Book Lists,  Books

My Top 12 Favorite Books of All Time

Hi friends! Happy National Book Lover’s Day!

In honor of National Book Lover’s Day, I figured it was the perfect time to post this list. I have been an avid reader from a very early age. In those days, I was all about the Goosebump books, Nancy Drew, Babysitters Club, and others, and as I grew up, so did my book selections. I was the girl in high school who would have preferred cozying up in a bookstore with a new book over going to the mall….you know, when going to the mall was actually the cool thing to do. These days, not much has changed in that regard, and I am reading more books that make me think, that challenge what I know, and that help me grow as a person. For various reasons, the following books are on my all-time favorite list, books that I have read over and over, and love. These books are in no particular order, since trying to rank them would be impossible.

1. The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

This is an amazing book about WWII Germany, a girl from a communist family hidden with a “good German family,” and an exploration of human nature under dire circumstances. I loved that it was narrated by the personification of Death, who comes off as a kind and caring bloke. Having Death narrate the book showed the duality of humanity and did so in a poignant, prosaic way. It was a immensely moving story and I spent the last 20 or so pages in tears. I think that not only is this the perfect book for a great discussion at a book club, but I think it should be on our kids’ reading lists along with the traditional Diary of Anne Frank. It is so different than any other book I’ve read on The Holocaust, fiction and non-fiction alike. It brings it to life if a way that would make it easier for teens to understand if it were on their reading lists.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

This book got a Pulitzer for a reason. You may have had this as required reading in school. I had to read it twice in school, and read it on my own several more times. This book is both a coming of age story and a moving depiction of the very basics of human nature, from our compassion to our hatred, kindness to cruelty, right to wrong. It’s about making assumptions and snap judgements and realizing that those assumptions and judgements can be so very wrong. This book had my heart on so many levels.

3. Juliet

By Anne Fortier

Follow along with the heroine of this story as she finds out she can trace her family history back to Shakespeare’s ill-fated lovers, Romeo and Juliet. This historical fiction is brimming with romance, intrigue, suspense, thrills and of course, a treasure hunt. Well written and fast-paced, this was a real page turner.

4. The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah

This story is absolutely amazing. It follows two sisters in WWII France, one who is young and on fire with righteous fervor to fight back against the German invaders however she can, the other who is more practical, with a family to worry about, who must play hostess to a German officer who has requisitioned her house during occupation. The courage and fortitude of these women, as different as they are, is so moving that I again found tears streaming down my face during this phenomenal story. Also worth mentioning, in her Author’s Note, Ms. Hannah cites the real-life stories that inspired her, and those books are well worth reading as well.

5. All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr

The last of the WWII books on my list, but certainly not the least. Once again, we have a phenomenal story of perseverance in the face of hardship, survival, and kindness in unexpected places. Thought-provoking, at times dreamy, Doerr does a fantastic job showing what lives may have been like for various parties in the war from the anti-party German, the reluctant soldier who just wants to survive, the inhumane Germans capable and culpable of such atrocities, French resistance soldiers (in all forms), and what war time was like in terms of general living conditions for occupied France and Germany as well. The story was well-written in a way that flowed well and kept me turning pages. The short chapters made it easy to say to myself “just one more chapter.” I actually liked that the story jumped around a bit, it made the climax that much more riveting. I can see why this won a Pulitzer. Excellent read.

6. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

by Robert K. Massie

Catherine the Great of Russia was a German princess who through sheer will, determination and grit, rose to become one of the most powerful female rulers in history. She was well-read, corresponded with famous philosophers, poets and other enlightened figures of the time and used her knowledge and that enlightened influence to become a “benevolent despot” to her backward country, enmeshing herself in the concerns of the people she governed and striving to bring her nation forth as a contender with any other on the world stage. If you love history, but find many historical non-fiction books to be boring or dry, you’re in for a surprise with this bio. It is amazingly well written and reads like a novel instead of a work of non-fiction. It gives amazing insight into the life of Catherine II using her own words from her personal journal and letters, as well as those of others close to her. Catherine was ahead of her time, and achieved title of Empress by virtue of her brilliant and curious mind and grit in a time where women were expected to marry, multiply, and stay silent.

