*edited September 8, 2014*
This was a HARD list for me to make. I love to read. I’ve always loved to read and my taste in books is broad. I only had one requirement for a book to make my top ten list: I had to have read it more than once. To me, that’s an automatic way to determine if a book is good. Do I want to read it a second time? A third time? Otherwise, I just went with my gut.
1.) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I know, no big surprise here if you’ve read other blog entries. I’ve read this book more times than I can count. I cry every time Darcy says, “You are too generous to trifle with me…” I used to have “I love Mr. Darcy” as the screen saver on my phone. I’m such a dork, but I don’t care. Elizabeth Bennett is witty, independent, and kind. She stays true to the women of the time period she lived in, but she also breaks new ground. Jane Austen is a genius. This is ABSOLUTELY the best book ever written. If you disagree we cannot be friends. (Okay, we can be, but don’t be surprised when I try to get you to love it, too.)
2.) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling. Okay. This may seem like it’s really high up on the list. It’s a YA book about wizards. Again, I don’t care how big a dork it makes me. I freakin’ LOVE Harry Potter. I love the whole series, but Goblet of Fire is my favorite because it really is the peak of the series. The kids are transitioning from children into young adults. The happy-go-lucky innocence of childhood disappears as Voldemort returns to his physical body and Harry is faced with death first hand once again. Complications arise as hormones increase. And the Tri-Wizard tournament is written with vivid description and heart-stopping action. J.K. Rowling is one of the best writers of the twenty-first century. And I will not apologize for listing it as my #2.
3.) Persuasion by Jane Austen. Another Jane Austen book. I think of all her heroines, I relate personally to Anne Elliot the most. She’s a lot like me. Quiet. A little bit of a doormat for those around her. Mid-to-late twenties and still single. Not the prettiest girl on the block. Yet, despite all of her seemingly negative qualities, she’s so lovable. She’s one of the kindest and most selfless characters in literature (there’s where the similarities end). And she doesn’t change who she is for the approval of others. And Captain Wentworth is almost (ALMOST) as dreamy as Mr. Darcy.
4.) Bleak House by Charles Dickens. After Jane Austen, I think Charles Dickens may be my favorite author. I love the way he builds characters and plot. In Bleak House, the tension is high from the beginning and it never breaks. This book dips and twists between different perspectives and different plot lines seamlessly and then weaves everything together in the end. Everything is connected. It’s fantastic. And the book keeps you guessing about more than plot. Even once the story ends, you are left wondering if Esther is really as reliable as she seems to be.
5.) Matilda by Roald Dahl. Again, this may seem like an odd choice, but I have a very good reason for including it. I read this book OVER and OVER when I was a child. I would finish reading it and immediately restart. I wanted to be Matilda. I didn’t want to have her horrible parents, but I wanted to have her genius brain. I hated Ms. Trunchbull and felt victorious every time Matilda got her revenge on her with the chalkboard. It’s imaginative and just plain superb story-telling. This is the kind of book that makes kids want to read.
6.) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Another childhood favorite. I forced my mom to take me to the library every two days one summer so I could check out the next book. Eventually she broke down and bought them for me. I love the whole series, again, but LWW is the best known for a reason. The characters, the scenery, the danger! It has everything a child (or an adult) could want in their fantasyland. And for some reason, I had a crush on Edmund when I was little!
7.) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Another love of my childhood: Sara Crewe and the students at Miss Minchin’s boarding school. This may be one of the first books I read because I loved the movie so much I wanted more time with the characters! But, let me tell you, the book is WAY better than the movie. Sara deals with more trials and tribulations than any child should ever have to go through: she loses her mother, her father, her privileged life, her friends, her dignity. But through everything, she never loses her spirit. She never lets the world break her.
8.) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I read this for the first time in fifth grade. I felt so special reading such a “grown-up” book. Years later, I wondered if my love for it came from that importance I felt when reading it for the first time at such a young age. But then I re-read it in college and realized that it’s one of the best stories ever conceived about family, young love, and becoming the person you are meant to be. Every young girl and woman should read this book. Jo March rivals Elizabeth Bennett as one of the greatest literary heroines ever written.
9.) The Time-Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I actually didn’t read a lot of contemporary books until the last couple of years, but this beautiful love story pulled me away from the classics. I suppose you could call it paranormal, since one of the main characters is a time-traveler, but the real world setting is SO REAL. The love Clare and Henry feel for each other knows no limits. I love the way the story moves in and out of past and present, from Clare to Henry’s POVs, from one real-world issue to the next, but always remembering it is a love story and that the focus should be on the love the main characters share. I cry every time I read it.
10.) Same As It Never Was by Claire LaZebnik. I discovered Claire LaZebnik by accident. I challenged myself to purchase a book I’d never heard of, by an author I’d never heard of, based only the cover and genre (Contemporary Romance). Same As It Never Was actually wasn’t the book I picked, I chose The Smart One and the Pretty One, but I fell in love with LaZebnik’s writing and searched out her other books and online presence. I made so many comments on her blog, she probably thought I was crazy, but she sent me a copy of Same anyway. It was the first autographed book I ever received and, even though it’s actually her first novel, it’s my favorite of hers. The story is simple, but perfectly paced and plotted. The characters make you want to root for them. It’s just a lot of fun.
So there it is. My top ten. I’m sure a lot of you out there will question my choices, but this is certainly only a list built upon my personal preference and the emotion stirred in me when I read these novels. For good measure, I’ve also compiled a list of honorable mentions. This was almost as hard as the top ten, because I wanted to include EVERYTHING! I won’t say why I chose all these because it would take too long, but in no particular order, my honorable mentions are:
A Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Emma by Jane Austen
The Rainmaker by John Grisham
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss. Okay, this one I will give a reason for. My mom taught me how to read with this book!
Now, what are some of YOUR favorite books?