Today, I turn 35 years old. It’s kind of hard to believe that I am halfway through my 30s but I don’t feel any different, only much wiser and more aware about the world around me, a vast comparison to my teenage years and my twenties. I think that have the various books that I’ve read over the years to thank for that new outlook. So as I look back on my years (but also look to the future), I wanted to take the time to list my top 20 books of all time.
This is completely different from the post I wrote when I started this blog, but I think as you grow older, things change and how you view the world goes along with it, the good and the bad. It would be nice to see how this list will change in 5 or 10 years time but it is so nice to reflect on how these books made such a powerful impact on my life and still do this day. So here we go, my top 20 favorite books of all time:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This one will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only it brings me happy memories and great connection with my mother, the joy of Jane always brings me any brightness where darkness lies. That is why I always manage to read this at least once a year. I need a reminder why I love reading and Austen’s wit and humor does just that.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Another classic that holds a special place in my heart. It may not have the same witty writing that Austen provides in her novels, but Bronte’s compelling writing and her take on the Victorian ideals and customs just makes this one unforgettable read and a book I always love to return to.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I don’t like science fiction but Frankenstein is always the exception! Mary Shelley created a story that was more than just science fiction. It plays human’s desire to achieve something more, not realizing the dire consequences that might occur. Passion for notoriety, passion for vengeance, is a classic novel that still plays on the fears of modern times.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Most readers got to read this classic when they were either in elementary or high school. I finally got to read this when I was in my 30s but it was during a time I was still grieving for both my grandfather and my guinea pig. I don’t think I could get through it without the heartwarming and touching ideals that touched my heart and give us thoughts that we still need in this world today.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
A romantic thriller that managed to miss my notice when I was younger but so glad I was able to read it when I was older! It really made me appreciate the suspenseful thrillers and see how well it could be crafted when it is written well. Like with other popular books, this one cemented Daphne Du Maurier as one of my favorite authors of all time.
Quicksand by Nella Larsen
Passing may be Nella Larsen’s most popular book (rightfully so) but this one I feel is more superior to the former. I really felt connected to this one. Helga Crane is such an interesting and tragic character. Stuck in two worlds (with the blacks and with the whites) she struggles to find a place of her own. Her struggles coincide with both race relations and gender roles. I get the sense that this book was more autobiographical than Passing, but still such an interesting read.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
Like her daughter, Mary Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft had a gift for words and makes such a passionate plea (like mother, like daughter). Wollstonecraft discusses an issue that will be ongoing for centuries to come: women’s rights. Wollstonecraft’s social commentary on women’s rights is inspiring and insightful work of historical literature. In this political climate, I felt it was necessary to read more political books, books that exemplified the importance of equal rights for everyone. Her words are eloquent and and I am not afraid to say, very ballsy. She spoke her mind, a rarity in the 18th century for a woman, and not afraid of what society thought of her but wanted to listen to her philosophical words.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Such a heartwarming and delightful story! I can’t believe that I didn’t tread this when I was a child but I’m glad that I read it now since I think I have a deeper appreciation for it now if I read it then. Anne’s personality was just such a delight to read during quarantine life. Her appreciation for the things that we take for granted such as nature was just a breath of fresh air, literally. I just couldn’t get enough of Anne’s antics and her strong personality. Anne’s perspective on life caused a change in everyone she met and that what made her such an amazing person.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
I read and will read a lot of mysteries during my lifetime, but this is the one that will stay with me and always be the best mystery of all time. All mystery novelists used the same formula that the great Agatha Christie uses in this all-time classic but there is a reason why Christie is called Queen of Mystery. The original is the best.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I was dealing with a reading slump but this powerful book saved me from that and from then on I discovered the wonderful world of reading contemporary British/Irish fiction. This book just blew me away. It was so moving and touching. It’s nice to read an unconventional love story once in awhile. It makes you take a second look at your own life and question if you are taking things for granted. I really didn’t expect it to be this good.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
I was drawn by this book because it was recommended by Jojo Moyes and from then on it cemented Candice Carty-Williams as one of my favorite authors of all time. This book talks about so many issues: race relations, family, relationships in the real world. But what I truly love about this book is that talks about mental health amongst black people, a subject that needs to be more widely discussed.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
And speaking about mental health, we go on to the great author and mental health advocate, Matt Haig. The Midnight Library was the first book I read by Matt Haig and so far, this is one of my favorites. All the ideas that are portrayed in this book are so relevant to me. I found myself highlighting so many sentences. They were amazing words that just hit all the right places. If I ever need to read an uplifting book, this is one I will reach out to.
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
There were many titles I could of choose from by Laura Bates for this list but I had to go with the one that introduced me to the insight and passion of Bates. I read a lot of feminist works but this one really opened my eyes and encouraged me to seek out more. Every time I read something by Bates, I feel anger but I also feel empowered because if we have more people like Bates who write such empowering works as these and more readers read them, the world will become a better place.
Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill
Nikita Gill gave me the opportunity to not only read poetry in a different way but to enjoy poetry again. Anytime I read Gill’s words, I feel comforted and also empowered. This collection was the first anthology I read by her and from then on, I always make sure to preorder anything by Gill.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
It’s clear that Jojo Moyes is my favorite author because she is the only author to have two of her books on this list. However, this one is equally as special since it highlights the joy of reading and the importance of libraries. She has brought us a new tale about hope, love, perseverance and love of reading and books. I felt like I was really in the story, a true gift that only Moyes has. It was both uplifting and compelling at the same time.
Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard
In 2019, I had to read a lot of YA for a book committee I was on for work. Reading YA (even though I am a YA librarian) is not one of my favorite genres to read. Until I encountered this one and that led me to a journey in the world of UK YA. I always say that I wished Sara Barnard existed when I was a teenager because I need the realism and emotion that I needed to feel and read in my books. I’m always grateful to this first UK YA novel that gave me the opportunity to venture and find more books of this nature.
Run Rebel by Manjeet Mann
And speaking of realism and emotion? In 2020, before the world shut down, I was in London and managed to get a copy of this beauty. But like the rest of the world, I didn’t think I would get into reading while a pandemic happened. But like the many best books that I read in 2020, this powerful read made me forget the world was in chaos outside. I encountered a YA novel that left me breathless and a new voice that left me empowered and want to hear more from.
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
One of my favorite novels in verse and again, met with a new favorite author! It was more than a book a teen coming in terms with his sexuality. It is a book about coming to terms about yourself, how you see yourself as a person. Dean Atta created a beautiful story that conveyed so much emotion and passion that any reader can identify with. Even though it was written in verse, it was done perfectly. Because of this technique, I could feel Michael’s pain and jubilation when he is coming to terms with his soul. Because of that amazing character development, this makes this YA novel one of the best I have read.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
One of the best innovative and compelling YA thrillers of all time! If one by American authors were written like this, I would find them more intriguing.
Toffee by Sarah Crossan
And lastly, from what I consider to be the Queen of novels in verse. The first book I read by Sarah Crossan was Moonrise but Toffee is the one that really touched my heart. The unlikely friendship between two people, the open discussion of domestic violence and mental health….Crossan touched on so much powerful emotions in this book that I had a hard time putting it down. Crossan explores so many themes in this award-winning book so beautifully that this thought provoking novel in verse will leave you astounded about life itself.