Initially, I thought today’s 10 on Tuesday prompt, 10 books I’d recommend to a friend, would be an easy one, but as I went through my list of books – both on Goodreads and the notebook I kept before the Internet caught up with my OCD ways – I realized I’d read a lot of books I liked, but not that many books I loved. And to want pass a book along to someone else, I really do have to feel strongly about it. Reading takes time, and I don’t like the idea someone wasting time reading a so-so book on my suggestion. (I do think, however, that I am pickier than most; I seem to be “meh” about a lot of books people love, The Help being the most recent example.)
But here are 10 books that I not only would recommend without reservations – I’m pretty sure I have passed all of these on to friends at one time or another. Some are easy reads, while others are among the most difficult I’ve ever read, but each is worth the time.
1. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie – I have been known to say that this book was like learning to read all over again, because of Rushdie’s mutli-layered magical realism and unusual turn of phrase, but for purely amazing use of words, I’ve never read anything that topped it.
2. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison – Easily the most heartbreaking book I have ever read, about an abused, impoverished black girl in the 1940s, whose most preciously-held dream is for blue eyes… and the life of privilege that comes with them. It opened my blue eyes in so many ways.
3. My Life in France, Julia Child – Child was in her late 30s before she discovered, and started to live, her passion, but she was also far too wise to pen a simplistic “it’s never too late” biography. It was a joy to read this and discover the witty and acerbic woman behind all those cooking shows.
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling – This is my favorite of the Harry Potter books, and the one I think that functions best as a book in its own right when removed from the series. But really, if you haven’t already, read them all.
5. Checkmate, Dorothy Dunnett – Another recommendation that is a stand-in for an entire series, Checkmate is the final book in The Lymond Chronicles, and is the book that brings six books worth of complicated plot lines together in a lovely and satisfying ending. It won’t make a whole lot of sense unless you read the first five books, though.
6. Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood – Beautifully-detailed historical fiction, a murder mystery, and Atwood’s always-brilliant prose… what more could anyone want?
7. The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde – This is a book (and the kickoff to a series) for readers. It’s pun-tastic and wink-wink, nudge-nudge about all manner of English lit, and is just a ton of fun.
8. Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery – This is sort of the M&Ms of novels to me – a perfect treat I can go to at any time. I have a hard copy on my bookshelf and an e-copy on my Kindle, so it’s always on hand in case of a reading emergency. There is never a wrong time to visit the Lake of Shining Waters with Anne and Diana.
9. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction, William Zinsser – A super-dorky choice, I realize, but it’s a book I recommend all the time, because I sincerely believe it made me a better writer.
10. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon – A time-travel romance novel that bounces between World War II-era England and 18th century Scotland has no right to work, and yet this does. I think it’s because Gabaldon took the research skills she honed earning a PhD in… something scientific I can’t remember right now… and applied it to historical research, so both of the worlds the book encompasses feel real, even if the plot that connects them is farfetched.
What books are your go-to suggestions when people ask for recommendations?