Read These 10 Novels and We Can Be Friends

I break out in a cold sweat when I try to define my top 10 novels, so I’m not going to give these that label … but such a list would be pretty darn close!

I consider myself a strong curator, and I am telling you that you just absolutely cannot go wrong with these ten. These books are ones I will always, always suggest– and I will always, always want to talk about them too. And I will always, always wish I wrote them.

So, what are you waiting for? I challenge you to systematically read these ten novels, let them work you over and change your life, and then let’s talk.

jackie lea sommers favorite books

Noticeably absent: the Harry Potter series (because if I were to choose just one, I would choose #7 Deathly Hallows, but I would also never recommend that one read it without reading the rest of the series); The Last Battle and the rest of the Narnia books (because, again, I chose just one, and I think it’s the best story of the seven, though The Last Battle has possibly/probably been more important to me).  See, this is what happens when I force myself to make such list. Caveats!  Caveats, I tell you!

Jackie’s Must-Read Books

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
These are classics!  I seriously cannot get enough of them– I read them over and over and over and love them every single time.  I am just finishing up the series for the first time this year, and– no joke– after book 7 is over, I will start again on book 1.
Must-read: everyone, all ages

2. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
This book is seriously one of the best-written young adult books I have ever read.  In my life.  Period.  I love so many things about this book: the language, the characters, the structure, the humor.  It gets a 10 out of 10 from me.
Must-read: anyone who loves YA or a clever, quirky romance

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A Printz honor book narrated by Death himself, this is “just a small story really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.”  I love books that are about the joy of words– and it’s even better when you mix in unforgettable characters and gorgeous writing full of incredible imagery.
Must-read: YA lovers, people who love words, anyone interested in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust

4. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
The brilliance of this story is in the masterful writing.  Every single page will leave you in awe, plus the story is so real and deep, and it makes you think about things like miracles and family and loyalty and guilt.
Must-read: lovers of literary fiction, adults who want a great story, parents

5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This book is richer than chocolate.  It has magic and competition and romance– and it avoids all cliches.  It is a sensory extravaganza.
Must-read: people who love Harry Potter and are ready for magic from a grown-up perspective, anyone who values great imagery

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
TIME’s 2012 book of the year!  This YA book will make you laugh and cry and think.  It’s a cancer book– but not one of those cancer books.
Must-read: people who love YA, philosophy, and incredible characters

I’ll leave you with those six for now.  As I think through this list, I feel full.  They are that good.

reading girl

how to offend a book lover

Books matter to me.  So, so much.

So when my friend, who is halfway through The Book Thief, asked, “Now, who is Rudy again?” I about died.

Now, I deeply love this friend; she is brilliant and fun and cares so much about people and justice and mercy.  But come on.  Who is RUDY?  WHO IS RUDY STEINER??!  Why are you reading this book if you can’t remember one of the MAIN CHARACTERS?!!!  Where is the RESPECT?

Okay, done ranting.  I think.

I am not this way with all books– but there are certain, choice stories where I am quite literally offended if a friend doesn’t like them, almost as if I were the author.  When my friend Jessica read Narnia for the first time, I was upfront with her: “Please tell me you liked them.  I will actually be offended if you didn’t.”  She did.  Phew.

When my roommate told me that The Fault in Our Stars was “good, but not great,” I didn’t want to throw her off a cliff or anything.  When my sister couldn’t get into The Sky is Everywhere, I didn’t want to disown her.  I don’t have to worry about what I’d do to someone who didn’t like Stargirl because I have never met such a fool.

But The Chronicles of Narnia, The Book Thief, Peace Like a River … do not disrespect these stories.

Or else feel my wrath. 🙂