So it’s come to my attention that I read a heck of a lot of books and ought to share my favorites with the world. I’m not including anything I was forced to read before college, because we’ve all been there and read that. These are all either from my college days as an English major or from some of the freebies I got working as an assistant buyer for a bookstore chain. If you haven’t read any of these, consider them my personal recommendations to you!

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: I know I’ve mentioned it in a previous post, but it bears repeating. This book is truly beautiful. Haunting. Perfect pacing and phrasing. I didn’t “skim” any sentence – I wanted to absorb it all.
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield: I recommend this one as highly as I recommend the previous title. A fascinating story reminiscent of Jane Eyre with a mystery that will keep you thinking and won’t fail to surprise. Beautifully written.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I know some people read this one in high school, but somehow I missed it. And I think Mr. Darcy was probably the first fictional, male protagonist that ever caught my fancy. What a lovely story. If you haven’t, you really must read it immediately. It’s short and sweet – just give yourself a few pages to adapt to the different style of writing – trust me, it’s worth it.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Another book that I surprisingly missed in high school. If I’d written it, I’d have cut out huge chunks of this one, but either way, long or short, it’s pretty fantastic. Love and mystery combine to make a classic that everyone should probably read.
  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood:  Okay, allow me to get on my soap box here. Margaret Atwood is my hands-down favorite author of all time and it was really a struggle to only put one of her books on my list. Usually, the most recent book of hers I read is my favorite. But this is the one that can’t help but move the reader. Psychological drama, murder, and historical fact make this book the best of the best. Start here. If you love it as much as I did, email me and I’ll tell you where you should go next 🙂
  • Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: This book is HUGE. Don’t let that scare you. It’s fantastical. Literally. King Arthur, mystical priestesses, romance and intrigue. It’s got it all. It’s got around 900 pages and when I got to the end, I cried because I wanted more. Check it out!
  • Harry Potter series by JK Rowling: Duh. I couldn’t post this list without mentioning this publishing phenomenon because they qualify as my favorites, for sure. But as many of you have probably already been there, read that, have the t-shirt and seen the movie (literally), I won’t hassle you with a prolonged analysis of why it is so great. It just is. So, for goodness sake, READ THEM.
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: This is a tricky one. It’s a freaky book with a truly screwed up main character. There’s nothing I can say to validate my approval of this book because it really is abhorrent on a lot of levels. Skip it if you can find no sympathy for a murdering, conniving pedophile. I guess it makes me look pretty bad that somehow, I found sympathy for him. Must be something about the way it’s written, I guess.
  • Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer: Stephenie Meyer is the author I currently want to be. After all of the thousands of books I’ve read (surely I’ve read thousands by this point?), Twilight is the one series that gave me the oomph to actually write my own novel. There’s an approachability to these that made me feel comfortable. She doesn’t write the most beautiful prose. Sometimes the plot pacing is a little off, she admittedly and blatantly rips off Shakespeare and Bronte… I guess it just makes me feel as though I can do it if she can. But regardless of her faults (such as they are), she’s written a gripping series of books that have really caught on with those teenage girls in need of a romantic story with a courtly and respectful hero and a bumbling and goofy heroine, just like they are.
  • Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: It’s been awhile since I read this, but I know I loved it. And a great creative writing professor of mine had us read it as an example of plot pacing and scene changes, so I can tell you it’s both technically great and a heartwarming story.
  • Holes by Louis Sachar:  Kid Book alert! It’s good, it’s funny, and I recommend it. Especially if you like kid books!
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk: The makers of the movie did a fantastic job with this – if you loved the movie, you’ll love the book. Maybe even more. Mr. Palahniuk is one freaky guy, or at least his writing suggests that he is. This is a mind-bending book. I highly recommend it.
  • The Princess Bride by William Golden: Another good movie that was a good book first. And it sort of feels like a Kid Book, but I don’t think it really is. Also, it’s big. But I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll want more by the time you get to the end of it.
  • Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire: I really sort of disliked the book Wicked. I feel ashamed to admit that, but it’s the God’s honest truth. It was boring. It was full of political undertones that went WAY over my head. I am hoping the musical is better, since I’ve paid what I consider to be a ridiculous amount for tickets when it comes to Birmingham in April. Fingers Crossed. Anyway, back to the point; it took a leap of faith for me to read another of his books. But I’m glad I did, because this retelling of the Cinderella story is terrific. I think I have a thing for haunting books, because this one has some definite haunting aspects. I liked it a lot, and recommend it highly!
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles: I read this book once every five years or so because it really touches my heart. It’s set right before the onset of WWII in America. It’s a story about friendship and guilt and all the things that happen to a young guy dealing with life and death. Like I said, a very touching story and worth reading. I hear from others that it’s boring, so maybe you should skip it if you don’t have a lot of patience. But I really enjoy reading it, and am pretty sure I won’t be alone.
  • The Thief Taker by Janet Gleeson: I can almost guarantee that very few of you have read this book, but it surprised me with how well written and fascinating it was. Historical fiction with a good solid mystery and a dash of romance to keep readers on their toes. It’s one of those unfortunate books that most likely didn’t have its publisher’s full monetary support and didn’t get the publicity it deserved. It was published in paperback in 2006, so there are probably still copies out there to be found!
  • The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani: I’ve read this book twice in as many years and loved it both times. Another one of those haunting novels that is both beautifully written and well plotted. It’s got some “adult” content but if you were able to stomach Lolita this won’t bother you at all.

And there, friends, are seventeen of my favorite books that I think everyone should read. I think I have a career as a book reviewer, don’t you?