'The Great American Read': Meredith Vieira, Diana Gabaldon & More on the Books They Can't Put Down

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Maarten de Boer
Diana Gabaldon
Maarten de Boer

Diana Gabaldon (Outlander book series)

Code of the Woosters, by P.G. Wodehouse. It’s a world unto itself, with a completely believable absurdity that will suck you in and leave you laughing, no matter how often you’ve been there.”

Meredith Vieira
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Meredith Vieira (Host)

“I’ve had the great pleasure to read Charlotte’s Web as a child and as a parent. The barn spider Charlotte and the humble pig Wilbur have stood the test of time. No literary characters have ever taught me more about the meaning of true friendship and sacrifice. To paraphrase Charlotte, ‘some story.'”

Eliyannah Yisrael
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Eliyannah Yisrael (Director, Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis)

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor was the first book I ever loved. I read it so many times growing up that I could recite entire pages without even looking at them. It was the first book I ever read that had me in between the pages and I was fascinated by the life set before me.”

Wil Wheaton
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Wil Wheaton (Actor and Writer)

“I don’t really reread books, because the stack of books that I want to read keeps growing, and I like to continue pretending that I’ll eventually get through it.

The last time I can recall rereading books, I was in my mid-20s, and I decided that I would read all the assigned reading that I wasn’t mature enough to appreciate in high school, to see if I could get more out of it as an adult. I don’t have the space to go into all of them, so I’ll just say: When I read it because I wanted to, I hated A Separate Peace just as much as I did when it was assigned.”

Nicholas Sparks
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Nicholas Sparks (Author)

“It is impossible for me to choose just one work of fiction because I always find myself revisiting the books of Stephen King – in fact, I’ve read every single one. From The Shining to Lisey’s Story to Different Seasons, these books teach me more and more about telling stories and writing characters each time I read them, and they have helped to define the kind of writer I want to be.”

Jane Root

Jane Root (CEO and founder of Nutopia)

“I’m not really a ‘read it again’ person – too many new books out there. But the Narnia stories by CS Lewis opened the door to books for me as a child and I read those over and over again. I still think about the wardrobe with the fur coats and the snow…..”

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From 1984 to Wuthering Heights — and the 50 Shades of page-turners in between — this series is all about saluting our favorite books. (Think: American Idol for the literary crowd.)

After launching with a special back in May to reveal the 100 novels in contention, the eight-part Read, hosted by Meredith Vieira, returns to tally up the nationwide votes (pbs.org/the-great-american-read/vote).

10 Beloved Books Headed to the Small Screen (PHOTOS)See Also

10 Beloved Books Headed to the Small Screen (PHOTOS)

There are plenty of TV adaptations in the works, from family dramas to psychological thrillers to supernatural adventures.

On the path to crowning the champ, the episodes will showcase the different genres represented and feature famous authors opining about their own faves. “We want to remind people that it’s cool to read,” says Vieira. “They need to remember how wonderful it is to fall in love with a piece of fiction.”

In the gallery above, Vieira and other big names featured in the series — including Outlander author Diana Gabaldon, Star Trek star Wil Wheaton, Nicholas Sparks, and more — share the books they just can't quit.

The Great American Read, Season Premiere, Tuesday, September 11, 8/7c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)