15 March 2011

30 Books To Read Before You Die

I took part in this e-swap and just sent it off this morning.  Since I though others might be interested in it as well, I thought I'd put my list here for all to read.  Please, feel free to tell me some of your favorite books, talk about the ones I have here and debate me.  I'd love to hear other people's opinions.


  1. The Gruffalo by Julia Dodson - One of the best kids' books I've ever read.  It's the story of a mouse who makes up a creature to scare of those that want to eat him... only to find that the creature exists!
  2. Sandman by Neil Gaiman - This is a graphic novel series and is brilliance personified.  Then again, I think that Neil Gaiman is brilliance personified.  There are 7 Endless - beings that personify certain aspects of life.  The graphic novels follow the story of Morpheus, the personification of Dream.  It's just... beautiful.  Sometimes disturbing, but beautiful.
  3. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - I was assigned this book in a college contemporary literature class.  I have recommended it to everyone I know.  Two friends, outsiders both, learn about destiny, faith and the world around them.
  4. Women of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong - I love paranormal books, particular paranormal romance.  And this is the best written of the whole genre.  The world is nicely fleshed out, the rules for the supernaturals make sense and they characters are incredibly real.  I started partway into the series, but it wasn't that much of a problem.  So if you see one, pick it up and enjoy.
  5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - This is a great book for kids and adults alike.  Beautifully written and very evocative, it's the story of Nobody Owens, a living boy, who came to live in a cemetery and become family to the ghosts who lived there.
  6. American Gods by Neil Gaiman -  Put simply, the Gods are real.  The Gods of the Old World have come to America with their believers, but in today's society, they are starting to fail and the Gods of Today (like Internet) are taking over.  Shadow, a man recently released from prison because of the death of his wife in a car accident, agrees to help the Old Gods in their upcoming battle with the New Gods.
  7. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A Heinlein - This is, in my opinion, one of Heinlein's best.  I even put it over Stranger in a Strange Land.  The moon had become the new Botany Bay, with criminals being sent there for a life sentence.  Several generations have now lived there, most of them free yet still under the rule of the prison system.  A small group, including a sentient computer, come together to free the people of the moon to live as they wish.
  8. To Sail Beyond Sunset by Robert Heinlein - This is my favorite of Heinlein's books.  It's not nearly as well known as some of his others, but it's still brilliantly done.  I recognize a lot of myself in the POV character, Maureen.  She is a woman, born in the late 1800s, who is part of a family of long lived ancestors.  A foundation has been set up to try to lengthen people's ages and Maureen agrees to marry someone from the list, just as her father and mother had before her.  The story follows her life from around 12 years old to the 2nd World War.  And it really is an interesting life.
  9. Book Lust series by Nancy Pearl - These books are made for readers!  A series of books that recommend other great books for you to read.  So far, there are 4 books in the series (plus 2 journals): Book Lust, More Book Lust, Book Lust to Goand Book Crush.  Seriously, if you haven't picked these up before, you need to!
  10. Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman - This is another fantastic graphic novel by Neil Gaiman.  What if super heroes were starting to appear in 1602, as some are getting ready to sail to the New World?  I had a lot of fun with this trying to figure out which characters in the 1602 storyline corresponded with the Marvel characters that I knew.
  11. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore - Yes, this is pretty dark.  But that's one of it's appeals.  England is now under Fascist rule and all seems to be going well... except for one little thorn in their side by the name of V.  The artwork is brilliant and the plot is engaging.
  12. Watchmen by Alan Moore - This is one of Alan Moore's later works, but it packs the same kind of punch as V for Vendetta.  Someone is killing, and trying to discredit, members of the Crimebusters, a group of costumed heroes.  Where the story takes you is unexpected, but wonderful.
  13. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown - I'm sure you've heard of this one.  Most people have.  But that doesn't make it any less a wonderful book.  I love to read this one to my boys before they go to sleep at night.
