A Favorites List: My Top 20 Books


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I’m going to experiment with something new this week: a ranked list of some of my favorite books. We see these lists all the time whether in end-of-year issues of favorite magazines, bestseller lists, and so on.

I got the idea to share a list when I recalled a 2015 100 greatest novels list I saw in college. In my ‘The Victorian Novel’ class, my professor shared with us a list put together by the BBC titled, “The 100 greatest British novels.” In it, BBC Culture contributor Jane Ciabattari spoke with 82 book critics all over the world (except the UK) about the greatest British novels. The numbers were tallied based on which novel was considered the greatest by each critic. Looking at the list, I was intrigued to see a couple novels I had read made the list (Sense and Sensibility, Wide Sargasso SeaVilletteBleak House, Frankenstein, and Middlemarch to name a couple).

As I write this, I wonder if the list has changed for 2018. Some books may have changed ranks over the years while some have not. New books would take the place of others. I also came across a 2012 list from Publishers Weekly ranking the best books by the Brontë sisters (whom I discussed in a post earlier this month about writing influences). If you use a reading journal, you may have found some lists for book recommendations.

However, I do find lists tricky. Rankings may depend on interest, genre, and so on. Plus, we all have books that we love and some do not. I still think lists are interesting because of that variety because you may end up reading a book you’d never thought you’d like until you saw it on a list.

Below is my top 20 list of favorite books. I felt a top 10 list would be more limited and harder to narrow down choices. Feel free to check out any books that catch your interest! Also note that this list is not limited by genre, topic, or time period. I also love all these books equally, so don’t worry if you disagree with a rank.


20) One Evening in Paris by Nicholas Barreau (2014)

19) The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton (1913)

18) Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade (2013)

17) Unlocked: A Love Story by Karen Kingsbury (2011)

16) Ocean Star: A Memoir by Christina DiMari (2006)

15) The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck (2015)

14) Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (1997)

13) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

12) Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith (2011)

11) Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks (2010)

10) Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853)

9) The Little French Bistro by Nina George (2017)

8) Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh (2015)

7) The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks (2008)

6) Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1874)

5) Villette by Charlotte Brontë (1853)

4) Between Sundays by Karen Kingsbury (2008)

3) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)

2) Chords of Strength: A Memoir of Soul, Song and the Power of Perseverance by David Archuleta (2010)

1) The Reason by William Sirls (2012)



What are your top 20 favorite books? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Happy writing!


Starting the Novel Over: My Story

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One of my biggest writing goals since I was a teenager was publishing a book. I can imagine for my fellow writers, that has been yours too.

Last week, I talked about going through my notebooks, binder, and flash drive. In it, I came across MANY poems that I forgot about over the years. As I read through some of my works, I felt the passion I had when I was younger budding again. There are many reasons why a novel is never finished: writer’s block, fear, life getting in the way, and so on. Sometimes you even come up with multiple ideas for a story, but they never go further than that.

I got the idea for my first novel in 2015 while on vacation in Maine. Upon entering the cottage my family and I stayed at, my brain was buzzing with ideas. After two weeks, I had a notebook filled with fifteen pages of ideas, characters, scenes, and more. Now and then I touched the story, but my final year of college took priority over sitting down and writing.

Upon graduation, the job search also took priority. By November 2016, I was participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and wrote over 26,000 words. But…nothing happened after that.

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I have felt like a failure as a writer. I even found myself questioning my passion. Maybe if I was passionate for something else, life would be easier, safer, better even. Maybe I was kidding myself all these years about my writing.

That’s why I had shared what I did last week about a friend commenting on how much I wrote. It felt like much-needed motivation, a revival of my passion after other things buried and burned it out. Also, my opportunity to review books for Hallmark Publishing has revived the desire to write again. Seeing their guidelines, reading the books that I have so far, and reading about a writer recently get her book published…awakened this drive I haven’t felt since before starting college.

I may not publish the book that I’ve started. The other ideas I’ve developed may never come to fruition. But, my writing isn’t dead.

It’s just starting over.

Writers, whatever may come, you will get that book out.

Happy writing!

