Top 10 Favorite Books (To Date)

Over on Facebook, I'm part of the Fantasy Faction Book Group.  Today someone asked what our top ten favorite books of all time were.  The author of the post encouraged us to post our favorites even if they weren't necessarily in the science fiction and fantasy genres.  I was going to simply post mine but then I realized this is a bigger task than just providing a list.  I want to explain why these are my favorites, why they stick with me in ways other books have not. That makes this blog the perfect place to blather on about this subject.

Oh, I've decided that trilogies and series are going to count as one.

Also, I'm not sure I can truly order them so this list isn't necessarily moving from least favorite to most favorite even if it appears that way.  These books appear in the order they occur to me, nothing more. 

10.  The Handmaid's Tale.  

The Handmaid's Tale

I've read other Margaret Atwood books that I enjoy but this one holds a special place in my heart and psyche. The first time read about Offred and her plight, I was equally horrified and fascinated.  I wanted to believe such a future could never occur but I feared the possibility wasn't too outlandish because controlling women's body was (and still is) very much a thing in America.

For those who haven't read it and aren't familiar with this dystopian novel, Offred is a woman who has lost all her rights and privileges during a government coup.  Led by the a zealous religious faction that is concerned with reclaiming and reasserting the power of white men over all others, the United States is remade into a country where women are categorized by their oppressors into three categories:  wife, womb, or servant.  Offred is a walking womb; should her body fail her she is replaced by another and sent off to a colony where other useless women toil.

9.  The Stand.

The Stand

I'm not 100% sure, but I think this was the first post-apocalyptic novel I ever read.  It was epic.  It was more than just a tale of humanity's survival, though.  This story addresses a more fundamental conflict.  It pits Good against Evil and, although some may say this trope is overdone, I enjoyed it as a teenager.  This cosmic and often religious theme is one I still find fascinating when done well.

I also appreciate the fact that the apocalypse is man-made.  The US government's desire to weaponize the flu results in a super-flu that kills most of the nation's citizens, leaving a small percentage of those with natural immunity in its wake.  While survivors pair up, creating an ever bigger group, a supernatural evil is revealed in the form of Randall Flagg.  Situated opposite him in the narrative is Mother Abigail, who beckons to the survivors in their dreams.  Oh, the biblical symbolism is strong in this one!

8.  Harry Potter (the entire series).

Harry Potter Collection (Harry Potter, #1-6)

I didn't expect to love these books as much as I do.  I wasn't an adolescent or teenager when these books were released.  In the summer of 1997 I was in my twenties and pregnant (just barely) with my first child.  I was an adult and hadn't read a children's book in ages.  Yet, when concerned parents everywhere started to accuse these books of promoting witchcraft, I figured I should read them.  I picked them up expecting to be able to defend the books and call out the ridiculousness of the controversy.  I didn't expect to adore them. But I do!

J.K. Rowling expertly wove a tale from adolescence into adulthood.  The books matured right alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  I can see why an entire generation of young readers became lifelong readers thanks to her talent.

7.  Coldfire Trilogy

The Coldfire Trilogy: Black Sun Rising/ When True Night Falls/ Crown of Shadows

I love the premise of this trilogy.  Gerald Tarrant is one of the most compelling anti-heroes I have ever encountered in science fiction and fantasy.  Known as The Hunter, Gerald Tarrant, lives off the blood of the innocent.  He is the thing of nightmares on a planet that literally gives form to man's most fearsome imaginings Yet, within Tarrant there is an unyielding honor that requires him to be a man of his word, even if his promises threaten his very soul.  It is one such promise that forces him from his hunting grounds and into an alliance with a holy man that does not trust him.

This trilogy is more than a grand adventure.  It's a philosophical, or perhaps more accurately, a theological debate in the guise of fiction.

6.  Watership Down

Watership Down

I have a thing for animal protagonists.  As a little kid, I would fantasize about being able to talk to animals.  Okay, I may still fantasize a bit about how interesting it would be to be able to communicate telepathically with critters of every shape and size.  I think it's this strange secret wish that tends to warm my little heart whenever animals take center stage in a book.  In Watership Down, Hazel and the other rabbits are searching for a new warren.  Their journey is long and perilous.  They learn about themselves, each other, and strange others along the way.  They seek the answer to the question of what they want in the community they hope to create.

