Today, dreams come true. Today, I get to talk about books and participate in what I hope will be an extensive group chat with all of you about your favorite books. I am thrilled. Can you tell??
If you’ll indulge me for a sec, I’ll tell you why I geek out about talking about books and hearing people talk about books. First of all, I am an introvert who loves connecting with people. I always, and I mean always, want to get deep. We just met? Great, what are your deepest fears and what was your father like growing up? This is abrasive and weird, I know, so growing up I was in my head a lot. I was constantly wondering what people were thinking and feeling. WHAT A WEIRDO. So, reading books was like getting into someone else’s head. It’s actually the only thing akin to “walking a mile I someone else’s shoes”. When you read, you find out what people (albeit characters) actually experience, feel, and think. Reading is how you learn empathy! If everyone read a personal story about someone they think they hate, all the world’s problems would be solved. True story.
All that’s to say, books are the sh*t. Even the ones we are embarrassed to love, like the Twilight series and yes, even 50 Shades of Grey. I studied English Lit in college (and no surprise here, LOVED IT) so of course I was once a snob that would only recommend Bukowski, Hemmingway, or Raymond Carver (notice that’s all men. ugh). But that’s boring. I want to know what books you read until your eyes felt like they might bleed. Especially now when we have been forced to slow down and stay home, these are the books we need right now.
Luckily EHD agrees with me so our mission for this post was to bring you not only our all-time favorite books but also the guilty pleasure we simply could not put down. This is no shame list where no book or genre is excluded. Never that! All books should be celebrated. These are the books we ripped through feverishly as if they were the oxygen that kept us alive. The official EHD All-Time Favorite (And Most Addicting) Book List is here, my friends, so prepare your Kindles and bookshelves. Here we go.
From Emily: My hope for the future is to be able to find more binge-worthy books that read like movies, but of which don’t make me feel like I wasted my college education. Like Ryann, I too was a lit major and used to read David Foster Wallace for fun, but lately devour 50 Shades or anything with a vampire because they are just so easy. But then I remember that they exist – good books that are actually very entertaining. I’m sure I’ve forgotten so many, but these were the ones that popped in my head:
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn: When this came out it blew my mind and yes it was very hard to put down. It’s about a very unconventional family and I forget almost EVERYTHING about this book except how much I loved it. I can’t wait to re-read.
The Secret History by Donna Tart: I’m so happy for all of you who haven’t read this yet. A mystery, set at a boarding school. You can’t put it down. I’m excited to read Donna’s other book that Ryann recommended.
Prep by Curtis Sittenfield: Curtis Sittenfield is one of my favorite writers of all time. Prep is a coming of age story, involving teenage love but written so beautifully and yet relatable. I’m so excited to re-read this book. American Wife, another book of hers, is a fictional bio-pic based on George and Laura Bush. Sounds boring and political but it’s a real American story, about young love, marriage, and a boy raised in a political family. (Do you remember when he was our president and we had so much to complain about?????? hahahahahahahaha).
Manhattan Nocturnes by Collin Harrison: Brian nor I could put this down. A thrilling mystery that moves so fast, set in a city that I think about far too often (we love you, New York).
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: I devoured all of Gillian Flynn’s books the same week, they are all that good and that hard to put down. It’s the same vibe as ‘The Girl on a Train’ which you should also read.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: If you can get past Jeffrey Eugenides’ pretentiousness, pick up this book. It did win awards, but I promise it’s hard to put down.
Under the Banner of Heaven and Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer: Jon Krakauer writes non-fiction about outdoor sports, so I don’t know how I stumbled upon this but it blew my mind. It’s a true-crime story about extreme fundamentalists Mormons – you won’t be able to stop talking about it.
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Brian and I read this series at the same time and we were both so excited to go to bed at night. You’ve likely seen the movies, but I couldn’t help putting them on the list because it was the first YA book I ever read (and up until today I almost exclusively read YA or self-help – BUT NOT AFTER THIS POST. I’m so excited).
Emily here again, Brian is homeschooling. He shouted these out fast and with confidence. I can say almost all of these are fast-paced mysteries that have male protagonists that he related to (except Geek Love). I’ve read most of these, too and LOVED them (especially Devil In the White City – that book was amazing)
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem, Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Beat the Reaper by Michael Chabon (Brian read in two days), Devil in The White City by Josh Basel & 11/22/63 by Stephen King.
The Secret History by Donna Tart: If we are talking all-time favorite, this is mine. I first read it years ago and whenever I can’t find a good book to read, I read it over again. The story is so completely intoxicating and it is hard to describe why, which might be why I love it so much. And if you’ve already read this, might I suggest The Little Friend also by Donna Tart. It’s dark and haunting and so, so good.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros: Technically a children’s book but it’s written beautifully and has some really dark yet beautiful undertones about growing up. I was introduced to it in college, and when I read it was in awe. I didn’t realize someone could write a book so perfectly tailored to children AND adults. It’s essentially poetic prose for all ages.
