Yes. It was hard to pick only ten books. How did I choose? Well, I almost never read a book more than once because life is too short. There are so many awesome authors/books out there that it’s silly to waste time reading anything more than once. However, the stories listed below are unique in that the characters didn’t vanish from my mind the moment I put the book down (like so many others do). These characters and their stories stuck with me, their author’s inspire my own writing, and I hope to one day write something that makes people feel the way these books made me feel.
Here are the books I love enough to read again . . and again . . . and again.
1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: In 2045, the world is a bleak place. Wade Watts, the book’s teenage protagonist, spends the majority of his time in the OASIS, a virtual reality simulation. Wade uses his extensive knowledge of 80’s pop culture to search for an Easter egg hidden somewhere within the OASIS by the game’s designer shortly before his death. The first player to find the egg wins full control of the OASIS. Yon’t have to be a gamer to love this book. Superb writing, a protagonist you can root for, and a unique story that hasn’t been done before. As an added bonus, if you grew up in the 80’s, you’ll love all the pop culture, video game, and movie references!
2. 11/22/63 by Stephen King: With the possible exception of The Stand, this is King’s best, most ambitious work. It’s certainly his best novel in recent memory. Jake, a high school English teacher in Maine, accesses a portal in the storeroom of a greasy spoon that instantly transports him back to a sunny day in 1958. Once he discovers the portal, he resolves to stop the Kennedy assassination. There’s so much history in this book, and King obviously spent a great deal of time researching Lee Harvey Oswald and making him a central character and the antagonist of the story. Jake’s love for a fellow teacher, Sadie, adds a whole other element to the story. This is a book I reread every few years. If you don’t like King because of his propensity toward horror, give this book a chance. You won’t regret it.
3. Passage by Connie Willis: Joanna, a psychologist, partners with a neurologist to explain near-death experiences by using a psychoactive drug to replicate them. She goes under herself, and as she explores a little farther each time and sees more, her sense of dread increases. The author grows the tension in slow but effective ways, including beginning each chapter with the haunting final words of people like Joan of Arc and the captain of the Hindenburg.
4. Summer of Night by Dan Simmons: “Something ancient and evil is stirring within the century-old walls of Old Central School and friends Mike, Dwayne, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin have to stop it before it destroys not only their last summer of childhood…but their lives.” Dan Simmons is an incredible writer. Whenever I read one of his books, I find my own writing improves. Yes, this book is Simmons’ version of Stephen King’s It and I *personally* think it’s a much better book. This book’s sequel, A Winter Haunting, is also amazing.
5. The Martian by Andy Weir: Stranded on Mars, with no way of communicating with his crew or with Earth, Astronaut Mark Watney must figure out how to survive for a year (or more) on the desolate, inhospitable planet. This includes learning how to grow food in Martian soil (potatoes, potatoes, potatoes), make water without blowing himself up, and establish communications with Earth. Watney is a lovable science-nerd hero with a deep hatred for Disco music, which is, of course, the only music available to him on Mars. You feel as if you’re stranded right there with him, trying to figure things out, and holding your breath when something goes wrong. There’s tons of tension and suspense, some parts are laugh out loud funny, and you feel smarter when you’re finished reading it.
6: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold: “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” Featuring one of the most haunting first lines ever written, The Lovely Bones is unlike any other book you’ll ever read. I discovered it for the first time in college, and I remember carrying it with me to class and devoting every spare minute to finishing it. Written from the perspective of a child watching from heaven as her family falls apart and her murderer remains free (and plans to murder again), Susie Salmon’s story manages to be terrible and tragic and beautiful, all at the same time.
7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.” Such a beautifully-written book. Morgenstern’s gift for poetic description shines through as she paints a vivid picture of the mysterious Le Cirque des Reves, and its assortment of unforgettable characters. And the fierce competition and love story between the two young magicians, Celia and Marco, is oh-so-swoonworthy.
8. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: Louisa Clark takes a job working as a helper for Will Trainer, a man left paralyzed from the neck down following an accident. At first, Will is a total jerk to Lou, but she refuses to abandon him to his own self-pity as so many others have, and they soon develop a bond. From her aversion to exercise to her bumblebee tights, Lou is as quirky and loveable a protagonist as they come. And despite his surly demeanor, it’s impossible not to fall in love with Will Traynor. To be fair, while I loved the book, I hated the ending. Absolutely hated it. I almost didn’t include this book in this list–even thought I knew it had earned a spot–solely because of the ending. But this book is proof that you don’t have to love the ending to appreciate a really good love story.
9. The Princess Bride by William Goldman: The movie is a favorite of mine so it’s no surprise that it’s also one of my favorite books. In some ways, the book is even funnier than the movie, thanks mainly to the dozens of author’s notes and asides scattered throughout the chapters. (Ex. “There have only been 11 perfect complexions in all of India since accurate accounting began.”) The characters you love are all there–swashbuckling Westley, revenge-seeking Inigo, gentle giant Fezzik, and the princess bride herself, Buttercup–but these lovable characters are developed in a way a movie could never achieve. My final thoughts on the book? Wuv. True Wuv.
10. Caraval by Stephanie Garber: “Remember, it’s only a game.” Sisters Scarlett and Tella receive a coveted invitation to participate in Caraval, a once-a-year magical performance put on by a mysterious man named Legend. However, as soon as they arrive at Caraval, Tella is kidnapped and Scarlett discovers that, to win the game, she must find her sister. This book has everything: magic, mystery, and romance. With its vivid descriptions and unforgettable characters, it reminds me a lot of The Night Circus. My favorite part? Scarlett’s magic dress. Because every girl needs a dress that automatically changes colors based on her moods.