Fifty Favorites 2021 πŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“š

Inspired by my lovely friend Lou, who blogs over at Lou Lou Reads, I’ve decided to make a list of my fifty favorite books as of right now. I hope to revisit this list next year. Of course, I had many questions for Lou right away, because chronic anxiety dictates that I know what I’m getting into before I do it. For instance, how did Lou decide in which order to put her books? Does she keep a list of books read throughout her life? What makes a book “important,” or a “favorite”? Each year, Lou notes how books have shifted position in the ranks by showing the book went +3 (went up three places on the list) or was -27 (went down 27 spots), for example. Basically, Lou’s list has isn’t a scientific experiment, and it’s more what she feels about a book. A lot of her interest in a book is how much it sticks with her, or if it was important during a certain time in her life. So, here is my (non-scientific) list of fifty favorite books. For this first year, I’m not putting them in any sort of order like Lou does lest I overwhelm myself.

  1. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  2. East Pittsburgh Downlow by Dave Newman
  3. Cruddy by Lynda Barry
  4. Bogeywoman by Jaime Gordon
  5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  6. Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
  7. Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell
  8. Savage Girl by Alex Shakar
  9. For Sale By Owner by Kelsey Parker Ervick
  10. Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
  11. Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson by Judy Oppenheimer
  12. The Wakefields of Sweet Valley by Francine Pascal
  13. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
  14. Dietland by Sarai Walker
  15. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  16. This Much Space by K.K. Hendin
  17. No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder
  18. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley
  19. Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
  20. The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts
  21. Don’t Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniel
  22. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins
  23. Girl Imagined by Chance by Lance Olsen
  24. No-No Boy by John Okada
  25. The Tide King by Jen Michalski
  26. The Last Herald-Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey
  27. I’m the Teacher, You’re the Student: A Semester in the University Classroom by Patrick N. Allitt
  28. My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme
  29. New Hope for Small Men by Grant Bailie
  30. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  31. Wrestling with the Muse by Melba Joyce Boyd
  32. The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss
  33. Everyday Psychopaths by Lucy Corin
  34. The Complete Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar
  35. Altmann’s Tongue by Brian Evenson
  36. Real Vampires by Daniel Cohen
  37. The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton
  38. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
  39. The Snow Queen Cycle by Joan D. Vinge
  40. The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think by Jennifer Ackerman
  41. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
  42. Immobility by Brian Evenson
  43. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
  44. A Girl’s Guide to Vampires by Katie MacAlister
  45. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  46. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
  47. Joe Jones by Anne Lamott
  48. Drought and Say What You Like by Debra DiBlasi
  49. Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century by Patrik OuΕ™ednΓ­k, trans. by Gerald Turner
  50. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Several of these were books I read before the age of eighteen, books that I’ve visited repeatedly and think of often: The Great Gilly Hopkins, Real Vampires, The Family Nobody Wanted, and The Wakefields of Sweet Valley, for example.

Then, upon taking literature classes in college, new books influenced me: Altmann’s Tongue, Wrestling with the Muse, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Europeana.

Other were books I taught to college students, like Drought and Say What You Like, A Raisin in the Sun, Strangers on a Train, and No-No Boy.

Many of these choices were influenced by the fact that not only are they wonderful books, but I read them aloud to my spouse, who loved them as well: East Pittsburgh Downlow, Cruddy, Bogeywoman, and The Honk and Holler Opening Soon.

Lastly, several books helped me understand the world better, such as Hyperbole and a Half; The Bird Way; I’m the Teacher, You’re the Student; and No Visible Bruises.

Hopes for the future? I’d like to have even more books about fat women and non-binary people on this list. Definitely more works by and about D/deaf people. Perhaps some more poetry, too, though Paul Laurence Dunbar is a great start for any reader tippy-toeing into poems. I’m going to create a calendar reminder and come back to this list in 2022.

Have you read any of these books? Which ones sound interesting?


  1. The only book I’ve read on your very large list is Hyperbole and a Half and I loved it. Whenever I make lists, I do not put them in any particular order either because that causes me anxiety as well. I’m struggling to reach my Goodreads Challenge of 30 books for the year. I think I will make it by the skin of my teeth. I’ll be cutting back my expectations of myself next year. So long as I am in school, I’m sure I won’t get nearly as much reading done. πŸ™‚


    • I’m not a big fan of reading X number of books per year, because, for me anyway, it discourages me from reading longer books. I just aim to maintain my desire to post on Tue/Thur and the Sunday Lowdown.

      Another reason I didn’t rank these books is because some of them I read so long ago that I’m not sure if I would love them today, but they are or were important to me. Those Wakefield books I can still remember in detail, but what would I think of the plot and writing today? I haven’t read them in 20 years.

