This weekend, I’m celebrating my 23rd birthday! Books have been a huge part of my life since the beginning, so I thought this would be a perfect time to introduce y’all to some of my favorites. I had a VERY hard time narrowing this list to 23, but here you have it. These are in a rough order based on the age at which I enjoyed the following books (though not all correspond to age), so there’s something for everyone on this list. Now, without further ado, my 23 books for 23 years:
1. GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU by Sam McBratney
Growing up, my parents always read aloud to me, and this book was one of my favorites. In this book, Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare discuss how much they love each other, and it’s one I remember reading all the time. It’s such a sweet story!
2. GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret Wise Brown
This is another classic which should be on every child’s shelf. The illustrations are so beautiful, and it’s another one I loved hearing my parents read every night.
3. BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo
Kate DiCamillo wrote some amazing books, and this story is about a girl named Opal who adopts a dog she finds at a Winn-Dixie grocery store. Winn-Dixie has a knack for bringing people together, and he brings Opal closer to her father, to learning about the mother who abandoned her, and to everyone in her small town.
4. NANCY DREW by Carolyn Keene
When I was about four years old, I picked up my first Nancy Drew novel. This was the first mystery I ever read, and Nancy was the first female character I remember absolutely loving. She was smart, feminine, tough, and just an all-around amazing role model, and I devoured every one of her books.
5. THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C. S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia was the first fantasy series I read, and I was hooked from page one. Allegories are some of my favorite stories, and Lewis is such an incredible writer. I fell in love with the world and characters he created, and Narnia has stayed with me ever since.
6. LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott
Around the age of six or seven, I picked up my first Alcott read and read all her books after that. Little Women stands out as my favorite of Alcott’s and follows four sisters on their journeys to adulthood. It’s tragic, heartfelt, romantic, and an incredible work of classic literature.
7. NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry
This book is about Annemarie, whose family helps her Jewish friend, Ellen, and Ellen’s family escape from Denmark during WWII. This is the first World War II historical fiction novel I remember reading, and it fueled my intrigue with this fascinating, tragic time period. Since then, World War II historical fiction has become a favorite genre of mine.
8. BRIDGE TO TEREBITHIA by Katherine Paterson
In this book, fifth graders Jesse and Leslie strike up a friendship and escape to a land of make believe, Terebithia. When tragedy strikes, Jesse must find a way to overcome it. The story is so heart-wrenching and inspired me to always nurture my creativity.
9. THE REDWALL SERIES by Brian Jacques
What nine year old wouldn’t love a story about animals who live in an abbey, talk, fight, go on incredible adventures, and defeat the bad guys? This series fascinated me for all of those reasons and more. The books span various time periods in Redwall Abbey’s history, and I loved the battles, riddles, vivid descriptions, and epic quests through Mossflower Woods and in the lands beyond.
10. THE GIVER by Lois Lowry
Lowry was one of my favorite authors growing up, and if you’ve read this book, you’ll know why. Jonah is selected to become the next Receiver of Memory, so he becomes the Giver’s apprentice. It’s his job to receive memories of the time before the Sameness which now exists in their world. Through this, Jonah realizes the utopian society in which he lives isn’t so utopian after all. This was the first dystopian book I ever read, and this is powerful and timeless.
11. A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett
My dad gave me this book for Christmas when I was nine. It’s about Sara Crewe, a girl who stays at a boarding school while her father is away fighting for England during World War I. Despite her wealth, Sara is kind and gracious. When tragedy strikes and Sara suddenly learns she’s poor, the wicked headmistress, Miss Minchin, forces her to live and work as a servant. All the girls shun her, save for a few kind students and her fellow servant, Becky, the only African American at the boarding school. Despite her misfortunes, Sara uses her imagination to survive, because her father taught her all girls are princesses regardless of their circumstances. This message of positivity and confidence was so important for me to have during my formative years.
12. THE INHERITANCE CYCLE by Christopher Paolini
I was homeschooled for all of grade school, so you can imagine my delight when I discovered an epic fantasy series written by a homeschooler. This series follows Eragon, a young boy who discovers a dragon egg which launches his epic quest to become a Dragon Rider and defeat an evil king. Though the series as a whole got a little long-winded, I was so inspired by Paolini. I was fascinated by Eragon’s world and loved that it was created by someone who had a similar educational background to my own.
13. THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE by Avi
As mentioned, I was homeschooled growing up, and one of the perks was I read A LOT. Part of school involved listening to my mom read aloud, and this was one of the books she read. Charlotte is thirteen and is the only girl on a ship sailing from England to America in the 1800s. Drama and tragedy unfold, and Charlotte ultimately pushes her upper class position aside and volunteers to be a crew member. Charlotte is challenged by the men, but she accepts every challenge with the grace and determination only a strong female can bring. Then she’s accused of murder. I won’t spoil anything, but this story is beautiful, poignant, and remains one of my absolute favorites.
14. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd
This story is set in the 1960s and is about a young girl, Lily, who accidentally killed her mother as a child, leaving her to be raised by her abusive father. Following one of the only clues she has about her mother’s past, Lily and her African American maid, Rosaleen, hitchhike to Tiburon, South Carolina. There, they live with a group of African American beekeepers, the Boatwright sisters. This book deals with heavy issues like abuse, depression, racism, and suicide, and it’s one that will leave you thinking long after you’ve finished reading.
15. THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER by Gary Blackwood
This story follows a young apprentice whose new master instructs him to use his shorthand skills to take down one of Shakespeare’s plays. As a big Shakespeare fan growing up, I really enjoyed reading stories set in Elizabethan England. This story has a surprising twist at the end, and it’s a great one to add to your middle grade TBR.
16. ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L. M. Montgomery
It seems like everyone on #bookstagram loves Anne (with good reason), and I’m no exception. This series is about an eleven-year-old orphan with a feisty personality and a huge imagination. Anne gradually wins over her guardians and basically everyone on Prince Edward Island, and she was the perfect friend for me to have growing up.
17. ENDLESS NIGHT by Agatha Christie
ENDLESS NIGHT is the first mystery/thriller I ever read, and what a way to start! This book was an option for summer reading extra credit during my first year of high school. Being an overachiever, I wanted all the extra credit I could get, and being a literature lover, getting that extra credit didn’t feel like work. It was the best of both worlds. When I finished this book, I literally sat in stunned silence. That twist at the end is INCREDIBLE.
18. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
It seems like EVERYONE read this book in a literature class growing up, and with good reason. I had read this book a couple times before studying it in high school, but I loved it just as much every time. This story addresses many issues, namely racial inequality when a white man defends a black man who is falsely accused of a crime. This story is timeless and is so important for people of all ages to read and understand.
19. THE HARRY POTTER SERIES by J. K. Rowling
OF COURSE Harry Potter made this list! Unlike most of my generation, I didn’t read this series or watch the movies until I was in high school. It was a series I always intended on reading, but kept putting off in favor of other books. I finally got around to it one summer during high school, and I read all seven books in two weeks. This is such a classic coming-of-age story and has something in it for everyone. I’m sure you’ve already read it (who hasn’t?), but if not, what are you waiting for?!
20. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Everyone knows the story of the glamorous, mysterious Jay Gatsby, his lavish parties, and the drama that unfolds when he rekindles his romance with the beautiful Daisy. This is a work of classic literature which really fascinated me. I read it once in grade school and once in high school, and it’s romantic, tragic, and intriguing.
21. ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan
As much as I hate to admit it, I watched this movie first because I didn’t know the book existed. When I found out that amazing movie was originally a book, I had to read it. Set mainly around World War II, this story follows thirteen-year-old Briony, an aspiring writer who makes a false claim against Robbie, the young man her sister Cecilia loves. Briony’s allegations cause Robbie to be imprisoned and ultimately sent to war. McEwan’s writing is so descriptive, and you won’t see the twist at the end coming! The twist makes me so upset I didn’t read the book first. The book is incredible, but I’m sure it’s even more exciting to read without knowing what’s coming. Still, I’m so glad I didn’t pass this one over even though I’d already seen the movie.
22. ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman
This story follows Eleanor, a young woman who is set in her ways and doesn’t think she needs to change them. Before long, she realizes she has some issues to address. Eleanor is so cute and quirky, and this book is very eye-opening. I reviewed it recently, so check out my book reivews for more about it!
23. LILAC GIRLS by Martha Hall Kelly
If you’ve been following my blog before now, you’ve heard me rave about LILAC GIRLS a million times. Set during World War II, this story follows three women–a German doctor, an American liaison, and a Polish prisoner–and their experiences during the war. This book is emotional, raw, and an absolutely fascinating read. It taught me so much, it made me think, it made me cry in the middle of a flight, and it’s one I just can’t stop pondering.
So there y’all have it, my 23 books for 23 years! These books, and many others, have helped shape my 23 years of life, and I can’t wait to see what riveting reads I discover in the years to come.