I’m a reader, I always have been. Growing up, I had a bookshelf in my bedroom, and it was always packed full of books, all lined up and neatly arranged, but over the years, the space became less and less with more and more books shoved into every spare bit of space. I still can’t walk into a bookstore and come out empty-handed. I’m a lover of the written word.
Now, years later, our house is still teeming with books. It’s full of classic novels, the best textbooks from our years in academia, nonfiction works in subjects from Christianity to Marketing. And, let’s not even talk about the list on my Kindle.
Yet, despite the full shelves and the endless lists, there are still a handful of books that I come back to, that will always be my favorites, that will always stay with me, for as long as I live:
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This book will always hold a special place in my heart. I remember reading it during my freshman year of high school and being completely moved by the story of racial injustice. Having grown up in the south, racism and racial tensions were still prevalent and this book opened my eyes and broadened my understanding of justice, fairness, and the struggle for equality. Scout, the feisty & curious young girl in the story who is persistent to see justice come to Maycomb, Alabama, was such an influential character to me, that I named my daughter after her.
2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I know that Russian literature isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ll always love the sad, tragic love story of Anna and Count Vronsky. If you’re going to read any of the Russian classics, I’d recommend this one.
3. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
I have to count the whole series as one book because choosing just one from the series is like choosing between your children. And you can’t just read one, you need to read the whole thing. I’m still trying to find a way to get into Hogwarts.
4. Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne
One of the few books about Christian living that I revisit time and time again. Shane’s writing style is approachable and a bit down-home, but the content is challenging, stirring and leaves you motivated to do more for the Kingdom of God and for the least of these.
5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
This is probably my favorite children’s book of all time. Everything from the illustrations to the epic adventure of Max into the land of the Wild Things, will always hold my heart captive. It’s always unlocked something in my imagination, and that still holds true today.
6. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
This is a mind-bending book that melds fact and fiction seamlessly, as only Vonnegut can. A true genius of writing and storytelling, this is a satirical novel about Vonnegut’s experience in WWII.
7. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Long before Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom took to the screen, Tolkien wrote the books. An epic tale of adventure, fantastic writing, and spiritual undertones throughout. A classic that everyone should own.
8. What is the What by Dave Eggers
A novel, based on true events, about a Sudanese refugee who finds a safe haven in Ethiopia, only to flee again to Kenya, and finally landing in Atlanta. I firmly believe that Dave Eggers will go down in history as the greatest novelist in our generation. His storytelling is exquisite, compelling, and unforgettable. This is my favorite of his novels.
9. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
A Pulitzer-Prize winner from 2001, this book chronicles the journey of two cousins – one Czech, the other an American, both are Jewish – at the height of World War II, and their foray into the world of comic book writing. It’s a beautiful story.
10. An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
This book was monumental in my spiritual development, and it continues to be a cornerstone in my life. In this book, Taylor explains how she encounters God in the everyday, the mundane, and most importantly, outside the walls of a church building. It’s a must-read for every believer.
Nish Weiseth is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of A Deeper Story, a collaborative site with over sixty writers that use the art of storytelling to address big issues in Christianity and culture. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband, two kids, two dogs, a brother-in-law, his dog, and a partridge in a pear tree. You can follow her on Twitter and she blogs at nishweiseth.com