For a bunch of rabbits, they sure do have some very human concerns.

5.  The (Incomplete) Exiles Trilogy

The Ruins of Ambrai (Exiles, #1)

I hesitated to add these to the list but, the fact of the matter is, if Melanie Rawn ever publishes The Captal's Tower, I will be first in line to buy it!  The likelihood of her completing the trilogy, though, is slim to none.  The Mageborn Traitor was released in 1997.  That's twenty years of nothing.  That's twenty years for people like me to come to terms with the fact that the conclusion to Cailet and Sarra's story will never be told.

Still, I hope....because there was something compelling and magical about these two sisters.  About the husband to one and brother-in-law to the other.

Damn it, I really want my ending, Melanie Rawn!!

4. Ready Player One

Ready Player One

This book is just plain fun, especially for those of us intimately familiar with the 1980s.  The cultural references might annoy some but I found them delightful.

I also thought the premise resulted in an enjoyable plot line that made the pages turn fairly quickly.  Let's just say I was never bored!

In the tradition of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Wade's golden ticket is in solving a puzzle that's embedded in the virtual utopia of OASIS.  In order to win it all, he must solve several clues, which are buried in 1980s music, television shows, movies, and video games.

3.  Harriet the Spy

Harriet the Spy (Harriet the Spy #1)

I was in Middle School when I read this book.  What I remember most is finding a character that was just like me.  Harriet's notebook with its maps, observations, suppositions, and opinions was a touchstone for the budding writer in me.  I wanted Harriet to be my friend.  Or I wanted to be Harriet.  I'm not sure which is more true.

I really should give this one a re-read because I don't remember much beyond Harriet's notebook.  I don't remember any of the other characters or even the plot that hinges on Harriet's notebook falling into the wrong hands.

2.  The Malory-Anderson Family Series

Love Only Once (Malory-Anderson Family, #1)

This is the first book in the Malory-Anderson family series, which I believe is currently comprised of twelve books.  This is the book that introduces two of the most memorable secondary characters I've ever run across.  Luckily, Uncle Tony and Uncle James not only get their own love stories, they are pretty much guaranteed to make at least a cameo appearance in their nieces', nephews', and children's love stories, too.

I had to add this series to the list of all-time favorites because whenever life overwhelms me and I need a chuckle, I will go reacquaint myself with the Malory and Andersons.  Not only are the characters familiar friends, the books are bubble gum reads that require no mental taxation.  And sometimes that's just what I need.

1.  The Black Jewels Trilogy

The Black Jewels Trilogy: Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness (The Black Jewels, #1-3)

I loved this trilogy. As I said in my review, it made me laugh and cry as I read it.  In this story I followed a young, lonely girl as she discovered that family is not determined by blood but by love.  Of course, there was an interesting magic system, which is also something I adore.

It's Hard Being a Parent

The early days.
It's easy to look on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat Stories and think that life is nothing but rainbows and sunshine.  But, you know what?  Rainbows are only possible because there's been a bit of rain.  We all have rain in our lives, those moments when we are sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, or hurt.

Today is one of those days. 

I am sad.  My heart is heavy with disappointment. 

My oldest boy finally had a job that might have turned out to be more than just a part-time gig with crappy hours and low wages.  This job had potential on a small, modest scale.  It would have taken him time to advance and earn a living wage, but the possibility existed.  

Now it does not. 

He found out today that they were letting him go.  Only, no one there had the decency or professionalism to tell him.  He had to call and inquire because they weren't scheduling him any hours. Two weeks passed before someone had the decency to let him know he should be looking for a new job.

Maybe this job didn't have the potential I thought it did.  Maybe their lack of professionalism is something worth considering....bullet dodged, perhaps?

