My Top 20 All-Time Favorite Books

My Top 20 All-Time Favorite Books

During this period when most of us in the United States will be spending a lot more time at home than usual, I wanted to provide you with just a few of my top reading recommendations. I also have a wealth of audiobook suggestions, including kid/young adult audiobooks that you can listen to as a whole family.

The reading list I’m sharing today is my all-time favorites. These are books that have stuck with me over the years for their fantastic writing and amazing stories. I watch the new releases for many of these authors and come back to my favorite titles periodically over the years for re-reads or re-listens.

As my reading tastes are pretty diverse, I know that not all books will appeal to everyone. But I hope that you find at least a few new books or authors to check out over the coming months.

High Fidelity

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby is one of my all-time favorite books and also one of my all-time favorite movies. This is a terrible thing to admit about the very first book I’m sharing on this list, but it’s actually a rare instance where I like the movie better than the book. With that being said, there are quite a few scenes that are in the book that aren’t in the movie that are well worth reading. Read the book, then watch the movie, and you’ll really appreciate those extra scenes.

I’ve read all of Nick Hornby’s fiction and recommend any of it. High Fidelity and About a Boy remain my favorites. (I really like the movie adaptation of About a Boy as well if you’re looking for more entertainment right now.) Funny Girl is really good, too. You get so caught up in the premise that you’re disappointed that it’s about a fictional show, not a real show.

Jurassic Park

I know, you’re thinking, what? Is it really worth reading the book Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton when we’ve all seen the movie and the subsequent movies more times than we’d like to admit? Yes, it absolutely is worth reading it because it’s so much better than any of the movies, even the first one. Michael Crichton was such a good writer. He brings a wealth of detail to the book that you never get in the movie.

I’ve read most of Michael Crichton’s books. His topics are so varied, you’re never like, oh yeah, another Michael Crichton book, I know exactly how this will go. My favorite Crichton book is actually State of Fear, but I picked Jurassic Park for the list because it’s a lot less controversial. If the subject matter of State of Fear appeals to you at all, give it a chance. Crichton wrote it over 15 years ago, and it’s more relevant today than ever.

Something Borrowed/Something Blue

Emily Giffin is one of my top writing influences. She writes exactly the way I want to write fiction. I actually got to meet Emily Giffin at a book signing for the release of First Comes Love a few years ago, which was definitely a bucket list experience.

Anyway, her first two books, Something Borrowed and Something Blue, remain among her best. I love that it’s truly a set of companion stories that she planned. Something Blue isn’t a tacked-on sequel at all. Among her newer books, my favorites are Where We Belong and Heart of the Matter.

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is one of the best books ever, young adult or otherwise. Don’t let the young adult label throw you. Eleanor & Park is such a powerful story, and the book is so tightly written. Every single detail comes together in the end.

Eleanor & Park is by far Rainbow Rowell’s best book. I also have to give a shoutout to Fangirl, which I enjoyed so much. Fangirl is exactly the type of book that I wish I wrote. Rowell gets so many of the details about college life and first relationships exactly right.

The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is one of those rare fiction books that sticks with you for years after you read it. Don is the sort of well-drawn, unique character that you don’t see nearly enough in fiction, and there are so many memorable scenes in The Rosie Project. I love the entire cast of characters in the Rosie series.

I’ve talked a couple of times already about how Graeme Simsion’s other books aren’t worth reading, which is unfortunate. The middle book in the Rosie series is the weakest of the three. It’s worth reading it to get to the final book in the series, though, which is so good.

I Must Say

It’s not a secret that I read a lot of celebrity memoirs. I Must Say by Martin Short is everything that you want in a celebrity memoir. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, and it has just the right balance of personal stories and celebrity stories. Not surprisingly, I Must Say is a great audiobook, so if you’re into audiobooks, consider listening to it.

Chasing Vermeer

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett is another one of those books that I wish I wrote. It’s a young adult mystery set in Chicago with an art theme, which is basically everything I could ever want in one novel. The writing is so good, and I love her main characters in this series.

The other two books in this series, The Calder Game and The Wright 3, are definitely worth reading, too. Of Blue Balliett’s other books, The Danger Box is my favorite.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is another rare fiction book that sticks with you for years afterward. Eleanor is such an unlikely protagonist, and it takes a while to warm up to her. I love how the narrative unfolds and how you get caught up in her story and wanting everything to work out for her.

the Harry Potter series

If you ask me what my favorite book is, I say the Harry Potter books. But I thought if I put it first, a lot of people would roll their eyes and not read the rest of my list. If you haven’t read the Harry Potter books, there’s never been a better time to dive into a long series. If you have read the series but it’s been a while, think about re-reading it. While I haven’t listened to the audiobooks personally, I know so many people who love them.

