I'm an avid reader. There's something about settling in with a good book that's so satisfying, so mesmerizing, so addicting that, once I start reading, it literally becomes an obsession. The more I read, the more I want to read. It would be quite easy for me to do absolutely nothing else.
For most of my adult life I've kept a running list of all the books I've read, by title and author. The list has become quite a tome in itself. I've also made little notations in the margin of the list to, more or less, rate the books. Those notations help me remember not only what each book was about, but also whether I would recommend it to my family and friends.
My book rating system is not exactly sophisticated. Most of my notes are just a one or two-word comment like "good" or "unlikely ending" or "hilarious." If the book was truly awful I'll write some really insightful evaluation like "Ich!" If it was okay, but something about it bothered me, I might jot "bogs down" or "too wordy" or "unlikely ending." If the author threw in something that seemed out of place (gratuitous sex, blood and guts) that really annoys me, then my comment might be "raunchy" or "too gory." I'm not a prude, but if I'm going to spend my precious time reading a book, I don't want to spend half that time grossed out for no good reason.
About once a year, I encounter a book that is so good my comment will simply be WOW! And often that will be followed by the names of two or three people I know who also would like that book.
Now and then, maybe once every few years, I stumble onto a book that is so amazing, or so well written, I can't wait to tell everyone I know, "You have got to read this!" Those books get a notation like "GREAT!" or "AWESOME!"
Looking back over my list is fun. For most entries, just seeing the book name along with my comments can instantly bring back the whole plot line. Sometimes it will even make me want to reread a book, though I usually can't bear to spend time rereading when there are so many new books calling out to me.
I'm always amazed that there are also books on my list which, despite my notes, I can't remember at all. Even some titles with positive comments seem completely unfamiliar. How can that be?
Of course, the rare exceptional books that just blew me away will always be remembered. So I thought perhaps I should share a few of the titles that I highly recommend. If you're a real book addict, you've probably already read many of them, but perhaps I've found a gem or two that you've never encountered.
Here, then, in random order, are 15 favorite books I've read in the last decade or so, along with the authors. They're the best of the best, in my book (excuse the pun):
"Beloved" by Toni Morrison
"The Awakening" by Kate Chopin
"Cold Sassy Tree" by Olive Ann Burns
"The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers
"Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry
"An American Childhood" by Annie Dillard
"All the Pretty Horses" by Cormac McCarthy
"Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt
"The Last Sin Eater" by Francine Rivers
"A Place to Call Home" by Deborah Smith
"Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson
"Snow Falling on Cedars" by David Guterson
"The Mermaid Chair" by Sue Monk Kid
"Morgan's Passing" by Anne Tyler
"The Shack" by William P. Young
And for those of you who think reading is not your thing, I defy you to pick up and not be sucked into my all-time favorite ... "I Know This Much is True" by Wally Lamb.
Got a great book I didn't list? E-mail it to me: firstname.lastname@example.org