My 10 Favorite Books

Reading is my favorite pastime, and I think it always will be. I’ve always been a fast reader, and I’m sure I was just born that way, but I also like to think that I adapted that skill over time so I can read more and more and more.

Last month at book club, a good friend asked me what a few of my favorite books are. And I realized that I’d never put a lot of thought into that. There are books I read over and over, and books that I recommend to you all, but which of those are my favorites?

What follows is a bulleted list, meaning that these books are in no particular order. It was hard enough narrowing down the vast book universe to just 10; there was no way I could rank them, too.

MY FAVORITE BOOKS

    • Matilda by Roald Dahl: One of the first “chapter books” I ever read all by myself, and the start of a truly insane Roald Dahl obsession. (Runners up by him at The Witches, The Twits, and The BFG.) I love Matilda. I could cry just thinking about her. Yes, this is the Matilda of the incredible ‘90s movie starring Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman and Lane Pryce’s wife from Mad Men, about an unloved little girl and her love of books and unexplained magical powers.

      I love Matilda for so many reasons. As a kid, I probably loved her because she was naughty and liked to read just as much as I did. As an adult, I love her because she saved herself. She used her own smarts (and her own magic) to escape an abusive home and a horrifying school. She is strong and brave and imaginative, everything that every little kid should want to be.

      If you haven’t read Matilda, it’s not too late. Yes, it’s a children’s book, but it’s not just for children. You know?
    • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri: I was assigned a short story from this gorgeous collection in my first semester of college. I don’t remember which story is was, but that doesn’t’t matter. What I do remember is reading it and feeling very adult, like I was reading a book from the grown-up section of the library. There’s nothing particularly salacious in the book. I don’t mean grown up like that. I mean like I was reading the kind of book I’d read in a coffee shop or in bed after a long day of being a fancy woman. Which I was well on my way to being, in my 18-year-old mind.

      Now that I’ve read the book as an adult, I know that I was fascinated by the subtle way Lahiri describes relationships. Reading her stories feels like being an omniscient fly on the wall. There’s nothing flashy about her writing. It’s observational and richly detailed. Lahiri taught me to appreciate fiction that revolves around character development, rather than a complicated plot. I’ll always be grateful for that.
    • Misery: A Novel by Stephen King: I LOVE THIS BOOK. Oh, it’s just so creepy. The scariest books to me have nothing to do with the supernatural. They have to do with the crazies that lurk around every corner.

      If you’re not familiar, Misery is about an author who is held captive by his superfan, but it is SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. It is terrifying and suspenseful. (I am pretty ambivalent about the movie, but Kathy Bates is in.cred.ible. as Anne Wilkes, the deranged superfan. She won an Oscar for the role.)

    • Bossypants by Tina Fey: There are so many good things to say about this book. It’s smart and laugh-out-loud funny. For years, I had a bootleg copy (please forgive my sins) of the audiobook, and I would listen to it on long car trips (this must have been pre-Serial). Sometimes, I’ll remember a passage from this book at a random time, and laugh out loud in the elevator at work or while doing my makeup or waiting for a coffee.

      But the story that left the strongest impression for me is this: Tina and Amy Poehler and Jimmy Fallon are joking around at SNL. Amy is doing a bit, and Jimmy jokingly says “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”:

      “Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit.
      With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.”