  14. House of Destiny by Janet Leigh - I got this book as a freebie from Harlequin (back when I was getting Harlequin).  And I fell in love with it.  As soon as I'd finished it, I went back to the front to start it again.  It's the story of Jude Abavas and his unlikely friendship with Wade Colby.  Jude is the child of immigrants, working and living in Sun Valley, Idaho.  Wade is a movie star.  The two strike up a friendship when Wade comes to visit Sun Valley for some skiing.  Through the story, Jude becomes Wade's assistant, then a player in Hollywood within his own right.  It's a wonderful view of the Beautiful People from around the 30s on.  It's been panned by a lot of people, but I really liked it.
  15. Where's My Cow by Terry Pratchett - I'd never read the Discworld novels and I got this as a shower gift when I was pregnant with my oldest son.  It soon became a favorite in our household.  You don't need to know Discworld to find it fun.  A father has the responsibility to put his son to bed and read him stories.  One night, while he's reading a barnyard animal book, he realizes that this is a world that his son won't know.  The next night, he creates a story for his son about the people that are in his world.  Funny, brilliant and wonderful.
  16. Curtain by Agatha Christie - I love Agatha Christie's writing, and I love Hercule Poirot.  So you'd think that Poirot's last story would be something I despise rather than my favorite.  You couldn't be more wrong.  Poirot, nearing the end of his days, has gone to Styles for one last case, calling in his old friend, Hastings, to help.  There are twists at the end that you really don't see coming.  I just adore the book.
  17. The Bishop/SCU series by Kay Hooper - If you like paranormal romance, this one is for you!  The FBI has created a Special Crimes Unit under an engaging and enigmatic man by the name of Bishop.  Bishop, and all the members of the SCU, have something special that lets them resolve the cases they deal with - each and every one of them has psionic powers of some stripe.  The books follow different members of the unit as they go to investigate their cases - and often, fall in love in the process.
  18. True Love by Robert Fulghum - This book does my romantic heart good.  It's an book of love stories.  Robert Fulgham, after having told some of his own story in Uh-Oh, asked readers to send in their own stories for inclusion in the book.  He also got stories from strangers by sitting in a Seattle Coffee house.  The stories are touching, whimsical, sad and just about every other emotion that comes with love.
  19. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling - I'm pretty sure everyone's heard of Harry Potter.  I got the first four books from a book club and read them over the course of a couple days.  I couldn't believe I had to wait for the 5th book to come out.  I wanted them all now!  As each of the following books came out, I had it in my hands on release day and finished it that night.  I've laughed and cried with the books, been on edge and sighed relief.  I've been surprised and saddened.  To me, that's what a good book is.
  20. The 39 Clues series by multiple authors - The 39 Clues is a kids book series that I'm loving reading.  Right now, my family and I are listening to the audio books every night as a way to get away from the TV and have some together time.  The Cahills are the most important family in the world.  Most of the well known people in our history have been Cahills.  Now the matriarch of one branch of the family, upon her death, has set up a challenge to those members of the family willing to take it - a search for 39 clues that, when solved, will ultimately make them the most powerful people in the world.  Her two young grandchildren, Amy (14) and Dan (11), have decided to take on this challenge.  They have no money, no influence... but a large amount of smarts.  The books take the reader all over the world with Dan and Amy and teach kids and adults alike some fun facts about history through good storytelling.
  21. Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan - This is another YA series that I've fallen in love with.  The Greek and Roman Gods are real, and have been a bit... busy... with some of the mortals.  As such, there are quite a few DemiGods wandering around... and some of them don't even know it!  The books follow Percy Jackson through the trials he needs to go through to help prevent a prophecy from coming true, a prophecy in which he plays a very important part.
  22. The Five People You'll Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom - I'd never had any desire to read this.  Generally, I don't read a book just because it's got a lot of hype around it.  But one day, I started reading the first chapter through ArcaMax's BookDaily.  And I found myself needing to know what happened next.  Eddie, a maintenance worker at an amusement park, has had a long, rough life.  He isn't where he wanted to be.  And then, with a selfless act, he dies and meets five people in heaven who show him just how important his life really was.
  23. Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony - This is somewhat in the same vein as the Sandman series, but much more humorous.  The Immortals are humans that are tapped for the job.  And it is a job.  Nothing is quite as easy as it seems.  All the books intertwine wonderfully.  