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: Is naming a series cheating? I don’t care. I, like every other wonderful person in the world, tore through the Harry Potter Series. You know it by now, but maybe this is your reminder to download it to your Kindle right now and re-read it or get your kids on the bandwagon. It’s a more timely and needed series now than ever, as reading it is the best way to escape reality in my opinion. Oh! And if you are wondering, which I am sure you are, my favorite book from the series is Prisoner of Azkaban. Obviously.
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut: Did I ever think I would love a book about war? No, not really. But at least now I have a war book recommendation for boys who only read books about war. Look at me! I am a cool girl. But really, Kurt Vonnegut is a fantastic writer and his ability to keep me reading is impressive. I am actually re-reading as we speak. Anyone want to hop on the train with me??
Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman: I haven’t read this in years but I remember in high school reading it about 5 times. It’s deeply romantic and it’s how I learned what real adult relationships were like: often messy, immature, passionate & dispassionate, and not unlike young teen love. The fact that adults don’t really grow up truly fascinated me.
And because I can’t! stop! talking! about! books! here are a few honorable mentions: Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion, Normal People by Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis, Prep by Curtis Sittenfield, Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari, The Polish Boxer by Edward Halfon, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, Nox by Anne Carson, The Host by Stephanie Meyer, & The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer (yeah, I said it).
Love Does by Bob Goff: Okay, yes, this is a book written by a Christian author, but it is truly so much more than that. Reading this book opened my eyes to so many different ways to love and be loved, and just the overall message of spreading goodness and joy. It is genuinely such a good take on how to be better as a society. It definitely made me cry muuultiple times (guys, that’s a lot coming from me because it takes a real moving story to make this gal shed any tears).
Looking for Alaska by John Green: This book had me on the edge of my seat the entire time!! A good ole’ boy-meets-mysterious-girl-and-wants-to-know-more tale and who doesn’t love a good teen romance with a little mystery?
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling : First of all, if you haven’t read this book already, what are you doing ????? Secondly, I was very much not into this movie despite Sirius being my favorite character (I read/listened to all of the books much later in life), and now it is my favorite of the series. The book gives so much background and rewatching the movie after? Simply beautiful.
Buckle your seatbelts, this one is a three-part, y’all! To All The Boys series by Jenny Han. These books had me on a freaking emotional ROLLERCOASTER, guys. I am a huge fan of teen romances, so they already had me hooked from the get-go. But seriously, you don’t know what you’re getting into with these babies. Also, where do I get my own Peter Kavinsky??
Okay guys, this one is very special to me. Although it’s not a book, it is a script written by my brother that has been one of my favorite things he’s written so far, and I would love for others to experience it too. THE LYING GAME is an international murder mystery/psych thriller, divided between three perspectives: A suspected assassin, his next victim… and a pair of special agents doing whatever it takes to stop him.
From Julie: Over the years I have been an off and on avid reader. I’ll go through 3 books in a month and then won’t pick another one up for 4 months. Although I have about 30+ books in my possession that are on my list to finally read I keep coming back to these. The first 6 I will read once a year or every other year cause they are that good and more importantly I take away new lessons from them depending on where I am in my life. They are like old friends at this point and I want you to meet them.
Many Lives Many Masters by Brian L Weiss, M.D.: I think this is the second or third time that I am mentioning this book to you all and if you haven’t already purchased a copy…what are you waiting for? Seriously, this book literally changed my life and helped me dramatically with my anxiety around death. It’s all about past life regression, a technique used in therapy that uses hypnosis to recover what he believes to be memories directly linked to past lives of his patient named Catherine. It sounds a little ‘out there’ but I found it’s explanation of what happens in the after wildly comforting.
The Glass Castle & Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls: Jeannette Walls is hands down one of my favorite authors. Her first book, Glass Castle, is a memoir about her unorthodox upbringing and if you’d rather skip the book then that’s fine with me cause Brie Larson was amazing in the movie. Half Broke Horses (her second book) is a “true-life novel” which is essentially a prequel to Jeanette’s own story. She writes about her grandmother’s life in the harsh southwest desert but takes some liberties with her story to fill in the blanks of the stories that were passed down to her. I read it in two days and that’s all you really need to know.
Running with Scissors: A Memoir or This is How: Surviving What You Think You Can’t by Augusten Burroughs:
Another memoir of a bizarre childhood by my other favorite contemporary author which has also been made into a movie. Augusten Burroughs voice is raw and brutally honest. He carries this writing style over to his out-of-the-box ‘self help’ book ‘This is How’. His advice is sometimes hard to hear but one of the most helpful books I’ve ever come across.
