My 10 Favorite Books
Let me be clear from the beginning, I’ve probably read thousands of books.
I can’t actually remember not being able to read. Call it the mark of an only child, but when I was a kid, I spent almost every spare moment reading. I remember zipping through two or three Nancy Drew books in a weekend and summers spent at the public library. Even as an adult, I rarely left the house without a book in my purse or bag.
Then came law school.
And reading didn’t hold quite the same appeal that it had.
I go through phases where I read, and phases where I don’t, and when I don’t, I actually miss it. All of that being said, books and reading are still incredibly familiar and comforting to me. Of course, as much as I’ve read over a lifetime, I have my favorites. I’m just going to do single books for the time being, and consider doing a list on series in another post.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I know it’s probably cliché to include this, but it truly is one of my favorites. For those you who haven’t read it, it has some tough, ugly lessons to be learned. The book follows 10-year-old narrator, Scout, her brother Jem, and her lawyer dad, Atticus, in the small Alabama town where they live. It became the definitive commentary on racism, righteousness, and coming of age with a setting anyone raised in the South can recognize. Read it without any preconceived notions and just enjoy it for what it is…a beautiful novel that will stay with you long after you finish reading it.
2. The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
The first Grisham book I ever read, it appealed to because the protagonist is a female law school student., and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a master of plot development. This is a story about using the skills you learn in law school for one of the best reasons possible, to protect the most vulnerable. It’s well written, suspenseful, and like most of Grisham’s novels, infinitely readable.
3. The Blooding by Joseph Wambaugh
This is the true story of a serial rapist and murderer preying on young women in a small English town and the investigation surrounding his ultimate capture. Wambaugh is a former police officer and takes the reader through an authentic experience of seeing law enforcement use DNA fingerprinting to solve a criminal case for the very first time. Told in a fictional tone, you’ll fly through this fascinating book, and then start immediately searching for more of Wambaugh’s work.
4. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
I read Interview with the Vampire, the first of Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, not long after it was published, and even though she followed it with several sequels, it remains my favorite. As the title suggests, the lives of 200-year-old vampire, Louis, and the vampire who created him, Lestat, are recounted to an interviewer (not identified in this book, but named in subsequent volumes). It’s visually rich and engrossing, completely compelling, and you’ll be just a little bit enamored of all of them by the time you’re done.
5. Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton
This book is for every Southerner who spent summers at their grandmother’s house, lulled to sleep on the screen covered porch by the hypnotic chirp of crickets and cicadas, a hot breeze tinkling the wind chimes you made her in sixth grade art class. If you were born below the Mason-Dixon Line, it will take you back, if you weren’t, it will give you a poignant glimpse inside the aging of America, and how the most unlikely of friends can become your saving grace.
6. The Alienist by Caleb Carr
Alienist is a now seldom used term for a psychiatrist, but as this book recounts events occurring in 1896, it’s an apt title. Carr uses a fascinating technique of combining real life historical figures with fictional characters to weave a captivating tale of employing new investigative techniques to identify and apprehend a serial killer in New York City. At the end of the nineteenth century, that meant fingerprinting and a undeveloped form of psychological profiling. This is a hefty 496 pages, but it is so well written, you’ll be done before you realize it.
7. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
I read this second novel of King’s sitting in a temporary building when I was supposed to be studying eighth grade history. It was probably a little more book than I should have been reading at that time, but the tale of a small Maine town being taken over by vampires was more than I could resist. King has a way of writing that makes the most improbable situations the stuff that your nightmares are made of. The movie was disappointing, but the book still scares the pants off of me, today.
8. One L by Scott Turow
Before there was John Grisham, there was Scott Turow. One L is a non-fiction account of Turow’s first year at Harvard Law School (One L/1L/One Law references first year law students). Now, while I did not attend Harvard Law School, and I went roughly 20 years after he attended, I can honestly tell you, my experience was not that much different. Turow so accurately captured the struggle of balancing the intensive work with supporting yourself and trying to remember life outside of school. It’s a must read for everyone even considering going to law school.
9. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
A friend had recommended this book a long time before I actually read it, and then when I did, I wished I’d read it sooner. Described as a book of non-fiction written in a novelistic style, this follows Dr. H.H. Holmes’ reign of terror that haunted the city of Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair. Holmes is touted as America’s first serial killer and this book will surely give you a little pause in the quiet hours of the night.
10. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
In this book, Harris introduces us to the cannibalistic murdering psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lector. He is a consultant, here, as he is in Silence of the Lambs, and he’s just as creepy on paper, as is Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal. This is the story of FBI profiler Will Graham and his identification and eventual capture of a serial killer they call The Tooth Fairy. Although now obsolete, the way in which The Tooth Fairy selected his victims will more than set you ill-at-ease.
And there you have it! Maybe I should be concerned in that I sense a bit of a theme going, there. 😉 At any rate, these are ten books that, for a variety of reasons, have stuck with me. Tell me about the books that have had a lasting impact on you, in the comments.
As an additional resource, for those of you who are students, or for those of you, like me, geek out at deeper meanings and symbolism, Spark Notes is a fabulous website, if not a bit of a rabbit hole. But only of the best kind!
Stay tuned for a post on my top 10 series books.