Okay, we all have a top ten list, and overall it is a very limited view on what is your favorite book and when. They change and fluctuate over time and are never going to be consistent. However, here are top ten books I find worthwhile reads right now. I don’t know if I agree with where they are positioned on the top 10, but I wrote them as they came to mind for me.
10. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo:
A book on a man who stole a loaf of bread to feed his family, and how he impacts the world after he is first let out of prison. I read the unabridged version of this book my junior year of high school. I adored it. Les Mis is a great musical, but this book dives into the hypocrisy of the rich, the naivety of youthful love, and how a person can be redeemed v. when they become too righteous and cannot move on into a complex society. I remember I wrote a paper on this book discussing the war between good and evil and how we can never really see the corruption of those who think they are good. It will forever stick with me as one of the greats.
9. Annihilation (trilogy) by Jeff Vandermeer:
A book about a mysterious area where humanity no longer lives in the world, and what happens when people are sent in to see what happened. These books got me right when I was finishing law school. I worked for very little money but would read at a local joint that during a dimly lit happy hour, reading these books. They are so atmospheric and weird. The science fiction mixed with a magical realism is without a doubt some of the most unique writing I had read to date. Vandermeer lives in my head as an automatic read, and I love how bizarre and different his books are. Highly recommend.
8. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides:
A book that follows the lives of three graduates in their journey through love and living. The second Jeff on this list and the second one who is an automatic read, I loved this book so much. All of his books are uniquely human and look at the human condition in all of its messiness. He does not sacrifice anything for a happy ending, because his books are altogether human. Although this is probably the easiest of all his books to read (if you want the heavier stuff look no further than The Virgin Suicides or Middlesex), this one was unique for me because I just adored it and marked every page. It made me feel.
7. The Name of the Wind (trilogy) by Patrick Rothfuss:
A fantasy novel that has Kvothe tell you the tale of his life after he becomes a lonesome innkeeper. I adore this unfinished book series on so many levels. One, because I found it one day in a bookstore in Austin when I was living by myself in Texas for a year. It was the loneliest I had been in my lifetime. I felt isolated and had just gotten out of a very hard three and a half year relationship. My ex was the one who turned me onto fantasy, and this was the first book I read in that genre that he hadn’t recommended to me. It was so uniquely my own. I love the complex relationship with Qvothe and Denna. I love that he is an unreliable narrator. Moreover, I am obsessed with the fact that Patrick Rothfuss is not rushing to finish this series. The writer in me who has taken forever to complete any project appreciates how he says he wants it to be fun and great work. I adore him.
6. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson:
My first nonfiction, I love this book. It is about the great migration of Black people from the South into northern cities and why. This novel was so fascinating to me. I loved every moment. Wilkerson uses people she interviewed to tie you down to the story, to contextualize what is happening by how it is affecting the people she talks to. This book gave me so many context points for America and the way we treat people. It was fascinating and such an amazing moment.
5. Middlemarch by George Eliot:
A book about families in one area and the way they live out their lives looking at feminism, classism, and love. This book is so funny. It is one of the largest classics I’ve ever read and it does not disappoint. The way Eliot describes the way humans act and behave. The way she understood society and how classism can be brought in (even if the people are still somehow mostly rich) was so divinely beautiful. Her language, the storyline, it all works for me. Read this book!
4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas:
This is a YA novel that follows Starr after her childhood friend is killed at the hands of a police officer. I am not a crier when it comes to books. Outside the past year where I cry over the littlest thing, it mostly isn’t in my vocabulary. That said, this book (and movie) made me sob and feel so many things. This book contextualizes grief, anger, coming to terms with who you are in society. It shows how finding your voice doesn’t mean that speaking up is any easier. This book is purely beautiful.
3. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi:
After Vivek is found dead, we follow the family as they come to terms with why and how this happened, and how little they know Vivek. I don’t know how to say this but really anything by Emezi should be on a top ten list. Emezi is a beautiful storyteller and they know how to bring in culture and finding yourself in different communities. They speak to the power of being yourself and loving that person. They also beautifully write family dynamics. Overall, Emezi is an automatic read and I am currently working through all their works.
2. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:
So this book was something I also read coming out of college. It is on how the housing system in America is broken and lends itself to abuse lower income families and keep them out of livable housing. This book was another book that made me cry, and long before The Hate U Give. I hated reading about how corrupt this system was. Desmond works hard at pointing out places where landlords have their issues as well, but overall the system we keep people in is heart wrenching. While this did not change any of my viewpoints, it made me feel more embolden to talk about this issue with others.
1. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen:
To literally no one’s surprise, my favorite is the “basic” (kill this phrase) choice of Pride & Prejudice. The story of the Bennet sisters after a rich man comes to town. I love this book on so many levels. I grew up watching the mini-series and was about 11 when I finally read it for the first time. I’ve reread it so many times after that. It’s just so good! My romantic heart falls for Darcy and his shyness every time. I cannot help laughing at how funny Austen is and how full of wry wit she is. Her books bring me so much joy. I’m sure I will do a breakdown of them sometime in the near future. (and while P&P is my favorite novel, it is ironically not my likely choice for the best Austen novel. Shocking indeed.)
There you have it. Do we have any similar favorite books of the moment? What should I add from yours?