The best book I ever read (as told by 17 book lovers)

15 August 2019

One of the activities at our book swap party was a simple jar where gals could drop in their favorite books of all time – the ones they think everyone should read! I was SO intrigued to read the picks, and I thought you might be, too…

book recommendations

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak*
The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs
The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt*
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Defending Jacob by William Landay
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Educated by Tara Westover*
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine*
Field Notes on Love by Jennifer Smith
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter
I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Limelight by Amy Poeppel
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah*
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett*
The Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
The Stand by Stephen King
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
When I Pray For You by Matthew Paul Turner
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

…and Pressley suggested we all just follow Annie B. Jones for the best book recommendations!

I’ve cosigned with an * the ones I’ve read above, but consider this your end-of-summer reading list from a whole gaggle of smart, fun, well-read friends! :)

What would you add? Which books on this list can you cosign to?

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August 15, 2019 6:55 am

Still so sad I missed this fun party! East of Eden is breathtaking, Ella Enchanted was my fifth-grade obsession, and I Was Anastasia is on my list.

The best book I’ve ever read is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn–my $1 yard sale copy is one of my most treasured possessions and I’ve been reading it every summer since seventh grade. Dave finally read it earlier this year and it felt like he got to see another part of my heart. A little dramatic, but true!!

August 15, 2019 8:00 am

I am dying to re-create this party! I just moved and am making new friends so will have to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit but hoping to make it happen! :)

I love all these suggestions! I would add Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, which I first read in fifth grade and still holds a special place in my heart, as well as Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and for those who do not shy away from a dark mystery, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.

August 15, 2019 8:32 am

The book swap party was seriously SO much fun and a total dream for this book lover!! I have been keeping lists of my top books of all-time for at least 15 years now, and these are mine:

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
Bread and Wine, Shauna Niequist
Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis
Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah

Ah! Now I want to re-read (and re-re-re-read) all of these again!!

August 15, 2019 9:14 am

Yay, so excited about this list! I just added quite a few of this to my library queue! This was such a fun party :)

August 15, 2019 9:43 am

I would second The Sound of Gravel as just a fantastic memoir (especially if you enjoyed Educated), and love that Stephanie added The Signature of All Things in the comments! I’d also add:

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
I am I am I am by Maggie O’Farrell
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (a lot of my friends love this too!)
This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Shantaram (the ultimate adventure tale) by Gregory David Roberts
Beautiful Boy by David Sheff
The Twelve Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

August 15, 2019 9:44 am
Reply to  Marisa

And because the movie is coming out soon, also The Goldfinch!!!

Kelly Strawberry
August 15, 2019 10:32 am

“The Sound of Gravel” …a great memoir. I remember finishing this book and needing to recover, lol! I was trying to recall it a few weeks ago and couldn’t remember the name! So glad it was mentioned here. Definitely recommend it for anyone that loved Educated or similar stories.

August 15, 2019 5:42 pm

This is such a cool idea! I have a million favorite books, but off the top of my head, I’d include Ulysses by James Joyce, In Remembrance of Times Past (all 6 books) by Marcel Proust & The Debt to Pleasure by John Lancaster.

xoKaelen |

Jackie Kunhardt
August 16, 2019 10:17 pm

There are a handful of books here I’ve read and loved, but I was most happy to see Just Mercy on this list! I would tell anyone – if you can only read one book this year, read Just Mercy. I cried out of frustration after every chapter (no surprise to you, Em!) but it is a story every American should know and reckon with.

August 19, 2019 11:18 am

Some great books on the list and now some new ones to delve into – thanks for sharing!

August 20, 2019 8:59 am

LOVE this idea, and some great recommendations! Thanks Em x