Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” voted America’s No. 1 best-loved novel

Published 1:37 am Friday, November 2, 2018

The Alabama-based novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, was recently voted America’s No. 1 best-loved novel in PBS’s “The Great American Read,” an eight-part series devoted to discovering readers’ favorite works of fiction.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” just so happened to be Straughn High School 10th grade English teacher Molly Bailey’s favorite book of all time, but she was a little surprised it was voted at the top of the list.

“I’m not surprised at all, well actually I am surprised that it was number one in the entire U.S.,” Bailey said. “I think that it would be a more southern thing to like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ so for the whole U.S., yes I am a little surprised.”

Bailey said that there is so much to take away from the book.

“I definitely understand why it was voted number one,” Bailey said. “There is so much to take away from the book. You get to see how a community works, for one, and you can also see how one person standing up for something does change things even if it doesn’t directly change things. Like when Atticus makes his stand for Tom Robinson, it doesn’t free him, but it opens the eyes of the other people in town. I think it shows that everything is not a fairy tale and that the good guys don’t always win, but there can still be something good that comes out of trying.”

Harper Lee’s novel tells the story of a young girl named Scout Finch, in 1930s Alabama, who becomes aware of life’s inequities as her father, Atticus Finch, a lawyer, risks his reputation to defend a black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman.

Bailey’s sense of connection to Scout is the reason behind it being her favorite book.

“Honestly, if you are a little southern girl, you can relate to Scout,” Bailey said. “No matter how old you are, I think you can relate, because she doesn’t want to wear dresses all the time, she wants to just be left alone to read, and she is a tough little girl. Even though she is a little girl, it is someone that you can look at and think, ‘I want to be like Scout.’”

Even though the book was published in 1960, it is still taught in high schools across the nation. Bailey believes that the themes and values that the book has still make it relevant today.

“There is a quote that Scout says in the book when Jem attempts to explain to Scout that education is what separates fine folks from lower-class citizens,” Bailey said. “Scout argues that his logic depends more on a person’s opportunity than it does the individual and she says, ‘Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.’ I think that is still very relevant today. I think that you should just take people at their face value, because there should be no division of anything like race, gender and sexuality.”

Right now, Bailey does not teach “To Kill a Mockingbird” in her classes because the same teacher that taught her, still teaches it today.

“Mrs. Debbie Parrish taught me and she has done a phenomenal job of teaching it,” Bailey said. “I do think the majority of high school students like this book mostly because of the way that Mrs. Parrish teaches it. First being her student, and now hesitantly saying that I am one of her peers, I think she does a great job. She makes it applicable to all students. You can find something in this book no matter what, so I hope that they still continue to teach it in the school systems.”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” received 242,275 votes of nearly 4.3 million cast. Voting began on May 22 and ended Oct. 18.

It was ahead of the beloved Harry Potter series, which came in third behind the novel series “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon.

The book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was turned into an Academy Award winning movie in 1962.

Lee was a native of Monroeville, Ala., and passed away in February of 2016.