I always feel weird thinking about my favorite this or that, because favorite doesn’t always mean favorite. I mean, Love Actually is one of my favorite movies but really, when I watch it, I snark on it a ton and reread Lindy West’s seminal post on it as tribute. It’s a Christmas tradition. Or, for books, there are a ton of books I’ve read, sighed, and said, “That was absolutely beautiful, perfect, nothing bad to say about it”, and then: it doesn’t go on my favorite book list. How is that?
Or think of colors. My favorite color for the longest time was red. But was it really? People bought me red things: kitchen appliances, dresses, journals. So much red. And after a while, I realized…my favorite color isn’t red. But my whole identity had been wrapped up into my favorite color being red, so how could I now switch to blue?
(It really is blue now. Like, that slate gray blue color? And some turquoise and teal blues as well? Love them).
So, the concept of favorite is a bit sketchy. And so my favorite book list is part nostalgia/formative, and part just: how did it make me feel when I read this?
And then I start feeling guilty I haven’t added other books. Are they not worthy? Shouldn’t Dune be on the list somewhere? And what about books I know I loved when I read them. Do they still hold up? Great Gatsby didn’t. Great book and all, but rereading it twenty years later elicited nothing more than a shrug. Would Wuthering Heights and A Tale of Two Cities hold up as well? Who the heck knows.
I mean, if you asked me as a teen, I’d put Atlas Shrugged on there, so….let’s just say I’ve avoided most of the “classics” read when young because I may need to reinterrogate them now that I’m older and wiser.
Regardless, here’s my top twenty-or-so (edit: 25, apparently) favorite books that have touched me in some way, in no particular order.
1.) Les Miserables
I mean, it may or may not hold up if I reread it, but considering it spawned a musical I also love, it has to be there at least as a formative book. I read the unabridged version (oh yes, oh yes I did), which I wouldn’t recommend, although I don’t like that the abridged version didn’t explain Gavroche was Eponine’s younger brother. For the longest time, Les Mis was my favorite musical (of course it was. I’m so basic), but after seeing it enough times, I’m over it. Now, like the basic bitch I am, Hamilton is my favorite. Sorry not sorry.
2.) Heir to the Empire (Star Wars)
Timothy Zahn, y’all. This entire trilogy has reread potential up the wazoo, and it introduced Mara Jade to the Star Wars Extended Universe. Hell, it pretty much created the Extended Universe (I think a few books had been published pre-Thrawn Trilogy? Courtship of Princess Leia, perhaps? Truce at Bakura? Splinters in the Mind’s Eye?)
Speaking of Kathy Tyers (Truce at Bakura), I love the Firebird Trilogy. Yeah, I know. Fight me. Yes, it’s unapologetically Christian, and I read it while I was a nonbeliever, but…I dunno. I loved it as a teen, and therefore it will always have a place in my heart.
4.) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
I’m going all word-association, here, so let’s add some C.S. Lewis. The allegory, the wonder, the magic, a book for kids that doesn’t talk down to them…wonderful. C.S. Lewis is a damn treasure, and again, fight me. Mere Christianity is also a nonfiction gem of a Christian apologist book, and again, read it as a nonbeliever and may not agree with everything in there, but man, Lewis can write.
5.) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I’m just tryna’ get the controversial authors out of the way, ok? I know. It’s a damned shame. But POA introduced the Marauders, and…that just made this book perfect in my eyes. I love the Marauders. I love James Potter, even though he’s a git and a bully. Remus can do no wrong, of course.
An edit: speaking of reinterrogation, “controversial” doesn’t cover it any more. As this list includes books that were formative and influential, I’m keeping it on here.. for now… And I’m leaving this as a placeholder for when I can come back and gather my thoughts and sum this is less flippantly. Forgive the mess, we’re under construction
6.) Gideon the Ninth
Varying this list a bit. Lesbian necromancers in space, duh, who wouldn’t read this? Now, actually, I don’t usually like creepy and goth and dark. But Gideon’s voice was amazing. You give me great voice, and you slay me. Loved it from the first moment. Masterfully plotted, too. And anything that makes me laugh as hard as this book did is special.
7.) The Lies of Locke Lamora
(Speaking of laughing out loud…I mean: “nice bird, asshole.)
I don’t know how Scott Lynch managed to juggle two timelines without confusing or frustrating me, but goals, y’all (my WIP has two timelines and…urgh.) And I love heist stories, so heist+fantasy? Swoon. I did love Sanderson’s Mistborn, too, but Lynch gets it done better (and dirtier, and funnier).
8.) The Emperor’s Soul
Well, since I mentioned Sanderson, let’s put this on here. Yeah, most people would talk about Mistborn or Stormlight Archives, but The Emperor’s Soul was beautiful, lyrical, simple, and it spoke to my heart.
9.) This is How You Lose the Time War
Beautiful, lyrical novellas? Yes, this one. This one. I can’t do much but squee. I can’t word like this, folks. How do Max Gladstone and Amal el-Mohtar write so beautifully? Just …red and blue…and squee…no words. I’m sorry. I’ll think of words at some point.
