The holidays and the holiday recovery days are over (and I’ve finished watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix….cough cough) and I’m dying to get back into some great reads. On cold, wintry, inversion-y (blah) days, there’s really nothing I love more than settling in for the night with a bubble bath and a good book. So, we chatted up some of our favorite bookworm friends and asked them the question every serious book-lover truly hates…
What’s your favorite book?
Actually, we asked them what their top 3-5 most RECOMMENDABLE books are. Which is a little different, right? These are the books they tell their friends to read! And here’s the list-with little explanations, in their own words, about why each book is so darn lovable. At least one of us has read most of these books, but we haven’t read all of them. And I’m kind of gushing over here because of my new little list to take to the library. Without further ado, the 30 most recommendable books from ladies we love who happen to have killer taste in all things literary. (When titles are underlined, more than one friend recommended the read.)
1. These Is My Words by Nancy Turner – Eye-opening, heart-warming and completely heart-wrenching! Sarah is hilarious, one of my most favorite characters hands down of any story I’ve read. The story is written in the form of a journal, and you see Sarah’s growth and development through her writing. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t love this book.
2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – This book was so powerful for me. It focuses on the power of words and the power that even a young girl can have. The way the author wrote it (it’s narrated by Death-but it’s not morbid, I promise!) was absolutely amazing to me. I just loved it.
3. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – This is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s set in the present but takes you back to London in WWII. Its story is interwoven so well that you feel like you’re there, experiencing it. It’s beautiful, stirring, and captivating. It was a page turner in all the best ways and it completely surprised me in the end. I always love it when a book keeps me guessing and I don’t figure it out on my own before it’s done.
4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – A parable that’s a quick, easy read. Its simplicity renders the power of a parable that can add depth of content and personal applications. It’s beautifully written and one of my all-time favorite books.
5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – Love this story, completely unbelievable. Like, this story wouldn’t work as fiction because some of it will just blow your mind. Don’t get caught into thinking it’s just a war story. It’s not. It’s a human story of redemption and change. Deeply spiritual and gave me faith in the strength of the human spirit and how much you really can handle when you have no other choice.
6. The Giver by Lois Lowry – I love dystopian society based novels just as much as the next girl, but this one is probably my favorite-and it’s the original! While reading, I had my own realization of how painful experiences are not only an inevitable part of life, but we shouldn’t look at them as something to avoid. True joy and color in life comes from ALL the experiences we have.
7. Princess of the Midnight Ball (Twelve Dancing Princesses series) by Jessica Day George – A new twist on the 12 dancing princesses and it’s absolutely lovely. The series is great for the family but just as great for adults. The heroes are handsome and endearing, and the heroines are lovely and brave. I would get lost in the fairytale and wouldn’t want to come back!
8. Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan – I just finished listening to this book, and I have to say that LISTENING to this is the way to go. Jim Gaffigan narrates his own stories on parenting and family life and it is HILARIOUS! I laughed out loud through every page. A must read for any parent who is stressed out, which is pretty much all parents at some time or another.
9. Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan – This is a best seller that really touched me. It’s about a little genius girl who is a bit different. And you follow her as she finds simple beauties and happiness. She’s also witty and funny enough to get me laughing on my train ride, resulting in a few pointed stares.
10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – One of my all-time favorite books! It is beautifully written with wonderful characters that stay with you long after you read the book. Atticus is my hero; the legal profession needs more men like him. The book deals with themes of prejudice, kindness, courage, dignity, innocence and experience. Definitely a must read.
11. Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton – Love this lady! Her book is a compilation of thoughts that mostly come from her popular blog. She is as funny as she is real as she is kind as she is relatable. A great read for women.
12. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl – A long time favorite of mine. It’s the personal story of the author, Victor Frankl, a survivor of a holocaust camp. He finds a way to be positive despite his dire and depressing circumstances, it’s incredible.
13. Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross – This work of historical fiction takes place in the dark ages, and is based on the legend that in the 9th century a woman disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female pope. The Catholic Church denies that this ever happened. This thoughtful, compelling, and entertaining book makes a great case that maybe a women really did sit on the papal throne for two years.
14. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien – The beautiful language and the message of courage, nobility and the power to change the world for good is what I love about this series. It is powerful to me.
15. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – A really beautiful read. It reminds me of a fairy tale in the way it mixes a subtle hint of magic into the everyday.
16. Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss – I grew up loving the Disney film and didn’t discover the book until adulthood, but it is wonderful to read aloud and makes me want to be that kind of parent.
17. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – I love classics, but I feel like everyone has probably read them or at the very least been assigned to read them. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley is a favorite of mine. It took a minute for me to get really into it, but once I did I really loved it. There is so much more to the story than the dumbed-down version of a brainless horrifying monster. It’s really excellently written.
18. They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie – I love mysteries and Dame Christie was one of the finest at the craft. I was given my first Christie anthology when I was 12 and have loved them all ever since.
19. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Another favorite most people are probably familiar with. I first read it as a teenager and remember being so enthralled with the story and characters. I love the story line and the fact that the ending is sufficiently happy without being unrealistic. Read it in high school? Well, read it again!
20. Enchanted, Inc. series by Shanna Swendson – These are pure fluff, but they are fun and they are a rare example of mainstream fiction that includes romance without inappropriate content and they make me and my girls smile.
21. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – Neil Gaiman took “The Jungle Book” and replaced Baloo and Bagheera with ghosts and Shere Khan with a man named Jack. “The Graveyard Book” is the magical result. The family of little “Nobody Owens” is murdered one night. He manages to escape unharmed and toddles his way to a nearby cemetery where he is adopted by its ghostly inhabitants. The events of the first chapter are upsetting, but not at all graphic. The rest of the book is intriguing and delightful. Overall it is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
22. Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand – I love horse racing and I love the story of loyalty, redemption, and determination in this book. I loved learning the backstory to a piece of American history. Hillenbrand’s writing is magnificent. (She is also the author of Unbroken)
23. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford – This one is a historical fiction that offers little glimpses into the lives of both Japanese and Chinese Americans during WWII and the age of the Japanese internment camps in the United States. The author weaves a story of the past that gradually helps you understand the current relationship between a man and his son. I came away moved by how each of us are products of pasts and stories that are so often unknown to the people around us. It’s just lovely.
24. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer – This book is historical, romantic, humorous, and intriguing. Be ready to be completely charmed. Written in the form of letters, it brings the reader in through the characters’ personal thoughts and emotions. I just LOVE it.
25. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley – I loved this book! It might be because of my passion for family history and Scotland. What I wouldn’t give to be able to experience history through the eyes and memory of my ancestors, to know what really happened and the thoughts, feelings, and motivations behind it. Great literary device. The book is very well-written. I was hooked from the first page. I liked how she moved back and forth between the past and the present.
26. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – One of the best books I have read in recent memory. The novel follows two characters: Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who flees her home with her father when the Nazi’s occupy Paris; and Werner, a German orphan who grows up with his sister, and whose gift for building and repairing radios gets him into a brutal academy for HItler’s Youth. The book is beautifully written with gorgeous imagery and profound symbolism. I found myself caught up in the lives of the two main characters and those close to them, and deeply moved by the experiences they endured.
27. Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – A simple story that left me feeling good and uplifted. I had to give it some time to really get into it, but Shannon Hale gives you a heroine who is clearly flawed but with such a conscience that by the middle of the book, you adore Ani.
28. The Rent Collector by Camron Wright – I loved this book! It follows a fictional Cambodian family who lives at and makes their living from the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. It explores the power of literacy, the drive of a mother to give her child a better life, and the sweetness of redemption for a woman who seems a bit unredeemable. I loved how it made me think and how it made me want to be better.
29. Wonder by R. J. Palacio – I feel like all I can say about this one is READ IT! It was well worth being up until 2am with wet cheeks and a full heart, inspired to “be kinder than is necessary.” It follows a boy named Auggie who has severe facial deformities and is narrated from several perspectives, including Auggie, his sister, and a friend of his. Auggie will make you laugh, he’ll make you think, he’ll invite to look at people long enough to see what’s beyond obvious. You’ll want to talk about this one to all of your friends when you’re done.
30. Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear – Probably my favorite series. There is in-depth character development and each book adds another layer ofintrigue. Fun, great narration and interesting mysteries.
31. The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun – Lately, I’ve really enjoyed reading real-life stories. This one doesn’t disappoint. Great read, fascinating, thought provoking.
P.S. Which ones have you read? What would you add? This girl loves book recommendations…