I was tagged by my friend Chris in a recent Facebook thing… and I had too much to say for Facebook :)

ootp-uk-kids-cover-art 1. Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
On a Saturday in July 2003, the month before my wedding to Rod, four hardcover copies of the fifth installment of Harry Potter (Order of the Phoenix) were in our home. It was an ordering mistake and also a gift. A dad, a new stepmom, and two adolescent kids laid around all the live-long day reading ferociously. It was the first new book released since we had all caught on to and fell in love with Harry and his friends. Years later, the characters and their adventures, the story of friendship, sacrifice, and redemption, are still a special kind of magical – one that helped make us a family.

2. Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins
I love YA literature. Always have. What Rowling might have lacked in literary sophistication, in my humble opinion, Collins got. Katniss’ story (& it is her story) was not as neatly tied up as Harry’s. Somehow, the losses were more real and touching and devastating to me. The bravery, love, and humanity (read: big flaws) that Katniss displayed make her one of my favorite literary heroes.

3. Mark of the Lion: A Voice In the Wind, Francine Rivers
Christian fiction that was emotionally resonant and not completely heavy-handed? It was a new concept to me when I first read this novel, a tale of a Messianic Jew serving as a slave in a scary, prejudiced home. Hadassah’s tale was eventually soap-operatic in a future book, but this book showed me that adventurous, captivating tales could exist within the settings of scripture.

4. Something Borrowed, Emily Giffin
Why do I love this fluffy book? Because for once, the tale of the “other woman” was told with balance and sensitivity. I’ve read it a million (ok, maybe a dozen…) times and chosen to ignore the movie.

flyawayhome5.  Fly Away Home, Jennifer Weiner
Weiner is one of my go-to authors, but this book… ah… It came to me in a time of huge life change. “Why can’t we live at the beach?” were the first words I uttered after finishing it. Meanwhile, the complicated tale of marriage and motherhood – and the fun and colorful descriptions of a woman learning to cook lavishly for her friends and family (while staying at the beach) made for a “chick-lit” novel I’m not embarrassed to admit I love.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
It was the first required reading of my high school career, the centerpiece of my best college paper (call Atticus Finch a racist and I will cut you…), and one of the first (ok, and only) novels I taught in my (very short) high school teaching career. A charming family, a tragic trial, and Boo! – all the ingredients are there for a classic that is worthy and lovable.

7. Seven, Jen Hatmaker
Hatmaker is a rare gem who is captivating as a writer and speaker. This book was my first encounter with her, and saying it is life-changing is not an exaggeration. The “seven fast” itself is the framework, but the foundation beneath it – the pure love and lifestyle of Christ, simplicity, brother/sisterhood, affected me deeply and gave validation to many thoughts that had been swirling in me for years. Eating only sweet potatoes/spinach/apples/chicken/eggs/avocados/whole-grain bread for a month is fine. Living a life of grace and generosity is a lifelong aspiration.

Where_the_Heart_Is_Billie_Letts8. It, Stephen King
Like so many, I had a teenage love-affair with King. His writing is genius, vivid, so disturbing. It was the second book of his I read (the first was The Eyes of the Dragon, which remains my favorite, but is totally different in setting and tone than anything else – it’s fantasy and not horror), and I was so captivated by it that I sun-bathed too long on my stomach and was rewarded with a 2nd-degree sunburn while vacationing in Myrtle Beach! The great thing about King is how is horror is not only metaphorical, but intertwined in complicated, realistic, and touching relationships. Who doesn’t want friends like those in The Losers’ Club?
9. Where the Heart Is, Billie Letts
The Walmart baby. Novalee. Americus. Forney. Kids named after snack foods.The basic premise & the cliché-ish southern-ness might make the whole thing seem cheesy… but it wasn’t. Novalee’s story of courage, growth, and victory over struggle, love after loss, was truly touching and inspiring.

10.The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
I recently listened to a radio show that discussed movies people love but were too devastated by to watch again. The Lovely Bones is that book for me. The story itself was so profoundly sad – the spirit of a murdered girl watches her family grieve over the unsolved crime through the years. I remember reading sentences out loud to my husband because they were simply so beautiful. It’s my favorite book that I will not re-read.