The Giver by Lois Lowry: I’ve honestly lost count the number of times that I have read this book. It was required reading I think in the 5th grade and it’s been a part of my yearly pile since then. This was the book that made me fall in love with reading and how it can help shape your life.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (all of them actually), every book ever written by Haruki Murakami but especially What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Into thin Air & Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, and for a little guilty pleasure: Sharp Objects & Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
An oldie but a goodie. I could not put Bossypants down when I read it… back in 2013. I truly loved every minute and was genuinly sad when it was over. To be fair I am a huge Tina Fey fan and while I feel like the term national treasure gets thrown around a lot these days, but to me she is just that.
Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler is another super funny favorite. I guess I have a thing for autobiographies by female comedians (reading Ali Wong’s, Dear Girls now). I mean it’s also been a while since I’ve read it but it’s light, funny and who doesn’t love stories of debauchery?? Well, I do.
Ok, this is NOT about the lives of female comedians and it’s all thanks to Julie for letting me borrow her copy. Many Lives Many Masters by Brian L. Weiss M.D. changed/affirmed the way I look at death. I am not a religious person but I always believed in something greater. I personally just can’t buy that this is it. Anyway, this book gave me goosebumps nearly the entire way through and at the end gave me a sense of knowing that I had been needing. Even if you don’t believe in any of it, it’s an incredible story. (Jess!!! – Emily here – this is one of my favorites, too).
This was a very hip book to read last year and I got on that cool kid train (and happy I did). I am talking about Normal People by Sally Rooney. I am not a romance novel addict…yet, but this book set me on fire. It is so tragically beautiful in the most simple way.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. If you haven’t read this book yet (which I am sure a lot of you have) go now. It’s unreal, unbelievable, exhilarating AND a true story. There is also a movie now but I want to preserve the book in my mind so I haven’t seen it.
Now if I am allowed to go waayyyy back, I think Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul was one of my all-time favorite book series in my tween years and made me happy cry with nearly every story (yes, I have been a happy crier since birth). It’s been about 20 years since I’ve read any of them but in a time like now, wonderful stories about real people doesn’t sound like a bad thing and probably holds up? I am crossing all my fingers and toes that they do.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: Is this a YA novel? Yes. Are most of my favorite books YA novels? Obviously. That genre just really feels like a giant warm bath for me, one that I never want to leave, the water never gets cold, and my fingers never get prune-y. ‘Fangirl’ hits a really, really personal note for me because it revolves around a girl who essentially writes Fanfiction about her favorite fictional series Simon Snow (i.e. Harry Potter), while following along during her first year of college, and one of the warmest romances I’ve ever read. ‘Fangirl’ was so successful, that Rainbow Rowell (the author) actually wrote a full-length Simon Snow book (it’s SO good, and the romance line is a Fanfiction dream). That one did so well that she turned it into a trilogy. The second one came out recently. Honestly, this whole series is an absolute gem, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Slutever by Karley Sclortino: This is an autobiographical fever dream and a page-turner from start to finish. I listened to it twice, back to back. The publisher’s summary says it best – “Slutever is a call-to-arms, a confessional memoir, a slut manifesto, as told by a sex-radical hedonist in a pink PVC mini dress. It’s a thoughtful, first-person account of a modern woman, navigating sex, love, casual hookups, open relationships, bisexuality, BDSM, breakups, sex work, sex parties, and the power of sexual agency, as told from the front lines.”
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: I read this book as part of a book club I was in once, and it really stuck with me. It’s a fictional book that follows the generations of two different families, starting with two sisters – one who is sold as a slave in America and the other who remains in Africa. It’s such an eye-opening, and beautifully written story.
Educated by Tara Westover: This memoir reads more like a drama, and it’s hard to remember that you’re reading about someone’s actual life. That they LIVED. It deals heavily with themes of abuse and religion, and there are definitely some depressing chapters. But overall, it’s compelling and a look into a world I can hardly imagine.
Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman by Lindy West: I’ve got ONE more memoir, and this one kept me laughing the whole way through. It also forces us to take a hard look at our own perceptions and judgments about others.
Wicked & The Wallflower by Sara McLean: GUYS, I couldn’t leave this list without mentioning at least ONE really cheesy, but absolutely amazing romance novel. This was the first one I ever read, so I think that might be why it has such a warm place in my heart. Regency romance novels are not for the faint of heart – they’re cheesy, graphic, and by and large lean heteronormative (typical equation – spinster on the shelf intrigues society bad boy who sees her true beauty when no one else does, debauchery ensues, but it all ends happily every after with a tidy marriage bow). But I just LOVE a good romance. And I’m desperate for more slow-burn romance recommendations, so PLEASE leave any in the comments.
