I’m sure you’ve seen this all over your Facebook feed in the last few weeks. People writing about the 10 books that matter most to them or have never been able to entirely leave their mind. I know I’ve seen the posts, and wondered about some of the books that make their way onto the lists.
Instead of posting my list on Facebook (honestly, how many of my friends care about the books that matter most to me), I figured I would post my list here. In a place where other book lovers can enjoy the list as well. And who knows, maybe you’ll find a suggested read in the list.
In coming up with this list, I realized just how hard it is to do. The reason it was so hard for me: I’ve forgotten a lot about the books that I’ve read, particularly the ‘classics’ I read in high school and college. They didn’t stick with me in many cases. And I’m not exactly sure that was the point of reading them… for me to forget them within less than a decade of graduating. (Oops.) Sure, I remember the plots and the key characters, but nothing else really sticks out. They didn’t shape me into the person I became or the reader I’ve become.
The books I’ve listed below (NONE of which were required reading) have done that instead. (The bonus book was required reading, but you’ll see why that’s on the list when you get there. And no skipping ahead to see.)
My list (in no particular order):
–And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
This book is the first Christie I read. I was in the sixth grade. I can still remember sitting on the cold tile floor with my back up against the locker during the gifted reader time when we could go read on our own and reading this book. I was captivated. Mysteries had always been a thing for me, but on the periphery. This brought them to the forefront and I haven’t stopped reading them since.
–Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
What can I say about these books that hasn’t already been said by someone else? I was the right age when these books came out (the final book came out during my latter high school years). I grew up with these characters. Having a character like Hermione, who was focused on books and being smart like I was, was such a nice thing for a nerd to have through those tough teen years. Also, a project regarding the first book in elementary school earned me my first truly unpleasant experience with grading/teachers.
–In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
This was required reading for the non-AP English classes in my high school. So, I borrowed a friend’s copy and read it after she was done. One of the best decisions I ever made. As I said before, I loved mysteries, but this book introduced me to a whole new genre: narrative non-fiction. I was considering a career in writing before, but this sealed the deal. To be able to write with such flourish without fictionalizing is a gift I still haven’t quite mastered. I even took a class on narrative non-fiction writing in college to try and get better at the technique. Nobody does it like Capote.
–Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
These books bring back such nice memories for me. My dad used to read them to my sister and I when were young. They were the first real series I ever was invested in. I watched the movies on TV (and no, I can’t get the image of Laura’s friend, I think, frozen in the snow during the one TV movie) and absorbed everything I could. Even now, when I see things about her memoirs being published with the non-watered down for children version of life on the prairie, I don’t want to believe it. I just want to go back to the Big Woods.
–Dear America series/American Girl series
A lover of history, these two series gave me strong, female voices to listen to. I enjoyed reading the books and learning but still getting some fun and fiction (and occasionally a taste of romance). Molly was my favorite American Girl, followed closely by Samantha and Kirsten (I don’t think they even have any of them anymore as dolls). There was one Dear America diary about a girl on the Titanic that still is plastered on my brain. And it’s been a decade or more since I read it. I have all my copies of both series for my future daughters saved at my parents’ house.
–The Fault in our Stars by John Green
I don’t read many YA books now for reasons I shall elaborate on at another time. This book is the first that ever made me cry. (No, I did not cry at Harry Potter.) I legitimately had to put the book down and cry because my tears were dripping on the page. One doesn’t forget the first book-inspired tears.
–The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Introduction to my first Hemingway. Ever since, I’ve loved his lyrical style. I haven’t re-read anything by him since my original reading, so my ideas may be a little tainted.
–The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Yes, it’s sentimental. Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, I loved it. The power of love has never been more evident as it is in this story. The devotion Noah shows to Allie is even more powerful in print than it is on screen. (Movie did justice to the book…almost.) I like reminding myself of what might be achievable someday by reading this book.
–Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
Remember when I said I loved mysteries? This is what started it all. Turns out, my grandparents belonged to the same country club in the Toledo area as Keene (real name Mildred Benson) and when I was about 10, I got to meet her. Can you say star struck? She loved that someone of my generation was still reading her books. Every time I see them in the stores now, reillustrated covers and all, I smile. I can’t wait to introduce my children to her books and tell them about my brush with a famous author.
Bonus pick: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
This book sticks with me for a very negative reason. I was required to read it as a junior in high school. Spent a whole nine weeks reading it. Spoiler alert: DDT = everything dying. It could have taken one week to get the message we all got from that book. Put simply, if you’re ever asked to read this book, RUN. FAST. In the opposite direction.