I have a horrible memory so figuring out which my ten favorite books of all time are has been, to say the least, not easy. I have friends who make lists of books and movies and wine and then rate them but that isn’t me. It isn’t because I don’t love books; I couldn’t imagine my life without them. It’s more because I live IN the book as I’m reading it, and like any good vacation or event, when it’s over, it’s over. I can revel in the memory a bit, but I’m usually ready to move on to the next grand adventure. I always remember what I felt when I read it but not necessarily what happened in the beginning, middle and end.
So here are a few of my favorites, the ones I remember, and I hope you’ll like them too. You will see that a few of the books I did choose can be a little dark in places, but stay with me. I won’t lead you astray.
Non Fiction -
Bird By Bird – Anne Lamott: I read this book on writing at least once a year and have done so for the last four or five years. You should too. I promise. It will help your writing and remind you why you write in the first place.
On Writing – Stephen King: This is actually my current read (as a Christmas gift from a friend) and I’m not finished but including it on this list anyway. I’m convinced it will be a go-to, and a go-back-to for a long time. Plus I’m a big King fan.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years – Don Miller: Reading this book about 3 years ago gave me the courage to try to live a good story, to push through some fears I’d been wallowing in and to see my future as a grand adventure that I can’t wait to live. I love anything Don Miller writes but this is my favorite of his.
A Circle of Quiet – Madeline L’Engle: I’m not a huge fan of nonfiction in general, but I do love a good memoir. L’Engle wrote her more famous children’s series including A Wrinkle in Time but this book is simply marvelous. And if you have a chance, pick up the other ones in the Crosswicks Journals series: The Irrational Season, The Summer of the Great Grandmother and The Two-Part Invention.
Devil in the White City – Erik Larson: I’m putting this under non-fiction, but it reads like a novel. Erik Larson does such an amazing job of telling a true story so that you don’t know its non-fiction. It’s two stories, actually, the story of the building of the 1893 Columbian Expostion in Chicago as well as the story of America’s 1st real serial killer, H. H. Holmes. It’s a little chilling in places, but Larson’s descriptions of the World’s Fair makes anyone want to travel back 120 years just to see it.
Fiction – I can’t say these are my five favorite novels of all time, because I’m one of those girls that when I’m in the middle of a book, it’s my favorite. But these are some standouts of mine.
11/22/63 – Stephen King: I’m a huge fan of Stephen King and on my wish-list-bucket-list would be to have lunch with him someday. I was never allowed to read him growing up (and maybe for good reason) but a few years ago I began moving through his most popular books because I was on a journey to become a better storyteller. And his 11/22/63 (about time travel and the assassination of JFK – right, I know) is brilliant and surprisingly, my favorite of his novels.
My Antonia – Willa Cather: I don’t know how to explain this book or my love of it, but it is simply beauty. One of the best American novels ever written, in my opinion, and now that I flip through it again, I wonder (I really wonder) if Cather influenced me as a writer. Oh I hope she has. I’m going to re-read this very soon.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte: You know how a book gets into your soul when you are in your forming years and stays there? That’s this book for me. It may be different for you, but for me it’s Jane Eyre. Even if I wanted to I can’t get it out of my soul.
The Paris Wife – Paula McLain: Loved loved loved this book. I’m a novel girl and when a well-written novel juxtaposes with history and literature both, I’m hooked. It’s the fictionalized story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley. Summer read. Or winter read. Either. Or both.
The Meaning of Night – Michael Cox: Another Victorian setting (Devil in the White City is too) and it reads a little slow in the beginning. But give it a chance. The author wrote one more book (The Glass of Time) which is loosely tied to the story in Night, but then Cox died. I fell in love with this author and then was devastated to realize that the author would be writing no more.
There are so many more that I love: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Elie Wiesel’s Night are a few and of course the Dark Tower series by King (but that is not for the faint of heart).
Sarah Markley is the mother of two daughters and a wife to an amazing husband of seventeen years. She’s been writing all her life but has been blogging for the last six and a half. For as long as she can remember she’s loved to read and has devoured books whole since elementary school. Currently her favorite mode of “reading” is by listening to books and Audible is now her new best friend. Although she loves writing non-fiction her favorite books to read are novels and couldn’t imagine her life without them.
Besides Blackflower and Co Chai tea steeped in almond milk or a good glass of red wine, she loves reading, writing and listening to stories. You can find her at www.sarahmarkley.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @sarahmarkley.