It’s not easy to choose my top five favorite books that I would recommend, but I’m going to give it a try because those favorites that made an impact during my reading journey, deserve to be shared.
I can remember the first time I learned to spell my own name, to spell certain words like THE and OF, and I remember suddenly seeing words that I knew and I was reading EVERYTHING. Street signs, menus, commercials, newspapers… books. I remember having a collection of Sesame Street books that I would read at night when I was supposed to be in bed as a six year old. Laying on my stomach in my door way with a book, reading by the hallway light that was left on so I wouldn’t be afraid.
I remember my first handful of chapter books, the ones I loved that sent me on a search for more stories. The 100 Dresses, by Eleanor Estes and Daphne’s Book, by Mary Downing Hahn are the first two that immediately pop into my head. I read the entire series of Clue Jr. and devoured every single Goosebumps I came across at the library. I don’t know if I had ever had a spark for reading, if there was ever an interest that grew into what it has become today. If there was a tiny, metaphorical “love for reading” seed within me that grew into my near obsession, I couldn’t pinpoint the change.
To me, I have always had a need for literature and writing, the same urge that told me that checking out 32 books from the library when I was fifteen, over summer vacation, was a great idea. It was super thrilling, to have a stack of books that essentially would expire, would need to be returned. I had a count down looming over that stack of books and it was the receipt that named all 32 of them with the due date underlined, stuck to the wall with a push pin. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t finish them all before they were due back, or even before the next school year began. What I did find, however, was that 32 books that are four days overdue add up to a very nice size fine. Even still, I have no regrets, even after the library fines, the books that I didn’t finish before I could hashtag it as DNF, there were those handful, or fists full of books that really stood out, my top five favorite books.
#1 Tithe, Holly Black
At the very top of my list, where it will remain until the end of my days due to what I’ll admit is a terrible bias, is Tithe by Holly Black. This books set the precedent for my favorite genre, for my writing style, for a need to seek magic in everything. This book, and the two that followed, put back what growing up smothers of faerie tales and magic existing. While reading of this dirty, gritty type of magic found in smoke filled bars, set in sea salt crusted carousel houses on abandon piers, with liquor, cigarettes, ripped tights and walking home in the pouring rain, Holly Black put magic back in realistic environments. Albeit, these fabricated places were a type of modern Gothic aesthetic of decrepit ruin that I could only hope to find myself, in my wildest teenage dreams, invited to. Where edgy guys on a pier wore leather jackets and offered me swigs from the bottle, or more realistically, and less dramatically romantically, making coffee in my friends trailer near the liquor store, it was real enough that it couldn’t be dismissed as impossible. While I doubted I would be seeing Unicorns at the park by my suburban apartment complex, I loved knowing that after reading this book, magic could be real and right in front of you, and you could be too blindly human to realize. As a writer, Holly Black revived my imagination, the one that adult things was surely and slowly devouring the older, and closer to being a high school graduate I got. Now, I feel no differently toward this book, I’m pushing midlife crisis age and still hold firm the fact that this book is worth recommending time and time again.
#2 Killing Mr. Griffin, Lois Duncan
I have yet to find another true crime/murder mystery fiction that I am as in love with, enthralled with, and entranced by, as Killing Mr. Griffin. I’ve tried to find other, outside of Duncan, who keep me gasping at every turn the way this book did the first time I read it (during that wild summer of 32 library books) and there after as well. There aren’t many books I come back to for a second read, and there are even fewer that I will read over and over, but Killing Mr. Griffin is simply that satisfying. The stereotypical high school kids, who are painfully easy to relate to, with their suburbs, sibling rivalry, awkward crushes, and irritating teachers, its easy to find yourself apart of that small group of underage individuals as you read along, regardless of your age. With this book, you are either saying “that’s right!” in the now, or from your memories of high school. Something I really liked about this book, was that before these high school kids find out the devastating twist, which happens mid vengeful scheme, the reader is given insight on every detail, leaving a pit in your stomach too large to ignore as your nerves rattle in anticipation. This is the type of book you yell at while you read, and if you read like I read, you know what that means, and hopefully why that means it is worth recommending.
#3 Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
The face of Frankenstein’s monster, has become known as Frankenstein himself, and that is only the beginning of the misinterpretations brought about by the cinematic version of this tale. For years I have loved the aesthetic of those dramatics portrayed through film, the lightning, the hunch back assistant hobbling around, the popular phrase, “Its alive!” You’ll find none of that in this book. There is no ominous laboratory, or corpse like descriptions of reanimation, and while the creature doesn’t destroy the town in a manner worthy of pitchforks and townsfolk, but there is plenty to emotionally invest in. Devastating losses, and paranoid ideations plague Victor Frankenstein after he creates his creature, and we are taken with him on his remorseful journey of elusion as he recants his tale at sea on the frozen Arctic Ocean. This story, from both the point of view of Victor Frankenstein, and his creature was something far more emotional than I would have ever expected. I was impressed beyond words, and moved to tears at the end, which is why I would absolutely recommend this book.
#4 Into the Water, Paula Hawkins
Into the Water fell into my lap, it was by chance that I came across it when I had heard nothing about it previously. During book club (if you’re interested in book club click here), Into the Water was chosen as the book of the month last September for a Murder Mystery themed month, and while it had mixed reviews about the multiple points of view I found it was absolute perfection! Each point of view shed a new light on your previous assumptions about this suspicious death, and if these multiple perspectives didn’t give you any insight, then they certainly cast doubt over the expectations you had built within your theory. This story is worth reading and recommending!
#5 Wink Poppy Midnight, April Genevieve Tucholke
The cover of this book caught my attention immediately, I needed to know what it was about, and the short synopsis was mysterious enough to pull me entirely. My short review on this book says everything I feel about this book, even months after first reading it! “I couldn’t begin to describe what an aesthetically pleasing, literature name dropping, magical fairy tale this book is… Or perhaps that’s all that needs saying… Three extraordinary kids will send your mind spinning and head turning as you continue to look over your shoulder to discover who you are really seeing and if you actually know them at all. I will read this again and again, as I have found within Wink Poppy Midnight, a new favorite book. The original review post can be found here. Saying that I would read this book over and over, was nothing short of how i feel, or what i am doing, I am currently reading this one a second time for the Summer reads theme in Book club!
I hope that you find some favorites in mine, and have enjoyed this list of my top five recommendations!