With the return of PBS’s Great American Read last week, we’re taking a trip across America—from Maine to California—with these great books!


Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano. As three generations of Kelleher women arrive at the family’s beach house, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.

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A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer

Against the gorgeous backdrop of the sunswept island of Nantucket, Nancy Thayer sets the stage for a walk down the aisle no one will ever forget.

A few years after losing her beloved husband, Alison is doing something she never thought she would do again: getting married. While placing the finishing touches on her summer nuptials, Alison is anxious to introduce her fiancé, David, to her grown daughters.

As the summer progresses, it is anything but smooth sailing. Felicity stumbles upon a terrible secret that could shatter her carefully cultivated world. Jane finds herself under the spell of her soon-to-be stepbrother, Ethan, who is as charming as he is mysterious. And even Alison is surprised (and slightly alarmed) by her new blended family. Revelations, intrigue, resentments—as the Big Day approaches, will the promise of bliss be a bust?

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Last Stop Brooklyn by Lawrence H. Levy

It’s the summer of 1894, and an infidelity case has brought PI Mary Handley to a far corner of Brooklyn: Coney Island.

In the midst of her investigation, Mary is contacted by a convicted man’s brother to reopen a murder case. A prostitute was killed by a Jack the Ripper copycat years ago in her New York hotel room, but her true killer was never found.

New York City’s untouchable head of detectives, Thomas Byrnes, swears he put the right man behond bars, but as Mary digs deeper, she finds corruption at the heart of New York’s justice system, involving not only the police, but the most powerful of stock titans.

As Mary pieces together the extent of the damage, she crosses paths with Harper Lloyd, an investigative reporter and together they must catch a killer who’s still out there, and reverse the ruthless workings of New York’s elite.

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Florida by Lauren Groff

In this thrilling book, bestselling author Lauren Groff bring us a collection of stories that span characters, towns, decades, even centuries, but Florida—its landscape, climate, history, and state of mind—becomes its gravitational center: an energy, a mood, as much as a place of residence.

Groff brings the reader into a physical world that is at once domestic and wild—a place where the hazards of the natural world lie waiting to pounce, yet the greatest threats and mysteries are still of an emotional, psychological nature.

With shocking accuracy and effect, Groff pinpoints the moments and decisions and connections behind human pleasure and pain, hope and despair, love and fury—the moments that make us alive.

Click to Read an Excerpt.


Reliance, Illinois by Mary Volmer

Illinois, 1874: With a birthmark covering half her face, thirteen-year-old Madelyn Branch is accustomed to cold and awkward greetings, and expects no less in the struggling town of Reliance. After all, her mother, Rebecca, was careful not to mention a daughter in the Matrimonial Times ad that brought them there.

When Rebecca weds, Madelyn poses as her mother’s younger sister and earns a grudging berth in her new house. Deeply injured by her mother’s deceptions, Madelyn soon leaves to enter the service of Miss Rose Werner, prodigal daughter of the town’s founder. Miss Rose is a suffragette and purveyor of black market birth control who sees in Madelyn a project and potential acolyte. Madelyn, though, wants to feel beautiful and loved, and she pins her hopes on William Stark, a young photographer and haunted Civil War veteran.

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Immigrant, Montana by Amitava Kumar

From the author of Lunch with a Bigot comes a remarkable novel—reminiscent of Teju Cole, W. G. Sebald, John Berger—about a young new immigrant to the United States in search of love: across dividing lines between cultures, between sexes, and between the particular desires of one man and the women he comes to love.

The young man is Kailash, from India. His new American friends call him Kalashnikov, AK-47, AK. He takes it all in his stride: he wants to fit in–and more than that, to shine. In the narrative of his years at a university in New York, AK describes the joys and disappointments of his immigrant experience; the unfamiliar political and social textures of campus life; the indelible influence of a charismatic professor–also an immigrant, his personal history as dramatic as AK’s is decidedly not; the very different natures of the women he loved, and of himself in and out of love with each of them.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click for a Discussion Guide.


Idaho by Emily Rushovich

Ann and Wade have carved out a life for themselves from a rugged landscape in northern Idaho, where they are bound together by more than love. With her husband’s memory fading, Ann attempts to piece together the truth of what happened to Wade’s first wife, Jenny, and to their daughters.

In a story written in exquisite prose and told from multiple perspectives—including Ann, Wade, and Jenny, now in prison—we gradually learn of the mysterious and shocking act that fractured Wade and Jenny’s lives, of the love and compassion that brought Ann and Wade together, and of the memories that reverberate through the lives of every character in Idaho.

“Ruskovich’s debut is haunting, a portrait of an unusual family and a state that becomes a foreboding figure in her vivid depiction.”—The Huffington Post “Ruskovich’s debut is haunting, a portrait of an unusual family and a state that becomes a foreboding figure in her vivid depiction.”—The Huffington Post

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Ana of California by Andi Teran

In the grand tradition of Anne of Green Gables, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Ana of California offers a contemporary twist on a beloved classic. Fifteen-year-old orphan Ana Cortez has just blown her last chance with a foster family. It’s a group home next—unless she agrees to leave East Los Angeles for a farm trainee program in Northern California.

When she first arrives, Ana can’t tell a tomato plant from a blackberry bush, and Emmett Garber is skeptical that this slight city girl can be any help on his farm. His sister Abbie, however, thinks Ana might be just what they need. Ana comes to love Garber Farm, and even Emmett has to admit that her hard work is an asset. But when she inadvertently stirs up trouble in town, Ana is afraid she might have ruined her last chance at finding a place to belong.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click for a Discussion Guide.


In Case You Missed It: The Great American Read

You spent the summer reading and voting for your favorite novels and, last week, some of our favorite books celebrities, authors, and other readers across the country came together to tell us which books they are rooting for. But if you missed it, you can watch the episodes on PBS.com and join in the continuing excitement of The Great American Read.

And remember, voting ends 10/18!

Click to Vote for Your Favorite Book on The Great American Read.

Click to Watch Past Episodes of The Great American Read on PBS.

Click for Resources.

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