Wow, this is a wide open topic! And one of my favorites. We could be here a while, people.
It’s hard to pick “favorite books” because there are different books for different moods, books I love for what they taught me about writing, books I love simply for story and character, books that I’ve reread over and over since childhood that feel like familiar places now. But since we probably don’t have two weeks to discuss all of that, I’m just going to pick a couple, and try to hit one from each category.
A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett: I still reread this. I loved it as a child – Sara was so brave and
so kind, but also so cool. She didn’t make up stories about princesses, she made up stories about the Bastille! I was in awe of her imagination. And even then I loved the historical details, the differences between now and then. Sara was everything I wanted to be, but she was also very real – she had her moments of grief and rage and desperation. My daughter is named Sara partly for her (and partly for my mom, whose name is Sara).
The Stand, Stephen King: Now there’s a book. It’s everything I could want – plot, characters, action, emotion, philosophy, and King’s excellent knack for realistic dialogue. It’s very real people in a completely unreal and unexpected situation, and it reads beautifully despite its length. I’m also a total sucker for a post-apocalyptic scenario. I need to reread this again soon.
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte: I can never say enough about this book. I adore Jane on every level. She’s smart and she’s curious and she stands up for herself even when she isn’t one of the privileged class, and even when she’s left with nothing, completely on her own. Plus it’s got all these delicious themes to chew on when you’re in a lit crit mood.
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon: Another huge feast of a book, and it was so surprising and unexpected for me on first read, after I’d been working as a romance editor for a while. It broke every rule! First person, time travel, separating the hero and heroine – she ignored every convention of the genre and wrote an absolutely kickass book. Plus, Jamie Fraser. ::fans self::
Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin: If I taught writing, I would teach this book. For one, it’s right up my alley – it’s horror that builds so slowly, you’re holding the book away from you, waiting for something to jump out and scare you. But it’s also one of the very best examples of tight, economical but perfectly descriptive books I’ve ever read. The foreshadowing alone is crazy – read again right after you’ve finished and you catch all these places that Levin provided clues to what was happening. Amazing.
Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson: One of the most perfect books I’ve ever read. The atmosphere she creates is incredible, and incredibly real. Melinda is every girl, I think, at one time or another, and between the killer use of metaphor and the subject matter, it’s just a masterpiece.
I could go on, and on and on, but those are a few of my absolute beloveds. If you haven’t read them, do!