I thought I’d compile a list of the books that really mattered to me throughout my life. Perhaps not surprisingly, I read many of them when I was very young, in my “formative” years as a reader. I don’t know if I’d rate them all so highly today based on literary criteria but that’s not my goal here – these are books I cared passionately about, books that influenced me, made a difference. Literary masterpieces and classics are conspicuous by their absence – I’ll cover my favorites there in another list. These are my top ten for sheer entertainment and emotional impact.
- KNIGHT’S CASTLE by Edward Eager – as an adult, I’m not a huge fan of magic fantasy novels, but I loved all of Edward Eager’s magic-based book. This one, an alternative take on Ivanhoe, was my favorite.
- DAVID AND THE PHOENIX by Edward Ormondroyd – a wonderful children’s book. I cried again when I reread it as an adult.
- THE MOONFLOWER VINE by Jetta Carleton. Maybe because I’m one of three sister, this tale of three sisters really got to me.
- TEMPLE OF GOLD by William Goldman. Goldman is more famous for his screenplays, but I’m a huge fan of his novels – especially this impressive debut.
- THE MAGUS by John Fowles – I read this in college and have re-read it several times since. It starts slow but then it’s a speeding bullet to the finale.
- REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier – possibly my first exposure to a huge twist ending – which caught my adolescent self by surprise. I read a lot of du Maurier as a result and also liked a couple more obscure ones – MY COUSIN RACHEL and THE PARASITES.
- GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell – I’m pretty sure this is an unfashionable, politically incorrect choice, but I loved it – and like most teenage girls of my era, I identified strongly with the Ashley-Rhett dilemma.
- GREEN MILE by Stephen King – I’m not a big fan of horror either, but this was like a textbook on how to write a page-turner – it was almost impossible to put down and the ending really paid off (for me).
- A SIMPLE PLAN by Scott Smith – the movie is good, but the book is better. It’s so tight, so compelling, and it really stayed with me.
- ENDLESS LOVE by Scott Spencer – the novel, not the movie. Spencer captured the crazy urgency of adolescent love (for me) and the last paragraph is a thing of beauty.
I’d love to read some of your lists if anyone feels like sharing!