Thursday, July 5, 2012

All-Time Favorite Books: My Top 10

These long hot summer days really lend themselves to laying by the pool with a good book, don't you think? I would read 3 or 4 books a week if I had time for it, although sadly, I don't! If you need a little reading inspiration, or are just looking for the perfect poolside read, here's a list of my top 10 all-time favorite books. I tend to read more fiction than non-fiction, especially novels, but this list has a little bit of everything:

1) Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult. Some of you already know that Jodi Picoult is my favorite author; I will read anything she writes and am working on two of her books right now. While I'm usually hard-pressed to limit my favorite books to a short list, this one is my favorite book of all time. I discovered it for the first time at a library book sale and paid 50 cents for it--pretty much the best 50 cents I can remember spending. For me, it's that "if you read one book in your life besides the Bible, make it this one" book. Basic plot line without spoilers: A killer convicted and condemned to execution wants to donate his heart to the sister of the girl he murdered (who desperately needs a heart transplant in order to live) as a way to atone for his sins. This novel is both stunning and unsettling. It ties seemingly disparate characters together in a shocking ending that will leave you thinking and re-assessing your life long after you read the final words.

2) Like Dandelion Dust by Karen Kingsbury. Karen Kingsbury is my favorite Christian author. I can always count on her books to be powerful and redemptive. This book is a story of two mothers who both love the same child, and of the resulting heartbreak, sacrifice, and redemption. It is compulsively readable, and unlike some books, it's one I can read multiple times and enjoy just as much in the subsequent readings.

3) How to Win at College by Cal Newport. For anyone in college now or about to head that way, this book is an absolute must-read. And it is nothing like run-of-the-mill books on college life and study tips. It consists of 75 short (two-page) chapters, each containing a piece of unconventional, even quirky, advice on how to succeed at the entire college experience--academically, socially, and personally. And the tips I tried when I was in undergrad really work. Read it.

4) Oceans Apart by Karen Kingsbury. OK, I know that in the interest of diversity, I probably shouldn't have two books by the same author on this list. But this novel is such a beautifully written, moving story of someone who forgives the unforgivable and, in doing so, finds new hope.

5) Look Again by Lisa Scottoline. This is one of those books that starts out good and then just keeps getting better and better every time you turn the page. It's about a mother who has to make a heartbreaking decision and go on a painful journey in order to do the right thing for her child.

6) Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. This book is the autobiographical account of one woman's journey to Italy, where she remodeled an old home in the Tuscan countryside, learned to cook the Italian way, and discovered new things about herself in the process. Bottom line: fantastic travel memoir.

7) The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. This book on prayer is the best book I've ever read related to the topic of Christian living. The thing I love about it is that it's not saying the same things as 100 other books on prayer--the author's insights are truly fresh, deeply Biblical, and remarkably personal.

8) Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. Anybody who's into sociology/ social issues--or just undercover journalism--will probably really like this book. It's the author's account of going undercover to investigate what life is really like for impoverished, low-wage workers in America. It is a starkly written but sadly true commentary on our times, and as much a call to action as it is anything else.

9) The autobiography of Benjamin Carson. He is one of my heroes, and has been since I was little. In this book, he writes about how, through faith and determination, he overcame racism, failure, and poverty to become the youngest-ever head pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University hospital. Incredibly inspiring read.

10) One L by Scott Turow. For all you fellow law students out there, this one's for you! I didn't read any books on law school success before I started, and this is pretty much the only non-assigned law-school related book that I read during my first year. Written in the 70's, it's the author's own account of the trauma, drama, and excitement of his first year at Harvard Law School. I read it after I had been in school for about two months, and was blown away by how much his experience from thirty-some years ago was similar to mine. It will reassure you that you're not going crazy, and that other people have made it before you and turned out just fine!

 . . . feel free to comment if you read and like any of these books, or if you've read a great book lately that you'd like to share!

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