Brian Doyle, in One Long River of Song, writes about visiting his wife’s apartment (before she was his wife) and finding just four novels on the shelf by her bed. He beautifully describes what those four books say about her. That essay left me contemplating what my favorite stories whisper about me. But I first had to decide what my most treasured novels actually are (and I reserve the right to alter this list at any time). In attempting to make my list as short as possible, I chose books that I’ve read multiple times, usually decades apart, and a couple that have most recently expanded and inspired me. I asked myself “why these books?” and found some commonalities. They aren’t impossible to put down, but ones that I always look forward to reading (page turners are fun, but quickly forgotten). Most of the books I chose are narrated by a mature character, who tells their own coming of age story. When I read, I look to be educated, entertained, and/or enlightened. For me the magic happens when all three align.
The Top Six:
David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
How Green Was My Valley (Richard Llewellyn)
East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
The Wednesday Wars (Gary D. Schmidt)
Howard’s End (E.M. Forster)
Pride and Predudice/Persuasion (Jane Austen)
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman)
A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles)
I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith)
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)–I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as an adult, but when I first read it at 15, it launched me into a love of reading.