7. Mariana

By Susanna Kearsley

I have to say first, I absolutely love Susanna Kearsley’s books. The Rose Garden and The Winter Sea are both right up there with this one for me. But of all her books, Mariana is perhaps my favorite. Historical fiction with a time-traveling twist, Kearsley researched this so well that you are able to feel as if you are actually stepping back in time yourself. There is an air of mystery pervading this story that keeps you turning pages way past your bed time. I’ve read this book several times, and just writing this blog post has me itching to pick it up again.

8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By Rebecca Skloot

This book is a more recent addition to my list, as I only read it for the first time this past year, but since then, I’ve thought about it often. Told in a journalistic style merged with memoir, it focuses on ethics in medical research (more specifically, the lack thereof), the science behind it, and the exploitation of a race to foster it.  For all the science that is included in the book, it is well-explained and the book reads like a novel. You can read my full review here.

9. Inferno (The Divine Comedy #1)

By Dante Alighieri

I read this book in high school as part of a literature class I was taking. I remember my class project for this novel was to take fictional characters and assign them to the various levels of Hell as described by Dante. I got an A on that project because I think I amused my teacher when I ascribed Eeyore to the fifth circle, but I digress. In this book, we follow the author as he portrays himself in the story, along with his friend and guide, the poet Virgil, as they ascend the various levels of hell in this first installment of Dante’s trilogy The Divine Comedy. The word “comedy” here retains the older definition of something that starts bad and ends well. In the case of The Divine Comedy, Dante starts in hell, passes through purgatory, then ascends to Heaven. To be honest, I have yet to read the other two books in this series, because I won’t lie, Inferno is an intimidating book to read. In order to fully comprehend it, I had the aid of my teacher, who did such a phenomenal job. If I read the other two books, I’m going to have to get reading guides for them as well. But it is a worthwhile adventure if you choose to rise to the challenge.

10. Dark Matter

By Blake Crouch

Do you ever wonder about the road not taken? What would have happened if you had chosen differently at a pivotal point in your life? What would that life look like? While I’m not too big on much in the Sci-Fi realm, I enjoy books that give you a good mind-screw. Dark Matter explores the possibility of alternate realities and what it would be like to travel between them. Part love story, part thriller, I found this novel reminiscent of Michael Creighton.

11. Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen

No one does romance quite like Jane Austen. She writes strong, untraditional (for her time) female characters, with minds and thoughts of their own and male characters that are totally swoon-worthy. While I love many of her other stories, Pride and Prejudice remains my go-to for classic literary romance. It is like an old friend you can return to and pick right up where you left off.

12. The Forgotten Garden

By Kate Morton

Before she wrote The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Kate Morton took us to the Cornish coast and a secret garden. There is something about this book that has stayed with me through the years, long after reading it. If it isn’t completely clear by now, I enjoy historical fiction, particularly with some sort of fantastical element. The Forgotten Garden checked those boxes and then-some. Morton took creative license to bring in the author of a beloved children’s classic to create in her novel a garden that fictionally inspired to Frances Hodgson Burnett to write “The Secret Garden.” I just love little Easter eggs like that. An abandoned child, an illustrated book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, and a long-buried family secret leave the reader feeling like they’ve stepped into a dark fairy tale.

Creating this list was easy; containing it to a small number was hard, and there are many books I love that I didn’t include. I could probably add more to this list, but I tried to keep myself reigned in, somewhat. If you would like to see what other books I have read and recommend, check out my Goodreads page.

I hope you enjoyed this list! Next up, my Guilty Pleasures list. Subscribe so you don’t miss it, and stay tuned!

Let me know how you’re celebrating National Book Lover’s Day today!

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