Enjoying a Good Book: Post-Flu Follow-Up

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Thank you all for your patience as I recovered from the flu. I am very thankful it was not a serious strain and only lasted a week. Now I can get back to business. My Book of the Month post for March will be coming up next week so keep an eye out for that!

After recovering from the flu, I shared how I wanted to unplug from the devices and social media because I realized how much I was looking at them. So how am I doing?

Well, if you look to the right of my blog, you might have seen my “Kristin is Currently Reading…” column. I love this part of my blog because I have a chance to share what other books I may be reading beyond what I review every month. At this very moment, I am reading five different books, and it’s been great! I’m not just making time for books I got this past Christmas, but also ones that have sat on my shelf for far too long. Making time before bed to read a few chapters has helps me sleep better, wind down my busy day, and escape to a different world. I am currently dwelling in different time periods, various romantic scenarios, parts of history, and more. I vowed last year I would not read ten books at once again because that was overwhelming. Five is a good limit, though, at least for me.

I don’t think we can argue how much we love books, no matter what genre or topic interests us. Whether we enjoy scholarly works, a classic, a recent bestseller, and so on, we feel something. Literature is a beautiful, powerful, and moving art. It is no better from other areas of the arts like dance or music. I know I sound like a broken record, but I just cannot stress enough how much books mean to people, and not just myself.

For me, unplugging from the devices and reading more since getting sick is helping me slowly rebuild my time for writing. My creativity is budding again, and, well I’m feeling inspired!! Before writing, the books were my first love, and still are!

Unplug for a few minutes or an hour a day, and open a book instead.

Happy writing!

The Multitasking Reader: Does Reading a Lot of Books at Once Decrease Interest Later On?

A quick note before I write this week’s post:

I apologize for no post last week due to suddenly losing my Internet and a busy schedule. Also, thank you all for your suggestions on what I should talk about in my blog this year. I appreciated your feedback! Keep your ideas coming!

Now back to the blog…

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This thought may be a given because it’s a struggle us writers and avid readers face every day: reading multiple books at once. I am guilty of this, especially because I find when I focus on one book at a time, I lose interest faster than if I focused on other stories. On the other hand, multiple books at once means you might take longer to go through a single book.

Some of you may have a Goodreads account like I do and use the site to keep track of your to-read list, what you’re currently reading, leave reviews, and so on. My Currently Reading list contains four books right now, including one I decided to reread with Valentine’s Day coming up. Before the end of 2017, I had as many as ten books I was reading at one time!

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That was pretty overwhelming. A few were later abandoned because by the time I resumed reading them, I lost interest and deleted the book from my list. I also wanted to start 2018 off by tackling books I haven’t read yet and any new ones I got for Christmas, so any books that were still on my list had to be read FAST. That extra push to try and complete that goal made the reading experience more difficult, and leaving me wondering why I had left so many books unread or unfinished.

I don’t want to do that again. Books are meant to be enjoyed, not read just to achieve Reading Challenge goals (even though it’s fun to try and beat the goal you set). Books help us escape from life for a while. make us laugh, cry, or feel inspired, and maybe even inspire us with our own writing.

This year, I’m trying to limit how many books I read at one time so all can be enjoyed. Two of the books I’m currently reading, for example, have been on my list since last year: The Pharaoh’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews and Once Upon a Summertime by Melody Carlson. I’ve also decided to make time for rereading books I loved because they shouldn’t be collecting dust after only being read once. Plus, when you read a book a second or third time, you remember things you forgot and pick up on little twists you might have missed the first time. You also remember why you loved a certain book in the first place.

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I’m not saying you shouldn’t read multiple books at once. I think reading a couple books at one time keeps your mind busy and you explore different worlds. But, keep the number limited to what you’re comfortable with so you don’t lose sight of books and eventually have to get rid of them because you lost interest. Also, setting reasonable goals, like the number of books to read this year for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, are another good rule of thumb; I keep mine at 15 to 20. Sometimes I raise the number if I feel I can do more.

So whatever your style of reading multiple books at once, what should matter most is what you’re comfortable with and that you get something out of the story you read.

How many books do you usually read at one time? Have you stopped reading a few because of reading so many?

Share your thoughts!

Happy writing!