A while ago, we had a reader ask if we would post our top ten favorite books. I have been putting a LOT of thought into this. I have loved so many different books, it has been insane to try to narrow it down to which ones would make it to the top ten list.
This is the list I have finally come up with. These aren’t ordered in my love for them. They are in order of what age I was when I read them. So, the first few are juvenile because I was a 13 year old girl when I read them.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
This book makes the list because this was the first book that I read, finished, and immediately picked back up again. (One of the very few times that has happened.)
This was the beginning of my love for Fairytale Retellings.
2. Stargirl by Jerri Spinelli
I love almost everything Jerri Spinelli has written, but this book made the biggest impact.
Stargirl is a VERY unique teenager. She is so full of joy and excitement for life, and love for people. She spreads all her colorful energy all over the place. But, she doesn’t seem to understand social rules- so as you can imagine, she is very misunderstood. But, she doesn’t even seem to care or notice.
This book spoke to me as a young teen. I felt like I was so different from everyone my age. I felt like I thought about different things, cared about different things- and it was really lonely. I felt like the only person who really understood me was my dad. And Jerri Spinelli and my dad could be the same person. This book made me realize that being different can be very lonely, but that being who you are is SO much more important than changing who you are to fit in.
3.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I don’t love this book because you are supposed to love To Kill a Mockingbird. I genuinely LOVE it. I LOVE Atticus Finch. He reminds me so much of my dad. He is the parent I aspire to be.
If you pick one book from my top ten to read, this is the one you must read. It has such an understated, but powerful message.
I hate that they released Go Set a Watchman. I refuse to read it. The book was an original manuscript that Harper Lee threw out because it was no good. This was the diamond that was formed through that messy coal.
4. Letters for Emily by Camron Wright
Henry Whitman is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. It has progressed so far that it is almost like he is already dead. But before the disease had taken over, Henry compiled a list of poems and stories to give to his granddaughter after he was gone.
This book was so beautiful. I don’t know what else to say about it, but that it made me appreciate my grandparents so much. I think that we live in a generation where older people are thought of as old fashioned, senile, and out of touch with the real world. It’s tragic that we can so easily dismiss decades of hard learned life lessons. Circumstances were different, but the wisdom gained through the human experience is the same. Someday, I am going to be an old woman, and I hope that I can have something meaningful to pass onto new generations.
5. Children of the Promise Series by Dean Hughes
I DEVOURED these books in high school.
This follows an LDS family through World War 2. I had read a lot about World War 2, but I loved seeing it through the perspective of what people of my faith could have experienced.
It follows 3 children and their parents, so we get a lot of perspective. The oldest boy had recently returned from a mission in Germany, and is sent back to fight the very people he had just learned to love- which was a perspective I had never considered.
I just REALLY loved these books. Someone recently donated a full set to the library, but we didn’t need them. So I got to buy them! These are ones that I want to reread.
6. The Book of Mormon- translated by Joseph Smith
This is another one of those books that I don’t just love because I am supposed to. I hadn’t read the book of Mormon cover to cover until I was in college. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we are encouraged to study this book every day. It is so easy to forget how great this book is when you get stuck in the daily grind attitude of reading it. I am not a big re-reader, so I’ll be honest, it gets a little old- reading the same stories over and over again. The thing about this book though- is that it can be read in a TON of different ways.
It can be read as a story. Pretending you don’t believe that the events of the Book of Mormon are true: if you can get used to the language of the book, this book is EPIC fantasy. Battles, prophecies, political unrest, special abilities and powers. I am often amazed that people who don’t believe it is true aren’t just FLABBERGASTED that Joseph Smith, who barely had any education at all, could write such an epic tale! There are some great characters in this book!
It can be read as a reference book. For example: I feel like I might be losing faith. I just look up faith in the index- and wander through the verses that remind me what I can do to increase my faith. It’s kind of like a manual. “How to get back on track.”
It can be read as a history. If you do believe that the events in the Book of Mormon are true, it is a fascinating read. It’s jam packed with ancient culture. It’s amazing how similar life’s problems are to those from thousands of years ago. Time keeps changing, but the human experience remains the same.
It can be studied critically, as literature. There are fascinating literary themes in this book. There are ancient literary tools. There are multiple chiasmi found in the Book of Mormon. There is symbolism throughout. You could analyze archetypes, cultural roles, gender roles, and how the story is compiled and built.
It’s just- a work of art.
7. Maus by Art Spiegelman
Graphic Novels are still such a misunderstood form of literature. There is a distinct difference between Graphic Novels and Comic Books. I’ve already talked about this a lot. It’s something I have become very passionate about.
This is a graphic novel that everyone needs to read! This is the story of Art Spiegelman’s father during World War 2. This is heavy stuff. SO GOOD though! I had read a lot of WW2 literature, but this new format was an entirely different experience. I LOVE that artists are able to share stories that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to tell. This book wouldn’t be the same if it was just a novel. The art adds SO much. Read it!
After college I went through a period of time when I read nothing at all. I was SO DONE with reading! But then Aaron was in school full time and I was a new mom- and I was just so lonely. I made a new kind of friend. A Stay-at-home MOM friend. This is someone that you probably would never have been friends with otherwise. But, you share the similarity of being a mom, being lonely, and your husbands get along- so instant friendship.
8. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
My new friend was a super nerdy friend. She liked to draw dragons. She liked to write fan fiction. I was a new mom and I was lonely and vulnerable. I did irrational things- like, take my nerdy friend’s suggestions, because I had no one else to talk to.
AND THANK GOODNESS I DID! A new part of me was born. HIGH FANTASY LOVER!
I had read Lord of the Rings and loved it. But, I feel like that was the exception to the High Fantasy world because my parents had read it. They aren’t fantasy nerds.
But Mistborn opened a whole new world to me! I LOVED the world. I LOVED the characters! I LOVED the fantastic elements. After having read a lot more fantasy, I don’t know for sure if this book deserves all the hype it has gotten- but for me- it was the doorway to a whole new kind of literature- so it will ALWAYS have a place in my heart.
And now it gets tricky. I have read such an insane amount since becoming a library clerk. There are SO MANY good books out there! I just ran through my goodreads list, and I’m feeling pretty good about these last two.
9. The Cenote
This book is one of a kind! It is written by an LDS author, but it is not LDS fiction. It is fantasy, but with a SUPER allegory.
Here is the Goodreads blerb: Forced to marry a complete stranger, Sandpiper tries to adjust to life in her new village. But the mysterious Cenote, a great pool of water, has bewitched the men of the village, and Sandpiper must know why. This moving story of romance and redemption serves as an allegory with a timely message. Filled with drama and heart, it’s a book you won’t soon forget.
It was very gripping! The story was exciting and the characters developed so naturally. It flowed so smoothly. The message was clear, but it didn’t feel overly preachy. I feel like it portrayed the terror of pornography and addiction in such a perfect way. It is something that should be talked about and should be taken seriously. It is more addictive than crack. And it’s EVERYWHERE. It’s FREE. And it kills. It should be terrifying. This book is a new way to spread that message.
And oh gosh. Number 10?
This is going to be the toughest of all. I think I am going to go with the book I just finished yesterday- because it is the first book in a LONG time, that I have seriously considered just picking right back up and reading it again. That’s big for me.
10. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
This is my kind of fantasy. Complex characters, a well crafted world, a complicated plot that keeps you guessing, a little romance, and lots of social problems that apply to the real world.
I almost put this book down a fourth the way through, because I hated the main character. But, the layers of the onion are slowly peeled away, and frustration turns into compassion and understanding. I love it when an author can do that.
Ok- and now, I am just going to throw a few more books in there that probably would have made the cut if I had written this at a different time of day, or had just recently finished reading, or was writing on a full stomach- or whatever else.
So, honorable mentions go to:
11. The Nightengale by Kristen Hannah
12. Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson
13. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
14. Entwined by Heather Dixon
15. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
So there is my list. The top most influential books of my life- according to today.
Have you read any of these? What are your top ten?! I would LOVE to read some of your top ten books!