  24. MYTH Adventures series by Robert Asprin - Puns, word play, humor... that's what this series is all about.  I get into a huge punning contest with friends whenever I read it.  The books follow the story of Skeeve, a journeyman magician, and his best friend Aahz, a demon (which is short for dimensional traveler).  I think I need to reread this series again.  I can use some humor and it's been awhile.
  25. Thieves World ed by Robert & Lynn Asprin - The books are anthologies in a shared world and edited by Robert & Lynn Asprin.  Through the books, you get to learn more about the denizens of the city of Sanctuary, which, honestly, isn't a very nice place to live.  The world is rich and varied and the writing by all the authors is great.  While also a fantasy book, it's not the humor fest that MYTH Adventures is.
  26. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - These were my favorite books as a child, and still are something I'll pull out to read about once a year.  The books follow the life of the writer, Laura Ingalls (before she became a Wilder) and her family's travels westward in the late 1800s.  They are both autobiographical and fictionalized and a wonderful read.
  27. The Tyler series by multiple authors - This is another one that I got as a freebie from Harlequin.  I managed to get the first few books in the series before cancelling my membership and then went on a mad hunt to find the rest of the books.  I've only read the first series, but I adore it.  In the small town of Tyler, WI, a body is uncovered while renovating an old lodge.  The thread through the series is the mystery of this body, buried for 50 years.  Being Harlequin, each book also centers around a romance, though I read it more for the mystery aspect.
  28. The Knight series by Peter David - Peter David is another of my favorite authors.  He's done damned near everything - novels, short stories, TV scripts, movie scripts, comics... and they're all wonderful.  The first book of his that I read was a Star Trek: TNG book.  But the Knight Series is my favorite.  It's King Arthur, dumped in the middle of New York with his only friend (at least, at the beginning) a 10 year old Merlin.
  29. Trio of Magic by Mercedes Lackey - I reviewed this book on my blog.  I'd initially picked it up for the new Di Tregarde story (a Guardian in NYC, using magic to keep the world safe) but fell in love with the whole book.  I suggest picking up this book, especially if you like fantasy.
  30. The Outsiders by SE Hinton - I read this in middle school and felt a kinship with Ponyboy Curtis.  He's a smart, sensitive boy who lives in a world of Socs (those that have) and Greasers (those who have not).  He and his best friend Johnny leave town quickly when Johnny kills a Soc in order to keep Ponyboy from being killed.  It's a wonderful coming of age story. 
  31. Watership Down by Richard Adams - I saw the animated movie when I was a young kid, and sought out the book when I was older.  The story follows a group of rabbits who, after being forced out of their old warren by men with smoke and guns, are searching for a new place to live.  It takes them awhile to find their new home, and along the way they come across other warrens of rabbits that aren't quite right.  It's a very compelling story.
  32. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - I first read this in sixth grade and loved it.  Being a lover of words as I am, the different areas that Milo and Tock explore excited me.   It just goes to show that nothing is boring, if you know where to look.
  33. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery - This is just a beautiful book.  Short and beautifully illustrated, it tells the story of a lone pilot, crashed in the Sahara Desert, and the little prince that he meets there.  
  34. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley - Mists of Avalon is my favorite Arthurian Legend novel.  Instead of the very male-centric telling that most stories are told in, this is told from the point of Arthur's older sister, Morgana, later to be known as Morgan le Fey.  It shows an alternate possibility for why things happened the way they did... and Morgana wasn't as evil as men would lead you to believe.
  35. Callahan's series by Spider Robinson - Callahan's is the bar I want to go to.  It's a place that you only find when you need it, out on the end of Long Island.  Strange things happen at Callahan's - talking dogs, people from the future, alien invasions, and the healing of souls.  Drinks, back in the beginning, were 50c but could only be paid for with a dollar bill.  At the end of your drink, you could either pick up your 50c from the box on the bar or throw your glass into the fire in a toast.  There was a lot of shattered glass in that fireplace.  One of the rules in Callahan's is that no one talks that doesn't want to.  Yet most people find that they feel comfortable opening up there.  Because, as Callahan's Law states, "Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased."