Top 10 Favorite Books

To me, there is almost nothing better than talking about the books that people love the most, which is why I have decided to kick off this journey by discussing the books that are nearest and dearest to my heart. Some of these books have been reread countless times over the years, and some of them are new finds. Either way, I adore them.

 #10 - Thicker Than Blood by Madeline Sheehan & Claire C. Riley

Thicker Than Blood book cover
Fun fact about me: I love post-apocalyptic stories. I can't get enough of them. Zombies, nuclear blasts, huge natural disasters, dystopian future societies... I'm down. When I found this book, I didn't put it down for two days. It is the definition of an horrifying ride through zombie filled America. The things that happen to the two main characters are downright scary. I actually gasped out loud multiple times as I read this. This book was a combination of two authors, one who writes gory horror and one who writes sexy fantasy. Because of that, this book is truly the best of both worlds. It is a shocking ride through hell and back, filled with disgusting, awful scenes of zombies and murderous humans counteracted with scenes of sex and lust. One of the best parts of the book is the ending (which I don't say often). It ties up so well while hitting you deep. Love it.

#9 - The Collector by John Fowles

The Collector book cover
Simply put: a classic thriller. I've read this a few times over the last couple of years and it always impresses me. I love this book. The writing style is simple and extremely unique and the divided narrative technique the author uses is extremely clever. The first half of the book covers the story of a man who kidnaps a woman and keeps her in a cellar underground. It goes over the planning and the execution of the crime. The second half of the novel is written from the perspective of the girl and takes off where the first half leaves off: her experience of living in the cellar. It is creepy and unsettling and the perfect read for any thrill junkie. I wish I could read it again for the first time, and I'm jealous of those that get to do so. The ending is fabulous and at 320 pages, it's a quick read. Love, love, love.

#8 - House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves book cover
This is a beast of a novel. It demands to be devoured in large sittings and captures your full attention. I've never read a novel quite like it before. This book has always garnered a lot of attention (some of not always positive) and people either love it or hate it. I definitely align with the former. I actually got the chills during certain parts of this book and had to put it down a few times due to the uncomfortable feeling that I had while reading. This book is about a documentary film based on a family whose house is larger on the inside than on the outside. Do not let that fool you; there is so much more going on in this book than simply that. As the story gets stranger, so does the text. It swirls and cuts off and turns and changes, requiring you to move the book to continue reading some pages. There are whole sections with only one word on each page. Pardon my french, but it is a mindfuck. It takes you on a horrifying journey and hits you with a gut punch of a climax. All reason leaves you as you read this book and it scared me for months following my finishing of it. You say you like reading horror? Read this.

#7 - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World book cover
I read this based off a recommendation from my friend Ryan (thanks Ryan!) and boy is it great. I have a hard time finding good adult dystopian, but this has been hands down my favorite find in the genre that really demands an adult audience. There is so much going on in this and I love every second. The novel centers on a World State, with an intelligence-based social hierarchy and genetically modified citizens. There is so much science fiction jam packed into this, but it works. I am seriously such a sucker for futuristic societies loaded with inherent problems, and this doesn't disappoint. You follow the journey of a citizen of this society as he explores the depths of his world, finishing with a heartbreaking ending. It's exciting and terrifying, and I love it.

#6 - Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak book cover
I have read this book more than any other on this list. Speak is raw and powerful and emotional. The writing is simple and poignant. Speak is focused on a teenager named Melinda who enters high school as a social outcast due to her decision to call the cops at a summer party. Her reason for doing so is the premise of the book. Written in the form of a journal, you follow Melinda through her first year of high school as she comes to terms with what happened to her and finally allows herself to speak. I first read this as a young teenager and read little else for a long time. I would just reread it over and over. It has some of the best "teenager" prose that I've ever read. It truly feels like you are reading straight from the diary of a high schooler, despite Anderson writing this as an adult. Many times I feel like authors struggle to write from the perspective of children and teenagers, with the result sounding forced and not natural. This is not the case with Speak. It is a wonderfully written book and the movie with Kirsten Stewart is phenomenal. It is heart-wrenching and honest and I cannot recommend it enough.

#5 - White Oleander by Janet Fitch

White Oleander book cover
During my teenage years, when people asked what my favorite book is, I usually responded with: "White Oleander." For a long time, it was my go to. If I am quite honest, I probably read this a bit too soon in life. It delves into many adult themes such as predatory sexual relationships, starvation, suicide and abuse. I ended up reading it again after high school and felt like only then could I truly appreciate it. The story centers around a girl named Astrid and her separation from her mother and subsequent placement in the foster care system. It follows Astrid from a preteen to a young adult and chronicles her life and relationships. I first saw the film version when I was an early teenager and fell in love. Many of the rougher book scenes are cut from the film but I was obsessed with the story. I couldn't get enough. I would watch it all the time. Reading the novel was like adding on even more details to an existing love. Haunting and beautiful, it remains one of my favorites to this day.

#4 - Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Life After Life book cover
To be honest, when I started this book, I did not enjoy it. Sitting at 560 pages, this thing was a beast when I first opened it and the start did not draw me in. I actually read about 50 pages and then stopped for a few months and read other books. It's a bit of a slow burn in the beginning and can majorly drag. I had to go back into it with a fresh mind. But once I did... I was hooked. Something about that second look at it changed my perspective. I read for hours on end, trying to finish as fast as I could. The basic premise is centered around Ursula Todd, who is born and then dies only seconds later. She is born again and lives for a while, but then dies again. You read through many versions of how Ursula's life could have gone, some lasting a page or less and some for over a hundred. Set during WWII (which was my biggest hurdle - at the time I wasn't very interested in historical fiction), it takes you through a journey of life, love and loss. Ursula leads very different lives based on the decisions she makes. Some are subtle and some are drastic. I have never in my life had my thoughts change so drastically about a book before. I abandoned it early on (something I hardly ever do) but then ended up absolutely loving it. A must read for anyone interested in historical fiction that also loves supernatural elements.

#3 - The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road book cover
This book takes the cake as the most disheartening novel I've ever read. Do NOT let that dissuade you: this novel is pure perfection. Another post-apocalyptic, it goes into the details of the life of a father and his son as they travel through an ashy wasteland where almost all life has been destroyed by an unstated extinction event. This book left me emotionally drained and I thought of little else in the days after I read it. I consider this to be the epitome of post-apocalyptic fiction. Raw and unsettling, it is a serious life changer. This was the first novel I read by McCarthy and it was a great one to start with as an introduction to his writing. Blood Meridian, another one by him, is on my to-read list that I hope to get to soon. This is a quick read (I think I finished this in a day) and it doesn't dwell on details. It is to the point and simplistic. A point of note: there are no quotation marks used when characters speak so it can become a bit blurred between what someone is thinking versus what they are saying. In spite of that, I found it to be a nonissue when it came to this book and quickly got used to it. I believe everyone should read this at least once in their life. The movie adaptation is extremely well done as well and worth a watch.

#2 - Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Oryx and Crake novel cover
Margaret Atwood has quickly become one of my favorite authors over the course of the last few years. Recommended to me (again by Ryan), Oryx and Crake is about an English man who is alone in the depressing aftermath of a disaster with human-like creatures called Crakers as the only other inhabitants of the area. We learn about the man's past and why the disaster has happened. This is the first book in a three book series, and while I loved all three, there is something quite special about this one. I absolutely love Margaret Atwood's writing style and her storytelling ability. If you are a fan of science fiction, this is right up your alley. There is genetic experimentation and pharmaceutical engineering with just a touch of romance and it all fits together perfectly. This was a rare book where I wasn't sure what exactly was going to happen and it kept me on my toes throughout. The second book is almost just as good and I whipped through both fairly quickly. I cannot speak highly enough about Margaret Atwood. She is a master of her genre and I can't get enough of her. Can't wait to reread this when I have the time.

#1 - Harry Potter series

Harry Potter series book covers
If you know me, you knew this was coming. There's not much to say about this that hasn't already been said. I am a die-hard Harry Potter fan, and have been ever since I read The Sorcerer's Stone when I was in elementary school. My childhood copy of Goblet of Fire is so worn down from constant rereading that you cannot even read the words on the spine. Harry Potter is one of those rare books where you truly go to a whole other world as you read. It has everything you want in a novel and more. My favorite of the series is Book 6, The Half-Blood Prince, but every book is truly so nostalgic and wonderful for me that it is hard to say I like one more than the others. I am currently on a reread of this magical series (currently on Book 3) and it really is like going home again. One of the things I love about the series is that anyone can read them. I have students in my classroom reading them and good friends who are just starting for the first time as an adult. The world building is amazing and you find new things every time you read. This series earns the top spot of my favorites and will for a long time. If you've never experienced the joy of reading this for the first time, do so as soon as possible. And thank me after ;)

And there you have it! This wraps up my Top 10 Favorite Books! Every reader has a very different list but I think that is the very best part of being a reader. Obviously, there are some great books out there that aren't on this list. There are many books that I simply haven't read yet, which makes me all the more excited to continue reading as much as I can! Below, I have listed some honorable mentions. These are some more of my favorites that aren't quite in the Top 10, but which I love as well.

Honorable Mentions: The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood, Gathering Blue & The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Long Walk by Stephen King, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Witches by Roald Dahl, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller, Room by Emma Donoghue, My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult & A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Next week will be all about my thoughts on the Goodreads Reading Challenge, my reading & writing plans for 2020 and all of my favorite books that I read last year! Stay tuned for the fun :)



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