I’m cheating a little bit, because Top Ten Tuesday (which is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, formerly hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) used this topic ages ago. But I already wrote about this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (My 2018 Reading Goals) and I haven’t written about books that I really, truly love in a while, so here we are!
These books are my top favorites for many, many reasons. Most of them are my favorites not because they are very well-written or because they are groundbreaking, but because I read them at the right time in my life, when they spoke to me the most. I’m focusing on standalone books, otherwise Harry Potter books would take up 7 of the spots on this list! The interesting thing is that most of these books are books I’ve read before starting this blog, so I haven’t actually written reviews about half of them. So consider this your review, and also your incentive to add all of these to your To Read list if you haven’t read them already. In no particular order…
This is one of the first classics that I read and really felt. I connected with Guy Montag on a really deep level — his need for knowledge and books spoke to me in a way that I hadn’t yet encountered with a character (except for maybe Hermione?). The surprises in this book still get to me, and Bradbury really made me think and question how I would have reacted in these situations. I’ve reread this book countless times, and I find something new and interesting every time I read it.
This is another book that I have read countless times. When I first read this novel, I was in high school and really connected with Charlie, not that I had any similar life experiences, but his deep need for acceptance was something I saw in myself. When I read this again in college, I found myself aching for him from his friends’ points of view. When I taught this to my sophomore English class, I felt his parents’ struggles and wanted to protect Charlie from everything coming his way. I love that this novel can be read from so many perspectives, and it truly spoke to me, no matter what stage of life I was at.
I credit this blog and my love of reading to The Fault in Our Stars. I know, that’s a lot of pressure for one book. But, like I mentioned earlier, it was more about my stage of life when I read the book and less about the novel itself (although, John Green.. man… he can put feelings into words in a way no one else can). I was soon starting graduate school, my life was turned upside down, and this book brought me back to reading for fun. It gave me hope in what felt like a hopeless world, and it opened my heart in ways I can’t fully explain.
This was the first book that my mom let me read from her “fancy” bookshelf, and I’m pretty sure that’s why it has stuck with me all of these years. I definitely didn’t understand this novel the first time I read it (in the 7th grade!), but when I reread it as a college student, I felt such a kinship with the narrator. She’s married to an older man with a shady past, and she feels like she lives in a shadow of the previous wife who died. The need for acceptance seems to be a running theme on this list, but Rebecca was the first novel that made me feel like I wasn’t alone in this feeling.
This one is a novel that many people haven’t heard of, but it’s also a novel I recommend to my students regularly. I read it in college, and it SHOOOOK me. Craig, the protagonist, is an overachiever (like me) who puts himself into too many commitments (hello), feels like he can’t really succeed (yep), and eventually breaks down from the stress of it all (hi). While Craig’s path was certainly not my path, his road to recovery was something that mirrored (mirrors, is continuing to mirror) my own. The realization that you can’t be good at everything, you have value despite your shortcomings, and you deserve happiness always… it all strikes a cord.
This is my most recent read on this list — I only read this novel (novella? graphic novel?) a year ago, and I’ve only read it once. But man. This book stuck with me. The illustrations were hauntingly beautiful, and the story was a heartwarming sobfest, if a book could be such a thing. I read this in less than 2 hours, but it certainly touched my heart. The movie is also brilliant and beautiful and I really can’t say enough about this one.
This book was a book club choice from the very first year I started book club (6 years ago!), and it is one that resonated then and still resonates with the group today. Harold is a curmudgeon who finds out his friend from work is dying. The whole novel is him, an elderly retired man, walking across the United Kingdom to see Queenie. The discoveries he makes along his walk are beautiful and haunting and more about himself and his life than about his friend, but that’s ok. I love Harold, and I keep coming back to his story over and over.
It’s hard to have a list of books that changed your perspective on life without including The Alchemist. This classic novel of a boy dropping everything to find his destiny is regularly on “Best Of” lists, but for good reason. The writing is simplistic (because it’s translated, I guess?), but the meaning behind the story hits hard and really wraps up the reader in Santiago’s struggles and successes. I was rooting for him and finding myself in this book.
I have a deep love for historical fiction, and I credit this novel for that love. This novel has reached popularity, and was even made into a(n awful) movie. It was, of course, amazingly written and researched, but that’s not exactly what attracted me to it. I love LOVE that it was from Mary’s point of view. Gregory showed me, through this novel, that it isn’t always about the princess, but sometimes, the unknowns get a chance of telling their stories as well. I often find that when I’m reading historical fiction, the characters I like the most are the ones who aren’t in the limelight, but are “background” figures with full stories and lives.
I’ve only read this book once, but it has somehow made it on this list. I don’t even remember the plot points (I had to go back and reread my review), but I know this book impacted me. The shifts between different timelines and different character points of view really deepened the story, and I could. not. stop. reading. I’ve recommended this book to many students, and they have all felt affected by and connected to it. I’ve also just added it to my list of Must Reread in 2018, because this is one I need to revisit (and it will fit in my LGBTQ+ category so nicely).
Have you read any of these and loved them? Have you read any of these and hated them? I’d love to discuss them with you!