who portrays Calpurnia in the play, marveled at Lee’s achievement.

“I was most impressed that a woman wrote that way” during that era, the actress said, and that Lee was so “deeply involved on the right side of right.”

Lee’s slender, Pulitzer Prize-winning 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.

Debbie Ford of Orion, Illinois, an “Outlander” fan whose love of the books was showcased on an episode of “The Great American Read,” expressed disappointment they didn’t win. But she delighted in the attention they — and the joy of reading — received.

“I believe this PBS series has reminded some of us again that reading is important, and it has exposed us to books that we may not ordinarily pick up. And that’s such a good thing!” Ford said in an email Tuesday, adding a friendly plug: “So please go read a book that you have not read before — especially if you haven’t yet discovered ‘Outlander’!”

“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.

Lee’s second published novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” was written in the 1950s before “Mockingbird” but is essentially a sequel. After being put aside by the author, it was rediscovered and released in 2015. Lee died the next year at age 89.

Besides the TV series, “The Great American Read” initiative included a 50,000-member online book club and video content across PBS platforms, Facebook and YouTube that drew more than 5 million views.

The 100-book list voted on by readers was based on an initial survey of about 7,000 Americans, with an advisory panel of experts organizing the list. Books had to have been published in English but not written in the language, and one book or series per author was allowed. Bookworms could vote once daily for their favorite work.

Comments

Landis

Landis approves new land development ordinance, zoning map

Landis

Landis approves body camera, stun gun purchase for public safety officers

Crime

One charged, another dead on sheriff’s most wanted list

Crime

No injuries after car shot eight times on Old Concord Road

Education

RSS talks first steps for new federal relief totaling $66 million

China Grove

Gary’s Barbecue staff, customers look back at 50 years

News

Salisbury Lions Club names Person of the Year, Lion of the Year at 78th annual banquet

Education

Student COVID-19 numbers show first decline since plan A

High School

High school golf: Fowler competes in state tournament

News

Amazon announces new distribution center for North Carolina

News

House passes bill to bar Cooper from mandating COVID shot

Coronavirus

Rowan County sees death 302 from COVID-19; Health Department to host final mass vaccine clinic

Ask Us

Ask Us: What happened to work on South Fulton Street home?

Crime

Blotter: Woman says she was shot in hand on Lincolnton Road

Crime

Rowan Sheriff’s Office charges Salisbury man with operating illegal gambling business

Crime

Blotter: Rockwell man arrested on felony drug, breaking and entering charges

Local

Rep. Amber Baker discusses legislative session during Rowan Democrats breakfast meeting

Local

Thousands of locals, out-of-towners gather for a groovy time at annual Hippie Fest

News

N.C. Zoo ready for expansion if lawmakers OK funding

Education

RSS budgeting for tens of millions in federal COVID-19 relief funding

East Spencer

‘Back in full swing’ for the spring: East Spencer community gathers for food, fun and fellowship at Spring Fest

Local

Rowan native Lingle among those honored with NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame induction

Business

Former pro baseball player, Tar Heel standout Russ Adams finds new career with Trident Insured

Education

Profoundly gifted: Salisbury boy finishing high school, associates degree at 12