It’s hard to pick just TEN books to mention today – there are so many more that I might have included in this discussion. Still, I’ve tried to limit myself a bit, giving you ten classics and ten suggestions for what to read next. Don’t forget to leave the link to your top ten list of classics below!
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
This classic piece of Canadiana is almost unspoken required reading for young people in Canada. From the moment the awkward, chatty red-haired orphan that is Anne bursts onto the page we are right there with her, kindred spirits throughout all her adventures, and we can’t wait to see what each chapter’s delights will bring. There’s a cultural touchstone to this book that grounds us and the characters of Anne Shirley, Gilbert Blythe and others are as real to us as our own family. It’s so dear to me that I re-read the entire series every year. Read this? Then read Emily of New Moon by the same author.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I’ll confess right now that I didn’t read this until I was well into my thirties, and when my niece was assigned it as part of her high school English reading list. Did I feel like I missed out? Partly, but I also believe that I gained more from reading this as adult as I was able to see so many points of view in this class American tale of racism and (in)justice. The lesson that not all good deeds are rewarded is a tough one to swallow, especially when you don’t have much life experience to back it up. Deservedly, it won the Pulitzer in 1961, and remains one of the most compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving books of the century. Read this? Then read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Reading this in university was trans-formative – the concept of Shakespeare’s mythical sister, doomed to live her life without writing a word resonated with me. Woolf’s assertion that every woman requires some money and a room of their own in order to create gave value and dignity to a concept I had struggled to accept. Having a family or not was not the issue but rather carving out time and a place for yourself most definitely was, and continues to be something my friends and I strive for in our lives. Read this? Then read The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
Unless by Carol Shields
Unless is a story of a mother and a daughter, of thinking you have the world by the tail and having everything upended around you and about trying to live with the aftermath. It’s beautiful and haunting and stays with you for days after you finish. Carol Shields created a quiet little masterpiece in this book, and you will try to piece together why Reta’s daughter has chosen to withdraw from society through Reta’s own eyes. It also has one of my favourite quotes: “Unless you’re lucky, unless you’re healthy, fertile, unless you’re loved and fed, unless you’re offered what others are offered, you go down in the darkness, down to despair.” Read this? Then read Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Words can’t begin to describe how many tears I shed while reading this book. Beyond “The Fault in our Stars”, beyond anything in recent memory, this book left me an emotional wreck and cursing Dickens. It also influenced my view of France when I traveled there for the first time. In my mind I saw the tumblers taking Sydney away and heard “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” in my ears. A Tale of Two Cities is an epic tale of drama, revolution, love and heartbreak, with memorable characters – Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, Lucie Manette, Madame Defarge – but also a powerful study of crowd psychology and the dark emotions aroused by the Revolution. I envy anyone who is reading it for the first time. Read this? Now read Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy.
The Library At Night by Alberta Manguel
As a librarian, I couldn’t resist including this one … While constructing his library in a renovated old home in France, Manguel was forced to examine his own reading habits, leading to a broader discussion. He explores the history and meaning of libraries around the world, and how reading has been celebrated throughout the ages. In the end, this book is an account of Manguel’s astonishment at the variety, beauty and persistence of our efforts to shape the world and our lives, most notably through something almost as old as reading itself: libraries. Read this? Now read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.
The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Beautifully written, with every word weighted for meaning and emotion, The Ocean At the End of the Lane began as a short story for his wife and evolved into something tremendously lovely and chilling at the same time. When a middle-aged man returns to his rural family home, he is drawn back to the Hempstock’s pond. There, he remembers (he thinks) the most wonderfully outrageous things … but memory, he learns, is tricky, and not all that we remember is what was. Wondrous, imaginative, impossible, and at times deeply scary, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is classic Neil Gaiman. Read this? Now read The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
What would happen if your crayons could tell you what they really thought of your artwork? What if your red crayon had a particular opinion on its usage? What colour SHOULD the sun be – yellow or orange? Daywalt and Jeffers pair together seamlessly, creating a story that charms the reader and invites discussion and many unusual artwork creations long after the cover has closed. As well, the story’s brilliantly illustrated pictures match the just-right snarky text that grabs readers from page one, making it fun for parents to read (always a bonus!). This is a new classic that will be on bookshelves for decades to come. Read this? Now read Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web is the story of a little girl named Fern who loved a little pig named Wilbur—and of Wilbur’s dear friend Charlotte A. Cavatica, a beautiful large grey spider who lived with Wilbur in the barn. It’s more than that, though, as sixty-two years of loyal readers will attest. It is a story of friendship, faith and renewal, It is a story of the magic of childhood on the farm. It is a story that still has the power to make me cry more than thirty years after I first read it, and one that I’ve read aloud to hundreds of kids in a classroom. I’ll never forget the anxious little face that accompanied the pull on my skirt when I stopped reading after revealing what happened to Charlotte. “Miss….” he said, “You aren’t going to stop now, are you?” I’ve never met a child who wasn’t entranced by Wilbur, Charlotte, Templeton and the rest of the barnyard, and it will continue to speak to generations to follow. Read this? Now read Millhouse by Natale Ghent.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
When you visit family in the Canadian Maritimes, you can’t help but love the lupines that grow wild on the sides of the roads. To me, they are childhood memories, of salty air and sea breezes, of warm sun on my face during the long car journeys and time with my family. It’s why I continue to put the seeds in my mom’s stockings whenever I can find them. Barbara Cooney’s story of Alice Rumphius, who longed to travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful, has a timeless quality that resonates with each new generation. The countless lupines that bloom along the coast of Maine are the legacy of the real Miss Rumphius, the Lupine Lady, who scattered lupine seeds everywhere she went. Read this? Now read Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox.
Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because they love to share lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that one of their bloggers will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don’t have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It’s a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.