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George R.R. Martin Will Help Make Reading a Cutthroat Competition

TCA: From HBO’s “Game of Thrones” to PBS’ game of tomes.

George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin

Linda Manner/REX/Shutterstock

Valar morghulis. All men must die. Might as well read some excellent books before then.

This summer, George R.R. Martin and a slew of other authors and celebrities will lend their voices and passion to “The Great American Read,” an eight-part PBS television competition that celebrates books. PBS made the announcement at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday.

Much like Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series, ultimately there can only be one victor, and the series will conclude when the public selects “America’s Best-Loved Book” based on votes.

Although Martin may seem to have a leg up on the competition, there’s no guarantee that any of his “Game of Thrones” books will even make it to the 100 best-loved novels list for consideration. While his novels may have inspired one of today’s most popular TV series, can he hang with great authors like Harper Lee, Mark Twain, John Updike, and Zora Neale Hurston?

“The Great American” read premieres with a two-hour special on May 22, and over the course of 15 weeks in the summer, viewers can read and vote on favorite works of fiction. When the series returns in the fall, each of the episodes will explore the nominated books through various themes, ranging from “Heroes” and “Villains & Monsters,” to “What We Do for Love” and “Other Worlds.”

Martin will share personal stories and connections to his favorite titles during the series. Joining him are Margaret Atwood, Diane Lane, Lauren Graham, John Irving, Gayle King, Junot Diaz, Bill T. Jones, Devon Kennard, and Lesley Stahl.

“From exploring the nature of good and evil to discovering a world far away from our own, books have the power to transform, to inspire and to stay with you long after the final page has been turned,” said Beth Hoppe, PBS chief programming executive and general manager, in a statement. “PBS is committed to being the home for engaging, educational and inspiring content, and we hope that ‘The Great American Read’ encourages a multi-generational dialogue about literacy in America through this search to identify America’s best-loved novel.”

“America’s love affair with books is the perfect jumping off point for this innovative series celebrating the power of reading,” said Jane Root, founder and CEO of the production company Nutopia. “We are most excited to see how this series will inspire new conversations celebrating American diversity through a literary lens.”

All of the novels on the Top 100 list, which will be revealed before the show premieres, were chosen by the American public in a specially commissioned, demographically representative national survey. Voting will open during the show’s two-hour premiere, which can be done online and through hashtag voting on Facebook and Instagram using #GreatReadPBS. In the fall, votes can be also be cast toll-free and with SMS voting. The grand finale in October will reveal the results of “America’s Best-Loved Book.”

“The Great American Read” launches with a two-hour special event on Tuesday, May 22 at 8 p.m. on PBS stations (check local listings).

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