10.) The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
Well, this is one of my comp titles for my completed MS, and well — it’s Firefly. But, like, a happy solarpunk Firefly. Gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling all the way through and isn’t that just the best?
11.) A Civil Campaign (and Shards of Honor, and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)
I had to pick one Vorkosigan book. It would have to be A Civil Campaign, considering how many times I fire it up on my Kindle and read various passages just to crack up. But Shards of Honor and Gentleman Jole are beautiful, and they feature Cordelia, who, of course, is a kickass character. My WIP basically jumped off from my reading Shards/Barrayar and reimagining that world.
12.) Wraith Squadron
Reread power just to laugh again: that would be Wraith Squadron (a Star Wars book), at least when I was a teen. I picked it up a few months ago to reread and couldn’t get into it, but that doesn’t diminish my love for it. Dinner Squadron? Wearing an Ewok as a swimsuit? Scalabrious pirates to you!
13.) Star Trek: New Frontier (House of Cards)
Total. Crackfic. How did this get published? I don’t know, and I don’t care. Also, I consider this the precursor to The Orville. Those less-than-perfect Starfleeters. A freaking megalomaniac captain. Ex-fiances working together! What’s not to love?
14.) Red Rising
The first book is like Hunger Games in space but done even better, and then the entire series just takes off. Some people try to classify this as YA…and…what? I like YA (despite there not being a YA title on here), but this ain’t it, chief. This is one of those series I just blew through. My heart isn’t ready for book 6.
15.) City of Brass
Oh-so-beautiful. You know, as a querying author, sometimes I look at the agents that represent people like SA Charkaborty and I’m like…well, if they have her, they sure ain’t going to pick me.
Fantasy in a non-European setting! Mythology and symbolism from my childhood! The writing! I can not wait to watch this Netflix series. And she’s so wonderfully active on Twitter and with her fanbase, which is like, goals.
edit: there are so many books I love as much as City of Brass now. The Unbroken, The Jasmine Throne, The Poppy War, She Who Became the Sun… I might have to consider removing this until I reconcile all this in my mind!
16.) The Calculating Stars
Can we talk about this title? This freaking title, man. They’re stars..superstars. They are human computers…they calculate. They are calculating stars! And leaving off the pun, calculating (scheming and determined) is just the coolest word and I love the image of stars that are just…watching.
And the stars disappeared when the meteor hit…this title! I love it!
17.) The Name of the Wind
A silence in three parts. The folklore and poetry. The magic system. Trying to constantly make ends meet to stay in school. I don’t care if the series never gets finished. I don’t even care about the mystery. I just love the atmosphere of this book.
18.) Red, White, and Royal Blue
And a shaaarp left turn into romantic comedy. It’s rare a book makes me cackle but between the turkey and mom’s powerpoint presentation..I died. I also have a thing for both royal romance and stories about the White House, so…
19.) Confessions of a Shopaholic
My first foray into romantic comedies, and for that, I will forever be grateful.
20.) The Princess Bride
Has anyone written Princess Bride in space? Because..I need it in my life, and if no one has, I’m gonna.
21.) A Game of Thrones
Problematic? Yep. Didn’t even watch the HBO series, and couldn’t keep reading hte book series because it just got too depressing. Too much death/violence/sex. But the worldbjuilding is…well..epic, and the first book kept me reading and reading.
22.) The Little Prince
I mean, I’m basic, so I have to love this book, right?
23.) The Martian
From the first line, he hooked me. I love the idea of sciencing the shit out of things.
24.) Nemesis Games (Expanse series)
Entire series is greeeeeat, so is the TV show, but Nemesis Games brought the backstory, Naomi’s past pain, and chickens coming home to roost. Strongest in the series, in my opinion.
25.) Ninth House
Six of Crows isn’t on here, especially because I try to keep one author/book series on the list, but it’s also really really good. But Ninth House is Bardugo’s adult debut, and it just stays with you. Again, I don’t usually like creepy, but it’s like…sooo good I don’t care?
edit: Ok, I’m a Grishaverse stan all over again (thank you, Netflix), so maybe it’s Six of Crows on this list. But I’ve decided I’m in love with King Nikolai, so maybe King of Scars. Look, just, Bardugo, y’all, okay?
Edit – 26.)! All Systems Red
How, oh how could I forget my favorite introverted murder bot?!?
27: ) The Lightning-Struck Heart
I had to update, because I read this book and was gasping with laughter the entire time, and then I went ahead and read the whole series and OMG I will never be the same again.
28.) Red Sparrow
It’s unusual that I have a non-SFF book on the list, but I loved this trilogy. Mostly because I’m obsessed with spy stories, and this series wrecked me.
The list keeps growing. I might need to discard some of my childhood favorites to make room. (Les Mis? Never heard of her)
29.) The Traitor Baru Comorant
holy shit, y’all. Twisty and twisty and poignant
30.).Queen of the Conquered
another book that made me think I knew everything, and then I didn’t.
31.) On Basilisk Station
The Honor Harrington series got…weird.. And it’s always been preachy. But the first foray into this world is masterful.