There’s a meme going around Facebook that asks you to list the top 10 books that have stuck with you. They don’t have be classics, they’re just books that mean something to you, or are memorable personally to you. My friend asked for mine, and I obliged, but as I started listing them, I wanted to write more. I wanted to explore why the books mean so much to me.
So that’s what this blog is for, right? RIGHT!
So here are 10 books that have stuck with me. (There are probably more; these are just ones I adore, and have read 2+ times. They’re in category order, kind of.)
- The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read this book originally in 4th or 5th grade, when it was assigned to our class. It was something completely different than the Sweet Valley Kids books I was reading. It opened my eyes to new realms and new ideas and the aching children have when they want to learn something new and break free. I devoured it twice, then asked the school librarian for everything else Lois Lowry wrote. I read it all.
- The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. I realize i’m cheating here and listing an entire series, but come on. I can’t choose just one (though, if forced, I’ll say either the 3rd, 4th, or 7th). Though I didn’t start the series until I left for college, when Goblet of Fire was released, I still held these books so close. They were unlike a series I’d ever followed before. I was there at midnight getting the next book. I was there opening night for the movies. And I was there, at the bookshop I worked at, playing Hermione when The Half-Blood Prince was released. And you better believe I already have them lined up in our future child’s bedroom.
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman. I read this book on a plane ride from Orlando to Long Island. I took time off from seeing family to finish the last few pages. I cried like a baby. This book is just devastatingly beautiful in so many ways. And I’d like to, personally, give it credit for pushing me to write YA novels. After reading it, I knew I wanted to write something, too. (Also, I adore Where She Went as much as If I Stay.)
- The Fault in our Stars by John Green. I read this in one teary-eyed sitting. It’s wonderful, everyone already knows that. Let’s move on.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Another obvious one. This is one of my all-time favorite books. It means so much to me, that my copy is barely held together. I hug it occassionally. Ahem.
- Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. I read Prep in college with my friend Lindsay. I didn’t expect much from it, but something was urging me to read it. And I’m so glad I did. To this day, many of the lines, and the feelings I got from the lines, still stick with me. There’s especially one quote, where Lee’s friend asks, in regard to Lee’s crush, “What kind of a person is named ‘Cross Sugarman’?” that Lin and I asked one another regularly, whenever we liked a person that let us down. We used Cross Sugarman to symbolize all of the messy people that came before the people we ended up marrying.
- Laughter on the 23rd Floor by Neil Simon. This is a play, but no matter. In high school, when I was deep in my drama obsession, I read everything by Neil Simon. It started with Brighton Beach Memoirs (which almost made this list!), which I adored immensely (to the point that I scouted out an out-of-print copy of Broadway Bound, the third part of the Eugene trilogy) and then kept going. I now own all of the collected works. Laughter, though, stands as my favorite. I love the comradery of the writers. I love the jokes that still, years and many reads later, make me laugh. And I love the feeling I get every time I read the last, wonderful life. I directed scenes from it in high school, and to this day, I still smile whenever I see my director’s notes in my very worn copy.
- The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. This is probably the most surprising choice, because it’s not a book I talk about frequently, but oh is it one I love. It has two painful stories that intertwine, full of yearning and life. When they merged at the end, I couldn’t handle it. Truly, a beautiful book.
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I love this book. So much. The writing (though translated) is outstanding. The tone and feel of everything is beautifully memorable. I can picture myself in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. I see myself with Daniel on his wondrous (and scary) journey. It’s a book about literature, and I can get behind that. I bought the two sequels (The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven) the day they came out, and I ache for the final book. ACHE!
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Another obvious one. Every time I re-read Gatsby I get something new out of it. It’s about drive and passion and the American Dream, but also? It’s a story about love. And, man, do I love it.
BONUS! It’s a short story, so I’m not counting it, but “The End of the Affair” by David Sedaris (found in his book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim) will forever hold a place in my heart. If it wasn’t so long, I would have had it read during our wedding ceremony, it’s that good. Because like Sedaris, I think love is internal, and doesn’t need to be shown in a dramatic fashion. Sometimes holding hands is enough.
[Books that ALMOST made the list: Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (such a beautiful, gothic read), Ragtime by EL Doctorow (made me love historical fiction), Assassination Vaction by Sarah Vowell (made me fascinated with presidential history), A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (I love complicated reads like this one), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (because of course), The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (beautiful and heartbreaking), and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares (because Lin and I share a traveling shirt to this day).]