To say I am an avid reader is like saying Mr. Darcy is kinda snooty. (Don’t you love how I worked in that literary reference?)
There are certain books I reach for when I need an escape. I crave the familiarity of the main character’s voices, their families, their innermost thoughts. I have visited their towns, shared in their sorrows, rejoiced with them joyfully over and over again. It was no easy task to pick just ten. Of course, I may have cheated a little, since many are series or collections, but I think I did a pretty good job of narrowing it down. Here they are… in no particular order.
by Margaret Mitchell. I’ve been reading Gone with the Wind at least once a year since I was eleven years old. Back then, Scarlett was my hero. Strong, confident, sassy… everything I wasn’t. I wanted to be her for every Halloween until I was too old to dress up. I should have taken advantage of it back when I had that tiny waist, but I didn’t. Now it will never happen.
We won’t even mention Rhett. Except to apologize to my husband for the Rhett complex I had early in our marriage. I find it quite shocking now that this book has never been banned. Besides all the lusty talk, violence, and gore, Scarlett’s point of view is so twisted and racist I feel guilty for ever having wanted to be her. It was Melly I should have been idolizing. Oh well. Still love this book.
by Beverly Lewis. I want to be Amish when I read these books. I adore multiple series by this author, but Abram’s Daughters was the first one I read, and therefore my longtime favorite. Their breathtaking simplicity and humble ways captured by Lewis in her beautiful prose leaves me sighing contentedly. All is well if people like this exist in the world. Yet she does not portray these characters as perfect… she peels back the layers bit by bit and we unfailingly find that humans are humans, no matter what their circumstances.
You will be addicted. You’ll also want some shoo-fly pie. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
by Helen Fielding. Bridget Jones’s Diary
This book would qualify as insanely inappropriate, but is equally hilarious. The pages of my copy are permanently warped, a direct result of reading it cover to cover while sunbathing with sprinklers on me one summer day in my backyard. Whenever I need a laugh or an excuse to eat chocolate, I pick it up again and laugh over Bridget’s antics, sigh over her bad taste in men and leave happy with my normal-by-comparison life.
by Karen Kingsbury. Redemption is the first book in the Baxter family Series, or as I call it, The series that never ends. And I hope it never does! What I love about this series, besides the characters as real as those living in my house, is that this is not watered-down Christian fiction. The gospel is unashamedly woven into each story, and these characters have life-sustaining, grippingly real relationships with God. Plus, they are as addicting as raw snickerdoodle dough. Maybe more. Will so and so ever find out who his father is? Will Ashley wake up and realize she already has the perfect man?
I’ve read critics complaints about these books, and they say the characters are too beautiful and the endings too predictable. I for one, happen to like pretty people and happy endings. It’s just the kind of thing I want to read after a long stressful day. Sue me. However, the endings aren’t always predictably happy. People lose loved ones, go through storms in relationships, and are physically and emotionally traumatized. What does happen is the characters learn to find joy again because they know Christ. Much like the hope we have in real life. Not ‘realistic’ enough to make sense to the world, but we know better.
by Joel Rosenberg. I can’t find a name for this series on the actual books, but Amazon calls them The Political Thrillers Series. Just start with The Last Jihad and then make sure you read the following four books.
I can’t help but feel cool when I’m reading these books. The rapid-fire pace comparable to an episode of 24, intelligent dialogue and high profile characters convince me I’m actually traveling the world with Jon Bennett. When I finally look up from reading, I’m surprised to find that I’m not wearing all black and trailing a terrorist, but rather sitting on my bed in my pj’s. Not quite as cool is it? Read the intro on the first book in the series, and find out about how Rosenberg wrote the first book before 9-11 and had to go back and change details because his prophecy-like story was too close to home. Then shiver.
by John Steinbeck. East of Eden Goodness. Jealousy, lust, murder, family drama. Biblical parallels. What more do you need? I don’t know why I’ve read this one so many times, because it rather depresses me. I should look into that.
Picking my favorite Austen novel would be impossible. My husband bought me a collection of her seven complete novels and though it’s a bit heavy to carry around the house, I treasure this book. Mostly because my husband saw it and thought of me. I have the Grammercy leather-bound edition with gold edging. Try not to be jealous. The Complete Novels (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) is paperback, and probably easier to manage while blowing your hair dry.
Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility are my top three, but have you ever read Lady Susan? I was delighted to read it for the first time last year. So funny! Also: Mansfield Park, Northhanger Abbey, and Persuasion. There’s not much I can say about Jane Austen because I am afraid her rabid fans will come attack me if I say the wrong literary thing. So I’ll just say that I find her writing very witty and smart and I am in love with her stories.
by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. The Left Behind Series
goes through twelve books, and then has another series, Before They Were Left Behind that is a prequel to the original story. It is impossible to read these books without feeling an immediate sense of urgency to go out and preach the gospel to everyone you know. Now! Warning, if you are about to start reading this series for the first time: These stories suck you in and may possibly result in the neglect of your family for several days.
Jenkins has the art of the cliffhanger down so well I have found myself driving to library after library in a mad search for the next volume. You may think that speaks more to the sad state of my life than his writing capabilities, but if so, I’m in good company. Half the nation was foaming at the mouth after one of the volumes was released; demanding to find out what happened to a beloved character, crying, Is she dead or not? Was she? Well, I’m not telling.
by Majorie Holmes. Two From Galilee How many fictionalized accounts of Mary and Joseph are there? I’m not sure, but this is my hands-down favorite. I read it every year at Christmastime. The sweet story of a young Mary and what she may have gone through gets me in the Christmas mood every time. This last year, with my own girl being thirteen, I read it with new eyes. At it’s core, this is the love story of Mary and Joseph. While it is of course fictionalized, I like to imagine Jesus’ earthly parents being madly in love. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.
The Pelican Brief is one of my favorites, but I also love The Firm, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Runaway Jury. How can you choose? I mostly familiar with Early Grisham because in the last few years I haven’t bought his books. I first borrowed my dad’s copy of A Time to Kill, in high school, and then became an official fan after The Firm movie starring Tom Cruise came out. My Dad used to buy the newly released books as they came out. So, then, I guess it’s my Dad’s fault, really. He should really start buying them for me again.
I become absorbed in the lawyer-ly language, the southern settings, the fast-paced action. The last minute twists and characters I feel I know. I’ve spent many a late night finishing just-one-more-chapter.
Please note, these links are Amazon affiliate links. I’m also adding a whole page to my Amazon shop just for these books.
What are some of your favorite novels?