Top ten book list

I had a friend at work today ask me for my top ten books I have ever read. I really had to think about it, because there are different ways books are my favorites, but then there are others that I look at and say, “I loved this book…hated the writing, but loved the story…story was ‘meh’ but the writing was beautiful…” etc. I figured it would be fun to post it here along with explanations of how I came to them, what they are about, or what I loved about them.

10. The Shadow of the Wind (2005) by , translated by Lucia Graves. An epic mystery set in 1945 Barcelona that I randomly picked up in an airport bookstore when I forgot my reading material and it hooked me in a way that I really didn’t expect. I’m not normally into mysteries, but this one was great. Something about how it is written just had me, which is really saying something for a book that I expected to read half of and then potentially “forget” at my mom’s house before flying home.

9. The Mouse that Roared (1955) by Leonard Wibberly. It’s a classic about a small duchy that decides it is economically sound to declare war on the United States. I found an old copy of this at a used bookstore where you filled a paper bag with books for only $5, and it tugged at the international relations major in me.

8. The Art of Racing in the Rain (2006) by Garth Stein. A dog’s whole life told from his perspective and how his family changed over time. I read this after my old man puppy, Zero, was put down at age 16 and it was quite possibly the absolute best thing I could have read at the time.

7. The Tripods Collection (1967-1988) by John Christopher. It’s a series of four books about a young man who refuses to be enslaved by the alien race that at age 13 “caps” people making them the dutiful little servants humans should be. My fourth grade teacher read these to us and I searched for years to find old copies of them here and there until they republished them in the early 2000’s. It’s kind of a young adult scifi from before the young adult genre existed.

6. Stardust (1999) by Neil Gaiman. Amazing fairy tale with witches and spells and stars falling from the sky. A favorite book of mine by a favorite author. Oh, and the movie is also a personal favorite (on the top ten list for movies).

5. The comics that make up the Civil War series in the Marvel Universe. Okay, technically comic books, but they put what you need to get the story line together. Ironman vs. Captain America: should super humans register with the government? I am fully on Cap’s side of the superhuman civil war in arguing that they should be free to protect their identity as well as society. Yes, the movie is coming out but oh, the comics are soooooooo good. #teamcap

4. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America (2001) by Barbara Ehrenreich. A woman reports on what it is like to live on minimum wage. The first non-fiction book on my list and one of the reasons I decided to do Americorps as well as why I decided to become a social worker. Poverty sucks, yo.

3. Orange is the New Black (2010) by Piper Kerman. The book that inspired the Netflix series is about a woman’s experience in prison years after she had completely changed her life. I wrote a whole review of it here, something I rarely do. This book is another one of the major things that inspired me to go into social work and work with the population I chose to dedicate my professional life to (youth with substance use problems and juvenile justice involvement).

2. Ella Enchanted (1997) by Gail Carson Levine. Cinderella with a curse that she must obey everything. The world is well developed; it’s a light and fun fairy tale. I loved it so much that I stole the copy I have from the middle school library when I moved at age 10. I even took this book to college with me because it seems like no matter how I am feeling (sad, angry, elated, etc) re-reading this book always ends well for me. I think I pick it up every 2-3 years or so and read it again.  

1. The Stand (1978) by Stephen King. Completely engrossing story of a super flu wiping out 95% of the population and how people come together afterwards. Just don’t read it if you have the sniffles. Summer colds are the worst.  

Honorable mentions: Almost anything by Chuck Palahniuk, The Tortall Series by Tamora Pierce, The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, and The Kronos Series by Rysa Walker. All also great, possibly even considered to be life-changing. They just got edged out a little bit in how different books have impacted me over the years. (I am still completely an HP nerd. I swear.) 

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