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  2. I’d find making a list hard enough but putting them in any kind of order would be nigh on impossible. I’ve not read even one of your choices – no not even Rebecca or Their Eyes Were Watching God (if I do another Classics Club I’ll be sure to include them)


  3. Great list Melanie. I’ve read some of the same books, and some of them because of you – Anne of GG and The Snow Queen (though I think Becky Chambers is better). And further thanks to you I’ll be reading Their Eyes were watching God and Malcolm X early next year. Love that you included a Sweet Valley High book, it’s one of the earliest things I remember about you.
    If I was allowed to choose just one of the others to read, it would be Even Cowgirls get the Blues – loved the movie.


    • As I mentioned to Karen, I would recommend you get the audiobook by Hurston. For you, that makes sense anyway. In fact, aren’t most, if not all, of your books audio format these days?

      I have not seen the movie version of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues because I’m always worried the movie of the book will be terrible, but now I have to check it out. Thanks, Bill!


  4. I love the mix of genres here and the children’s and adult books together. Rebecca is such a masterpiece. And The Wakefields of Sweet Valley, what a classic!


  5. Rebecca is amazing! I’m so glad I’ve discovered Daphne du Maurier in my middle age, ha ha! All thanks for many bloggers who highlight her frequently.

    Another wonderful book is the Julia Child My Life in France. What a joyous, adventurous spirit. I’ve been meaning to read the next book, The French Chef in America, written by her grand-nephew. Have you read that?

    Also, ranking my 50 Favorites would be near impossible.


    • I did not read The French Chef in America, but My Life in France was written with her grand-nephew, and I thought he finished it after she passed. Thus, I didn’t even think to look for another book? I’ll check into it!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome list! What a fun idea. I can relate to having anxiety over how to pick my top 50 books, that’s a hard thing to do.

    I apologize if you’ve explained this recently but I can’t remember – can you remind me what D/deaf means? The way you’ve written it out there?


    • Deaf with a capital D means culturally deaf. They cannot hear, but that person will use sign language and have shared cultural beliefs as other Deaf people. There are Deaf communities, arts, literature, and societal norms.

      Deaf with a little d (deaf) means that the person is only medically deaf, as in they cannot hear. They don’t use sign language, and don’t join the Deaf community. For example, I reviewed the book Mean Little Deaf Queer. That lady is deaf.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. So glad you went for it and wrote a list! There’s a little bit of overlap between us in the form of Du Maurier and LM Montgomery, but there are lots of books on here that I’ve never read at all. Strangers on a Train has been on my TBR for ages, and seeing it on your list has reminded me to pick it up.


    • Strangers on a Train is a fun kind of tense that I can get behind. You just keep asking yourself, “Why is this happening?!” in the best way possible. I’ve read Strangers probably four times now.


  8. Love seeing people’s lists. I’ve read three of yours: Rebecca, Their eyes were watching God, and Bonfire of the vanities. All books that I like though whether they’d make my Top 50 I’m not sure. I’ve heard of a handful of others in your list – Atwood, LaMott, Highsmith, Letts – but many are completely unknown to me which is probably not surprising given the disparity in our ages and in where we live! Jane Austen would of course feature strongly in mind, as would so favourite Aussies, Camus The plague … but I’ll stop there before I created 50 right here!

    I would have to put mine in alphabetical order (by author). I certainly couldn’t do it in ranked order.

    It would be interesting to do this every, say, 5 years to see how much you change. (Every year is probably too much?) My guess is that most of older read books would mostly stay, because they’ve stood the test of your time, but over time some of the more recent favourites would fade and be replaced. When I say “you” and “your” I mean “one”, as in anyone who did this exercise!

    My, I do go on, don’t I? Anyone would think I had nothing to read or do.


    • Ha, Sue, you are a delight when you go on. I basically put my list in order of the books coming to me (as in, when I thought about them as I made the list). Several of these are from smaller publishers and likely are not available in Australia, though I do know e-books are available between the U.S. and Australia (if the book comes in e-format). I think I’ll revisit this list every year simply because many of these were books I read this year, and I’m sure as I read next year, others will get booted off. I’d also love to re-read the books on this list that I read pre-GTL and get some reviews posted.


  9. That’s quite the list! I love that you included books for all ages too. Some of my favorite book memories are from my youth, too, so they’ll always hold a special place in my heart. ❀ Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the only one I've read so far from your list, and it's timeless. The old school art was so creepy and awesome! πŸ™‚ I really want to read Hyperbole and a Half sometime too.


    • If you read Hyperbole and a Half, you come away from it feeling like you finally understand yourself. I’ve read articles about how therapists recommend that comic book to their patients because Brosh captures what it’s like to have differently mental health disabilities so well. And then she goes and disappears for years and scares people.

      Liked by 1 person

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