Now, I'm not going to tell you he didn't do something that earned him this non-confrontational dismissal.  He didn't handle a situation with another co-worker very well.  He handled it all sorts of wrong even if his heart was in the right place.  On the bright side, I think he's learned a valuable lesson in what-not-to-do at the workplace.  He also learned that sometimes doing the right thing is more complicated than it may first seem.  His instincts to protect that girl are commendable.  Next time, though, he knows he should simply remove her from the abuser's presence and take her directly to management to make a report.  Confrontation was not the answer.

I know today's little hiccup is really just that...a hiccup.  A small unpleasantness that will soon pass.  Yet, it's hard not to take these little set-backs personally, to wonder if your child's failures and hardships are somehow directly tied to you and your parenting choices. 

Then I remember that children are not an extension of ourselves but their own autonomous beings.  They get to make their own mistakes.  Decisions and actions have consequences that have nothing to do with whether or not I let them play too many video games, didn't give them enough chores, or spoiled them when perhaps I shouldn't have.

Sometimes parenting can feel like you're standing in a downpour without an umbrella or a pair of rubber boots to ward against the unpleasant deluge.  Today is one of those days.  I'm sad.  Disappointed.

Luckily, the sun will shine again and my boy will be just fine.  Lessons have been learned.  

Recommendations for the Reluctant Pre-teen Reader

My cousin asked for some reading recommendations for her pre-teen daughter today.  It seems this girl child will pick up a comic book or a graphic novel but wants nothing to do with chapter books.  Oh, how I remember these days!  My boys did the same thing to me.  They hated reading and it about killed me.

I mean, seriously, I read ALL THE TIME.  I put one book down and have to go find my next read.  It's compulsive. 

So...being a reader that has given birth to non-readers is it's own special kind of sorrow.

I don't know that any of my recommendations will ignite a reading frenzy in my cousin's daughter, but I hope something in this list of books will appeal to her.

The Recommendations

First and foremost, when I think of pre-teen girls and reading, I think of Anne of Green Gables.

Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables, #1)

I read this book and others in the series to my younger sisters when they were just about my little cousin's age.  We adored these books.  Anne is funny and smart and quite unintentionally mischievous.

Added bonus:  When she finishes reading the book, rent the movie!


I think someone else has already recommended this, but she's pretty much the perfect age for the early Harry Potter books.  Things are still quite safe in the Wizarding World in the first three books.  After that, things do get a bit more grim, but not inappropriate.  Just darker.  The books mature right alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermoine. 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)


Another fun fantasy read would be the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan. In his first book, The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson discovers he a demigod, the child of a god and human.  Spirited away to a secret camp where demigods train in a variety of useful skills, he discovers that his father is Poseidon.  The book is fun and fast-paced. It introduces a bunch of Greek mythology. 

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)

I've yet to read the other mythology-based children's books Rick Riordan has written, but I imagine they are just as compelling.


I must admit, I've not read this book myself, but it is on my TBR.  I've seen the movie at least a good half-dozen times and expect I'll watch it a dozen more in my lifetime.

Added bonus:  There's a movie you can use as a reward for finishing the book!  And if she's already seen the movie, familiarity may make the reading experience faster and easier. 

The Princess Bride


This one might be pushing it in terms of grade level accessiblity.  However, I have a soft spot in my heart for the creatures of Redwall.  In this first book in a very long series, we are introduced to a variety of woodland creatures that call Redwall Abby home.  Led by a brave little mouse, these peace-loving creatures face off against a bilge rat and his horde of invaders.

Redwall (Redwall, #1)


Another childhood favorite of mine is Harriet the Spy.  Armed with her pencil and notebook, this girl writes down everything she observes and wonders about the people around her, including friends, family, and teachers alike.  When the notebook goes missing, it only stands to reason the very people she doesn't want reading the book will read it.  What a mess.  A mess Harriety is going to have to work very hard at cleaning up.

Harriet the Spy (Harriet the Spy #1)


This one I would want mom to read first if she's never read it herself.  It's a growing up story that deals with one of life's great inconveniences for all of womanhood -- if you get my drift.  But, had I been blessed with a daughter, this would have been required reading.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret