I’ve seen lists of people’s top ten favorite books cropping up everywhere, and why not? People who love books enjoy hearing what strikes their reading friends’ fancy. It’s a reader’s version of the Ragnar sticker. People who run slap Ragnar stickers in their car windows or post pics of their races; readers talk about and post about the books that change them.
They don’t even have to be transformative. Books can just be. Books present stories and give us a space to think deeply about the stuff of life. Even better, they give us a way to escape.
I recently finished a couple of pretty dark books. They were interesting and the writing wasn’t bad, but after reading them, I felt a little creeped out and ready to forsake humanity.
It’s approaching that time of year when I need to find some reeeeeeally good reads to get me through the winter months. Who am I kidding. I feel this way most of the year.
Basically, I must read and I would prefer to find those books which sink their plot and character claws into my mind swiftly and make my heart yearn for a block of uninterrupted time, a soft chair, and a quilt.
I made a list of ten books that I just absolutely love. It was easy because these books came quickly to mind. It was also painful because I lopped of dozens more that I also love, just maybe not as fervently.
Anyway, here is my list, not that anybody asked:
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté.
2. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
4. These Is My Words by Nancy Turner.
5. Precious Bane by Mary Webb.
6. Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks.
7. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.
8. East of Eden by John Steinbeck.
9. Prairie Songs by Pam Conrad.
10. Beauty by Robin McKinley.
The trouble with this list is it leaves out Barbara Kingsolver, Willa Cather, Kate Morton, Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens, Ivan Doig, Isabelle Allende, Jane Austen, Sandra Cisneros and too many others.
It makes no mention of Gone With the Wind, which consumed me my junior year of high school. There is no mention of the Arthurian retellings which I devoured as a teen or the ghost stories I can’t stay away from even though they freak me out. I didn’t say anything about Harry Potter or Bridget Jones. I never even mention A Girl Named Zippy or The Rosie Project, for Pete’s sake.
It’s an incomplete list.
The book that has stuck with me most recently is Me Before You, by JoJo Moyes. It reminded me of my favorite book in the world, Jane Eyre, if Mr. Rochester were a contemporary quadriplegic man, without the hidden mentally ill wife in the attic. If you read it, I’d love to hear your take on life and suffering and choices that this book presents in such an edible, readable form.