      I think of this all the time. If I ever think of not doing something because I’m worried about what others will think, I remember my pretend-friends Tina and Amy. I’m here to do what I want to do, and I do not care if you like it.
    • Heartburn by Nora Ephron: This book is a fictionalized telling of Nora Ephron’s marriage to Carl Bernstein (one of the reporters who broke the Watergate scandal). It is SO GOOD. Ephron’s writing is conversational and frank and hilarious. There are also recipes. Gossipy novel about marriage + food = my dream book. Also the movie is excellent.
    • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: I have loved this book since the first time I read it in high school. It is horrifying, suspenseful, introspective, and just close enough to believable to be truly scary. I’ve read my copy so many times (and written more than one paper about it in college and grad school) that it’s tissue-soft. If you only know the Republic of Gilead from the Hulu show (which is excellent, but not the same), read this book.
    • The Secret History by Donna Tartt: This book is a combination of two things I love — complicated relationships with long backstories and MURDER. Seriously, this book starts with a bang and then unravels the backstory throughout the rest of the novel, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. If you read and loved The Goldfinch like everyone else in the world, this is by the same author, but it’s even BETTER.
    • American Wife: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld: If you haven’t noticed a pattern, I love long, multi-generational stories about families or close friend groups. I love reading about how relationships change over time and about the ways that we change ourselves to fit (or not) in a group of people. This novel, which is a fictionalization of First Lady Laura Bush’s life, is so great. It’s a light, easy read, but the discussions it prompts about personal values and the nature of marriage and family dynamics are complicated and fascinating. When I read this book in college, I liked it because it’s an interesting story about a woman. Reading it now, as a wife, adds another layer of appreciation. 
    • Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin: I’ve written about this book at length before. Reading it was the jump start to my healthy lifestyle. Seriously, before I read it, I hardly exercised, didn’t eat healthfully, thought that I didn’t have time to pursue other goals outside of work, etc!!! Read this book and learn how to change your own life through habit formation.
    • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: WOW. This book is insane, in the best way. It’s a collection of personal essays about the nature of inspiration and how to cultivate it. Reading this made me feel more creative, more confident in my skills, and more excited to develop skills that I thought were out of my reach. (Special honorable mentions go to State of Wonder: A Novel by Ann Patchett and The Signature of All Things: A Novel by Gilbert. Both EXCELLENT novels that are explicitly mentioned in Big Magic. The story of how the idea for State of Wonder developed is literal creative magic, and it’s worth reading the book for that anecdote alone.)

Ok. That was a lot. And now I have the NEED to reread all of those books immediately. Seriously, after I took photos, I just left them next to my nightstand. 

What are your favorites? I’m always looking to add new books to my reading list!  I especially want to hear if you’ve read any of my faves (even if you hated them).

Caitlin

Caitlin

Hi, I’m Caitlin! Thanks for reading. If you're new, here's a little about me: I'm a writer, editor, eater, and reader living in the Kansas City area. When I'm not working my 9-to-5, I'm cooking without a recipe, exploring the city, and probably procrastinating. I start from scratch each morning: progress is way more important to me than perfection.

Connect with me on Instagram and Pinterest, and subscribe to The Fruitful Blog for tips on intentional living, meal planning, and more.
Caitlin

Author: Caitlin

Hi, I’m Caitlin! Thanks for reading. If you're new, here's a little about me: I'm a writer, editor, eater, and reader living in the Kansas City area. When I'm not working my 9-to-5, I'm cooking without a recipe, exploring the city, and probably procrastinating. I start from scratch each morning: progress is way more important to me than perfection. Connect with me on Instagram and Pinterest, and subscribe to The Fruitful Blog for tips on intentional living, meal planning, and more.

6 thoughts on “My 10 Favorite Books”

  1. Well 7 out of 10 isn’t too bad in keeping up with your favorites! I recently finished Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. This memoir of growing up in eastern KY/southern Ohio gives a thought provoking look at culture and poverty in the Rust Belt.

  2. I adore Bossypants! Read it countless times. I used to dislike personal/professional development books, but I was assigned Brian Tracy’s Get Smart! a couple years back and it was the first time I made it through one cover to cover. I’ve read Little Women and Jane Eyre more times than I can count too, I tend to always go back to classics. Except for Harry Potter, I will be rereading Harry Potter consistently forever and ever.

    1. Jane Eyre is probably in my top ten. When all my friends were reading it in high school, I was on a big Hemingway kick and was not interested in that girly stuff. I read it a couple years ago and I loved it. I kind of want to go back in time and slap my 17 yo self upside the head.

  3. I liked Bossypants – that passage from the book is amazing. You should check out Amy Poehler’s book – I enjoyed it just as much if not more than Tina’s. I thoroughly enjoyed American Wife, too. For my top five, I love Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion, Station Eleven, In Cold Blood, A Moveable Feast, and Jane Eyre.

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