My top ten book list is in no particular order but, after looking through it, I can see that most of these have been books that I have read multiple times. I'm a Gemini and it strikes me that there are feel-good stories alongside some pretty horrific titles. At the heart of this list, though, are the books that made me: A) look at the world in new ways and B) get excited about reading. Those are the two gifts that I hope to give those who read my own novels.
1) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee--I have read and re-read this one throughout my life. Atticus Finch is my favorite character in fiction, so when Go Set a Watchman was released and threatened to upend him as a character I almost didn't want to read that book. But I did and I still hold a place in my heart for Atticus, the man who upholds justice even as an entire culture is fighting against him.
2) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain--Another one of those books that I have read as a child and reread as an adult. It represents the messy and complicated beauty of what it means to be American. It has adventure and travel, which I love. My husband and I read this before bed while I was pregnant with my first child and my husband is not a reader, so that is really saying something about the power of Twain's storytelling.
3) Matilda by Roald Dahl--This four-year-old prodigy has the power to right the wrongs she sees in her little world. Very empowering to all ages, plus Dahl is a master at building hilarious, interesting, quirky characters. My nine-year-old son and I have read this one together and it is laugh-out-loud funny.
4) The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling--Rowling single-handedly brought back the love of reading books during a time when people were immersed in video gaming, computers, and the Internet. The way she weaves mythology and classic literature into the world of Hogwarts is so enriching to the reading experience.
5) One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish--Dr. Seuss is just really fun to read aloud. Now that I have kids (and some of these children's books seem like they go on for all of eternity), I always get a kick out of reading this book or anything else by Seuss.
6) The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer--I know, I know. Just the mention of the name Bella Swan can invoke eye rolls, but The Twilight Saga got me excited about reading again during a time in my life when I just needed something light and fun. I actually borrowed it from my sister, who is fifteen years younger than me, and Meyer's description of first love brought me back to that innocent, rose-colored place.
7) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley--I like to read horror and paranormal, but this book is so much more. Shelley brings up some very interesting questions about the ethical lines of science. Just because we can bring people back to life, should we?
8) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn--I read this for my book club and could not put it down for two days straight, staying up late into the night to finish just one more chapter. I love how Flynn explains the story from two points of view and leaves you guessing, "Who's really telling the truth?"
9) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott--Being a writer myself, I really felt a connection to the character of Jo but, really, the March women as a whole made sense to me. I grew up in a family with four children and we had to pull together on our forty-acre farm. This included chores that most kids didn't have to do, like cleaning out the chicken coop or baling hay, but the work, fun, and freedom of my childhood were shared with my big family and I have many happy memories.
10) Carrie by Stephen King--I like this one as a reader and as a writer of paranormal fiction because it explores the question, "What happens when you push someone too far (especially an adolescent girl in an American high school)?" It also gives me hope because King was going to throw the manuscript away, but his wife salvaged it from the trash can and it turned out to be his breakout novel. Smart lady.