When my Goodreads and Facebook friend, Liisa Rene, tagged me to list 10 of my favourite books, I checked my Goodreads list and ended up with 20.
Then I managed, with much difficulty to narrow the list down to 10 but I’d left out so many books that I loved.
How can you compare the most informative book you’ve ever read about exercise and health to a heart-wrenching memoir? Or to a mystery book that kept you guessing until the final line?
Hard, if not impossible. So I’ve come up with a longer list of my favourite 20 with a few annotations. Oh, and I’ve listed the books in random order.
1. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry – a beautiful story that made me weep. (I enjoy a good cry when reading!)
2. Mildred Pierce by James Cain – a devastating psychological portrait of an ambitious woman’s unravelling.
3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote- a timeless true crime novel that I read many years ago and it still stays with me.
4. Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley & Henry Lodge, M.D. The best anti-aging book ever written, both funny and informative.
5. Fall On Your Knees by Ann Marie Macdonald -funny, wicked and sad, an engrossing tale.
6. The Kite Runner by Kahaled Hossieni. An almost perfectly plotted story with compassionate, believable characters.
7. Infidel by Ali, Ayaan Hirsi. This true story is told by a courageous Somalian woman. A perspective on radical Islam that will inform and horrify. Particularly relevant nowadays.
8. White Oleander by Janet Fitch. I read this book years ago and though I can’t remember much of what the story was about I remember how much I loved it. Totally delicious and literary.
9. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Strout won the Pulitzer prize for her connected stories of a prickly school teacher with as many sides to her personality as a chameleon. And yet, I believe that it’s truth for all of us, that we are different with each person that we form a connection with.
10. I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb. This is one of my favourite books of all time, about twin brothers, one who has schizophrenia and the other who agonizes over his twin’s illness. Sad and poignant. A ten hanky book but beautiful
11. Annabel by Kathleen Winter. This story is about a hermaphrodite living up north. Winter writes so lyrically about the landscape and compassionately about the plight of people who are born different. It was sad but uplifting too.
12. Indian Horse by Richard Wagemese. A tale that manages to remain fresh about a residential school survivor and the effects of racism on a person’s psyche.
13. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. Waters is an English professor whose expertise is Victoriana, but she managed to spin a fascinating tale and a page turner about a lesbian pick pocket. It’s a mystery and a love story with some erotica thrown -in and if it sounds hokey, it’s not. It’s as literary as you can get and it won the Orange Prize. I also loved Tickling the Velvet by Waters, but didn’t include it in the list because it got knocked out by another fave.
14. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. A slim volume about the art and life of writers. It is a must read for every writer by a spectacularly brilliant writer. Succinct but full of wisdom and perfectly articulated, Dillard writes about writing as if it is an epic undertaking. She’s a comrade in arms to me, a sister in the struggle to find the right words to express the inexpressible.
15. Are you somebody? by Nuala O’Faolain. O’Faolain set the bar high for the memoir as a genre to be reckoned with. Brutally honest, wicked funny, and raw, O’Faolain spares no one in a devastating self-portrait of herself and Ireland.
16. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Sebold takes huge risks in writing a story from the point of view of a girl in heaven. Based on a true story when Sebold was raped, keep a hanky close to you when reading this book. You can probably tell by now that I like sad books but not sentimental or sucky. The Lovely Bones is neither.
17. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart. This book of poetry is one of the most passionate books I have ever read. It is a tragic love story written in lyrical poetry based on Smart’s love affair with a married man.
18. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. A woman has to choose between two lovers. Each chapter of the novel describes alternate histories depending on which man she chooses. Shrivers performs a highwire act to accomplish this complicated scenario but it works brilliantly. (Shriver is the author of We Have to Talk About Kevin, a book that almost made my list.)
19. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I’m not naturally drawn to funny books but I loved The Rosie Project. As I was reading it, I found myself laughing out loud. The main character, Don Tillman is a brilliant geneticist who is almost certainly has Asperger Syndrome, not to mention OCD and absolutely no social skills. When he embarks on The Wife Project things get crazy and even crazier when he meets Rosie.
20. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. A classic. I read WH as a teenager and was besotted. I’ve read it several times since and enjoyed it just as much.