My mom and I were recently discussing our favorite books, and although we like a lot of the same ones, we disagreed on our top picks. So I thought it would be fun to share both of our top five lists in one blog post. Over the weekend I was telling my dad about the post and he weighed in with his. This might have turned into my favorite post of all time!
My parents are both incredibly well-read, far more than I am. They were both English majors and have prioritized their literary education throughout all stages of life in different ways. My mom even writes a book blog! You can tell a lot about all three of us based on our choices and our descriptions of each book.
I had a really hard time creating my list because I love so many books, and by the end of the day I’ll probably remember 20 more that I wish I could have included, but I spent a good week thinking about this and feel like it represents my taste perfectly.
Check out our lists and let me know some of your favorite books so I can add them to my reading list!
My 5 Favorite Books
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I will never forget the first time I was sucked into the glamorous and mysterious life of Jay Gatsby. It was during my tumultuous teenage years when I needed a little escape from my raging hormones and all of the high school drama. I felt transported into another world and loved it so much that I committed to reading it once a year for the rest of my life. Since then I’ve probably read it 4-5 times (not every year), and I notice something new with each read. And for the record, I also loved the Baz Luhrmann movie even though it got mixed reviews.
2. Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) by Giuseppe de Lampedusa
I don’t know if I love this book so much because of the circumstances in which I read it or because of the book itself. But either way I think of it fondly and often. I read it in Italian twice and once in English and although I could grasp it better in English, the Italian version was even more beautiful. My grandparents bought me an early edition (pictured) a few years ago and it’s one of my most prized possessions. I’m going to read it again this year.
3. The Corrections by Jonathen Franzen
Jonathen Franzen can create family drama on paper like no one else. I also love Freedom and Purity, two of his other novels. His characters are all complicated and generally deeply troubled that makes you both love and hate each one. I don’t know what it is about his writing that draws me in so intensely, but I remember staying up until 3am finishing The Corrections despite the fact that it wasn’t a thriller.
4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls / Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
When I read The Glass Castle 12 years ago, it was the first memoir that I couldn’t put down. I couldn’t believe that Jeannette and her siblings grew up the way they did and survived their childhood. It’s an incredible story and an important look at how mental health issues can impact a family if not treated. Then I recently read Educated (full review here) and it rivaled The Glass Castle in a big way. There were many similarities and I can’t decide which one was more poignant so I had to include both on my list!
5. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett is probably my favorite contemporary writer. I’ve read almost all of her books (State of Wonder is still on my list) and the way she develops characters is magical. Most recently, she is known for Commonwealth (which I also loved), but Bel Canto is by far my favorite.
My Mom’s 5 Favorite Books
1. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
A comic romance about a family with five marriageable daughters, one of whom is particularly lively and has a particularly lively courtship. A wise and witty narrator and a host of splendid character.
2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A big knockout of a novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color. So many different genres: coming-of-age novel, romance, comic novel of social manners, up-to-the-minute meditation on race, as well as the immigrant saga.
3. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
An intricate family chronicle of a missionary family in the Congo—where their faith in Jesus, democracy, and civilization is severely challenged. Alternating chapters are narrated through different daughters’ points of view.
4. Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary
A lively, thorough, and easy-to-read history that made me rethink and understand Islam (both the religion and its political dimension) from a completely different perspective.
5. History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage
A completely different and amusing way of viewing history—centering on the role that six beverages have played in the world’s history: such as beer in Mesopotamia and Egypt, coffee in the Age of Reason, tea in the English Empire, and Coke in today’s America.
My Dad’s 5 Favorite Books
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The great American Novel.
2. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
A perfect coming of age story.
3. The Magus by John Fowles
My favorite postmodern novel.
4. The Prairie by James Fenimore Cooper
An amazing look at the development of America in the 19th Century.
5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Amazing and an interesting look at obsession. I’m probably the only person who reads your blog that has read Moby Dick three times. Editor’s note: I think he’s the only person anywhere who has read Moby Dick three times LOL.
Runner up: Bonfire of the Vanities. It captures NYC in the 80’s like no other book.
Photos by Julia Dags.