From Caitlin: A preface: historically, I’m a non-fiction reader, but right now my brain is mush and I don’t really have the bandwidth (or desire, honestly) to think critically in my free time. My picks are SOLID entertainment, I know it, and I’m ready to be judged. (If you are using this time to better yourself, some of my all-time favorites that actually required me to use my brain while reading are :
The books I’m actually recommending are like…the opposite of these.) ANYWAY. Here are my literary comfort foods:
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron: INJECT THIS STRAIGHT INTO MY VEINS, PLEASE. This collection of essays is light and joyous and messy and human but most importantly, it’s easily digestible. Sometimes — especially recently — I want to step back from my screen, but I don’t have the mental space or focus to hone-in on a full chapter of something. What I do have, however, is the attention span to read a couple of pages about the amount of money that we, as a society, spend on purses or haircuts. It’s actually laugh-out-loud funny. Bless Nora Ephron.
4 Fantastic Novels by Daniel Pinkwater: Daniel Pinkwater is my all-time favorite author. I’ve recommended his books on the site before, but ‘4 Fantastic Novels ‘contains both Borgel and The Worms of Kukumlima, which are two of my all-time favorite stories. (I did a fourth-grade book report on the latter.) The writing is silly and wholesome — each novel was fun to read at age 9 *AND* they still hold up 20 years later. I remember reading a review on Amazon that described his writing as “Chicken Soup for the Smart, Mildly Nerdy Teen’s Soul,” and I think that pretty much sums it up. (Also, I sent Daniel Pinkwater an absolutely fanatical email in the eighth grade to tell him how much I loved his books and he sent a measured, encouraging, lovely response. Is it weird that I’m still this much of a fan?)
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson: Jon Ronson is a journalist with crippling anxiety who decides to interview some diagnosed psychopaths (like murderers) and some undiagnosed potential psychopaths (CEOs). This book is kind of like a printed version of a My Favorite Murder podcast — it deals with an incredibly queasy subject in a really light-hearted and humorous way. If you’re normally a true crime fan (or if you’re just interested in human psychology), this one is easy to zip through. (An honorary mention has to go to one of his other books, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
Origin by Dan Brown: I KNOW. I know. There are entire jokes about Dan Brown being cheesy and I get it. But you know what? These Robert Langdon books are fun to read and I like them and I don’t care who knows it. ‘The Da Vinci Code’ was a FUN BOOK, you guys. ‘Origin’ came out in 2017, so it’s his most recent installation in the series, and guess what: it’s also a FUN BOOK. (Also, if the next book doesn’t feature Robert Langdon sprinting through the streets of a locked-down Milan to find something, I will be really disappointed. We are all actually living through the perfect plot of a thriller right now.)
The Princess Bride by William Goldman: I still don’t feel my biological clock ticking and I’m in no rush to have kids, but if I did happen to have some right now, this is what we’d be reading. Out loud. And then we’d watch the movie afterward. It’d be SO SWEET, you guys.
Let’s start with what I’m reading currently, Jen Gotch’s book The Upside Of Being Down (obviously). I was #emfluenced to buy this along with a lot of the EHD Team, but I can tell you sincerely and honestly, this book is FANTASTIC. And no, I don’t know Jen personally, but I LOVE HER SO MUCH NOW. Read it!!
You want binge-able? I’ll give you binge-able….The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a total oldie but SUCH a goodie. I don’t know how could I NOT include this. It’s my all-time favorite series, and the movies are so fun.
Along the lines of this, if you haven’t read Divergent by Veronica Roth, now’s the time. If you finished the Hunger Games and want basically the same thing but with different characters, here you go.
Okay now that we’ve talked about those two fun fiction and teen-romance novels, I have a confession. I’m not that hugely into fiction, but I’m an avid non-fiction reader. I also find non-fiction to be way less cliff-hanger-y than say, Harry Potter, but when I read I want to feel like I can conquer the world. I personally LOVED #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso, because I just can’t consume enough stories about women entrepreneurs. If you haven’t read it, it’s a non-fiction, business classic!
Chase recommended this book to me and it was such a fun and quick read. It’s called Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!) and it’s written by George Lois who is a real legit Ad guy. It’s super fun and interesting (and it’s a picture book!). Give this one a read if you want to learn how to *and I quote* “unleash your creative potential by America’s master communicator. It’s very MadMen if you’re into that sort of thing.
Ryann here again. This post officially cost me a lot of dollars but I am so excited to lose sleep reading for the foreseeable future, and hopefully, you are too. Now, PLEASE tell us, what is on your favorite books list?? Let’s make this the longest book thread of all time, shall we? See you in the comments section, my sweet friends. xx