Calypso

I’m a big fan of David Sedaris’s work and have enjoyed all of his books. Calypso is his most recent release, and the writing is outstanding, possibly his best to date. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything else quite like it. David Sedaris does all of his own audiobooks, and they’re terrific.

Holes

Holes by Louis Sachar is Louis Sachar at his best. The story is so whacky and complex, and the characters are so unique. The way he brings every last detail together at the end is unreal. I first read this book 20 years ago, and then I listened to it with Tommy last year. I can’t believe how well it holds up.

Modern Romance

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari is the only book I’ve listened to more than once. I was expecting it to be a fun read and was blown away by his comprehensive overview of modern romance. I learned so much reading this book and also laughed out loud multiple times. Aziz does a fantastic job blending his research with personal anecdotes and his own unique sense of humor. If you’re a fan of his show Master of None and/or any of his stand-up specials, you’ll definitely appreciate his humor in Modern Romance.

Wishful Drinking

I’ve read (listened to) all of Carrie Fisher’s books. All of them are good, but I think that Wishful Drinking has the widest appeal. I’m so so glad that Fisher was able to record the audiobooks herself before she passed away. Her writing is raw, honest, and candid, and her dry, sarcastic sense of humor absolutely kills me. Her one-liners are priceless, truly laugh out loud by yourself funny.

Born a Crime

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is one of those books like Eleanor Oliphant that’s so good, you’ll almost be sorry after you’ve read it because it will set the bar for future reads so high, and you’ll be a little disappointed with everything else for a while. It’s that good. Trevor Noah is a fantastic writer, and he does such a good job telling his amazing life story.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of the few books I had to read for school and really enjoyed. I’ve re-read it a few times over the years and most recently re-listened to it. It’s the kind of book I could reread every year and still get something new out of every time. The writing remains so timeless, and the story remains so relevant.

Last Shot

I don’t read a lot of sports-related content, fiction or non-fiction. But John Feinstein is one of the top writers in the industry and with good reason. His first young adult book, Last Shot, is among his best. I’ve enjoyed all of his young adult books but still think that the characters in his Sports Beat series are the strongest. I tend to prefer his basketball books as well, which is just my personal preference, as I get more out of reading about basketball in-depth than I do with other sports.

Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance is one of those books that I didn’t think could live up to the hype, and it definitely did. Vance has an amazing story to tell, and he does such a good job telling it. He opens up about so many real, important problems in America that so few people are willing to talk about, and he does so without being preachy or political.

Educated

Educated by Tara Westover is another book where I wasn’t sure what to expect, if it would really be worth reading, etc. It absolutely is. Westover is an amazing writer with an even more amazing story to tell. She really does it justice in this fantastic memoir.

Norse Mythology

If you’re going to read one book by Neil Gaiman, it should be Norse Mythology. Norse Mythology is Neil Gaiman at his best. You get his epic storytelling ability, and it isn’t as out there as a lot of his books. I’m much more familiar with Greek and Roman mythology than Norse mythology and really enjoyed learning Norse mythology through Gaiman’s perspective.

The Outsiders

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton is possibly the most underrated book I’ve ever read for school. I can’t believe that this book isn’t huge. It’s another one of those books that has stuck with me for years after I first read it in middle school. I listened to it last year and am blown away by how well it holds up. The writing is outstanding, and the story remains so relevant. I’m absolutely in awe that Hinton wrote it when she was 17 years old.

Audiobook recommendations

I have a whole post about 10 books to get you started on audiobooks, all of which remain in my top recommendations for audiobooks. I’ve mentioned a few of them in this post already but there are a number of other titles and authors there as well. About half of the authors on that list have additional books, too, giving you lots of hours of audiobook material.

Kid/young adult audiobook recommendations

Over the past year, I’ve started listening to a lot more kid/young adult audiobooks while I’m in the car with Tommy. Thus far, we’ve mostly been listening to books that I read and loved as a kid. So these recommendations are a bit old school. Over time, as we finish working through my favorites, we’ll branch out into some newer authors and series.

We’ve listened to Judy Blume’s entire Fudge series. She reads it herself, and I can’t recommend it enough. Superfudge and Fudge-a-Mania remain two of my all-time favorite kids’ books, but it’s worth listening to the entire series. A few other kid favorites we’ve enjoyed have included the Wayside School series and the Ramona series, again, both long-time favorites of mine growing up. We also recently listened to The Trumpet of the Swan, which I hadn’t read as a kid but love as an audiobook because it includes the trumpeting.

We’re currently working our way through the original Laura Ingalls Wilder series and enjoying it. The same woman, Cherry Jones, narrates the entire series, and she’s really good.

[Disclaimer: The book links in this post are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!]

Head to the reading section of the blog for all of my past “what I read” posts as well as annual book reviews and my best tips for how to read more books.

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