It is my 33rd birthday today (omg when did that happen?!?) and I thought I would celebrate with a post about the 33 best books I've read in my 33 years- the ones I have read and re-read, the ones that spoke to me when I needed them to, the ones that changed my life.
First are the ones from my childhood and teen years, then the ones I read as an adult. Each includes the reason why I chose the book for this list out of the hundreds I have read.
BOOKS FROM MY CHILDHOOD/YOUTH
1. Best Word Book Ever! by Richard Scarry: This is the first book I remember reading on my own. I read through the book so much it is now in a state of almost crumbling. It helped jump start my creativity, too. I would look at the pictures and make up stories about the characters' lives.
2. Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard: My first audiobook came with the book and I absolutely loved it! I listened and read along over and over again.
3. Babysitters on Board! (The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #1) by Ann M. Martin: I must have read this book 10 times as a pre-teen. I wanted to be on that cruise ship so much! I loved the different POVs all in one book, too.
4. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor: This book exposed me to the concept that the world is not always a safe place. People can get hurt and so can animals, and it is up to us to help them. Now that I think about it this book probably shaped my personality a lot more than I realize.
5. The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss: I actually preferred the story of Annie and Sini de Leeuw to Anne Frank's story. This was probably because Annie and Sini were on their own while Anne Frank had her parents.
6. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry: This was another book about the Holocaust that really hit home for me. I read this and Reiss' books many times. I couldn't believe people really had to live like that.
7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This was required reading my senior year of high school. After years of reading horrid books like Lord of the Flies and The Scarlet Letter I was ready to write off reading altogether. Then came The Great Gatsby. I found myself actually wanting to read it, not forcing myself to read it. This is the book that made me fall back in love with reading. Probably the most important book on the list.
8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: This book was one of the first I read that really explored the roots of human behavior and the excesses and depravity of humanity to me.
9. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe: Technically a poem, but still worthy. Why? The first time I read this poem I liked it but I didn't quite understand it. I read it some more, asked some questions about it, and before I knew it I had memorized the poem. It was really my first exposure to good poetry and definitely my first exposure to Poe, which started a lifelong love affair. :)
BOOKS FROM MY ADULTHOOD
10. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: One of only two books I have re-read as an adult, the story of a missionary who takes his family to 1960s Congo (a turbulent violent time) is full of adventure, scandal, cultural awareness, disability awareness, intelligence, stubbornness- all the makings of a book you can't put down. Sometimes poison comes from the inside out.
11. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: I am re-reading this for the second time right now for the readalong and I can tell you already that I with every page I am remembering why I fell in love with this book the first time. The imagery, the emotion evoked, the passion, the adventure, the empathetic Dantes- if you haven't read this you are missing out.
12. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran: I simply adore Moran. She is hands down one of my favorite writers. This was the first book of hers I read and I instantly became obsessed with Egypt. After I read it, I read Cleopatra's Daughter and Nefertiti, also by Moran, as well as other books about Egypt, not to mention documentaries and movies and museum exhibits all about Ancient Egypt! Obsessed, I tell you.
13. Walden by Henry David Thoreau: If Thoreau were alive today he would be leading the Green Movement, encouraging everyone to not only recycle but to conserve energy, not use up natural resources, to use candles as oppose to electricity, and, above all, get outside and enjoy nature.
14. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: I read this memoir right after a crushing break-up with an emotionally abusive boyfriend. I was going through a really hard time, as was Gilbert at the beginning of the book. Gilbert's transformation from crying on the bathroom floor to finding strength, courage, and herself again was just the read I needed.
15. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: I was very wrapped up in the injustices of the females in the novel. In fact, I was so moved that after I was done reading it I got involved with the Afghan Woman's Writing Project.
16. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: You never forget your first Austen. :) As a 20-something year old, I fell in love with Mr. Darcy and I wanted to be Elizabeth Bennett with her strong disposition and her willingness to admit her flaws and still find love. *sigh*
17. 1984 by George Orwell: This is the book that taught me to always question everything and never take anything for granted.
18. A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe-Hailey: A strong, independent woman in a time where being such was scandalous. Rock on.
19. The Color Purple by Alice Walker: How can you not love this book?
20. A Night Without Armor by Jewel: I was a fan of Jewel's music before she released her book of poetry, and being a fan of her music is why I picked it up. Her lyrics spoke to me in a way few songs did. I am happy to say her poetry did not disappoint me. She really has a way with words that I wish I myself possessed.
21. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult: I liked this book for all of the moral questions it raised.
22. The Secret Life of Josephine by Carolly Erickson: Erickson is now one of my favorite historical fiction authors. She writes beautifully while evoking emotion and you can tell she does her homework. I really enjoyed learning about both Josephine and Napoleon.
23. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: The graphic novel that all others need to live up to, in my opinion.
24. The Writing on My Forehead by Nafisa Haji: A novel about rebelling against your upbringing and discovering later that you might have been wrong to dismiss it so callously.
25. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne: One of the most moving books about the concentration camps of WWII that I have read. This book will shattered my faith in humanity and restored it all at once.
26. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: Such an important topic that no one wants to talk about, yet everyone should. It hit home to me and I will forever cherish this book and Melinda Sordino.
27. No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns: This is by far my favorite nonfiction book. I love bikers and I loved learning all of the details about the HA. It is, of course, bias against them, but that's mainly because of the ATF agent writing the book. I will definitely be reading this again.
28. Drowning Ruth by Chirstina Schwartz: I was at the edge of my seat waiting to discover the truth of what happened the night of Mathilda's drowning.
29. Beloved by Toni Morrison: I really loved this story about the psychological impacts of slavery as told through the eyes of former slaves.
30. The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory: The book that made me fall in love with the Tudors.
31. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson: I never knew a "detective" novel could be so fast-paced, intelligent, and unexpected. Instant love.
32. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: Whenever I am going through a struggle, I think of Maya Angelou. Enough said.
33. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway: The simplicity in which it is written is breathtaking when you realize all of the beauty, poetry, tragedy, and metaphor that it contains.