Last summer I challenged Margie Clayman to write a blog post of her 10 favorite books.
She did. And she cheated.
Instead of her 10 favorite books, she wrote her favorite genres: Books about Abraham Lincoln, books about the civil war, guilty pleasure books, etc. Sure, there were only 10 categories and it was a really good list, but it was cheating none-the-less.
When I teased her about it, she challenged me to write my own top 10 list. It’s taken me 10 months to accept her challenge, but here I am!
It’s a good thing I waited, too. Because when she challenged me, I hadn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey yet and you would have missed out on three of my favorite books.
I kid. That was a terrible series. I’m mad at myself for reading all three of them. I have this really bad habit of having to finish everything I start. And that includes terrible trilogies.
Following is my real list of my 10 most favorite books of all time (in no particular order).
- My Name is Asher Lev. My mom gave this book to me many years ago. She wrote inside, “Read this book. It will make you happy.” And it did. Many times over. It’s a book about a boy deeply ingrained in Judaism who feels the need to render the world he knows and the pain he feels through painting and drawing. It’s full of Yiddish, which made me love it twice as much. I picked up certain phrases I use all the time from reading that book (oy vey).
- The Bell Jar. Sylvia Plath led a very distraught and sad life before she stuck her head in an oven and committed suicide, but was extremely talented. I sometimes wonder if you have to be that troubled (cough, Hemingway, in order to be a great writer). In this story, you’re drawn into the life of Esther Greenwood and watch as she has a complete breakdown. Some say this was written as Plath was doing the same in her own life.
- A Prayer for Owen Meany. I am a big, big John Irving fan, but I contend this is his very best book. In the summer of 1953, two boys are playing baseball when Owen Meany hits a foul ball, slamming it into the head of his friend’s mother, killing her instantly. What happens throughout the rest of Owen’s life is extraordinary, as he grapples with killing a his friend’s mom.
- The Fountainhead. I read this for the first time in high school. In fact, during parent teacher conferences that year, my AP English teacher said to my mom, “Is she always this motivated?” I’ve re-read it several times since then and it continues to hit my all-time favorite books. This was Ayn Rand’s first book and her best (IMO). It was my first introduction to how the business world treats women and what we can/should do about it.
- The Bluest Eye. I love Toni Morrison (just downloaded her newest book last night), but this will always be my favorite of her books. It’s about a very pretty young girl who no one notices. She really believes if she were special, perhaps if she had blue eyes, things would be different. Her parents would stop fighting, her brother would stop running away, and her dad would stop drinking. And then her dad does notice her…and rapes her.
- Under the Banner of Heaven. Growing up in Utah and being raised Mormon, I read this book in order to dispel any myths and rumors my friends have about the religion. What I found, instead, was an incredibly researched story about polygamy and brothers who killed a woman and her baby, claiming they had a commandment from God to do so. It’s the only non-fiction on my list, but the story seems so unreal it feels like you’re reading fiction.
- The Lovely Bones. Some of you may have seen this movie, but it’s nothing like the book. The book is always better though, right? This is a story about Susie Salmon, who is kidnapped, raped, and killed…and she spends many years stuck between earth and heaven, watching her family cope with their grief and loss. I know it doesn’t sound very enlightening, but the story will capture you from page one.
- An Object of Beauty. My dear friend and colleague, Martin Waxman, sent this book to me a couple of years ago for my birthday. Being a bit of a literature snob, I was reticent to read it because it’s by Steve Martin. Yes, the comedian. But what I discovered inside is the man has a talent for storytelling. It’s about Lacey Yeager, a young woman who begins her art career at Sotheby’s and soon finds herself climbing through the ranks with a lot of power and a lot of money. It’s not what you expect from Funny Man Martin.
- The Red Tent. This may seem like it’s a religious book, but it’s not. I say that because Dinah, who is only hinted at in the Book of Genesis in the Bible, is the main character. It tells a story, from her point-of-view, of what it was like to live as a woman back then. It’s compelling, interesting, and really well told.
- Me Talk Pretty One Day. I’ll never forget what I was doing when I read this book. I was working on The Catfish Institute account and we were doing a lot of work with media in New York City so I was back and forth nearly every week. A colleague recommended I read the book so I picked it up in an airport bookstore. It is so funny, I was laughing out loud while I read on the plane. In fact, I was laughing so hard (tears streaming down my face), I had to sit on it so I’d stop reading and embarrassing myself. No one quites comes as close to hilarity as David Sedaris.
So there you have. I’ve put my stake in the ground and these are my 10 most favorite books. What are yours?