Bucket List of Books

Books to read before you die. Or sooner, really.

I was checking out my local independent bookstore recently for Christmas gifts when my daughter made a comment about a certain ‘classic’ novel she had yet to finish. No surprise, it has fairly dense writing and the subject matter isn’t exactly easy. On my drive home, it occurred to me that there are a lot of books that may or may not have earned the designation of classic, but certainly are on my list of suggestions for people to read. Or give as gifts. Here are a few suggestions from my decidedly feminist, animal-loving, poetically leaning bookshelves:

Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse. I love this book. I first read it as a high school sophomore and it was an instant favorite. Great YA novel but the themes are mature enough for adults too.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. Told from the point of view of Enzo, the family dog, this is a heart-wrenching tale that should not be missed. Enzo has a uniquely canine sensibility as well as a keen sense of humor and his love for his family is evident on every page. If you have dog people on your holiday gift list, they’ll love this book.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s language is the reason this book makes my list. Yes, this is a compelling story of the Jazz Age between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, full of obsession and ambition, but it’s also an inventive and interesting narrative. Plus, actress Sigourney Weaver got her name from Daisy’s aunt in this novel.

The Crystal Singer, by Anne McCaffrey. Full disclosure: I am a huge McCaffrey fan and own nearly all of her books, but Crystal Singer was my first encounter with her creatively different sci fi. The main character of this novel fails her final exam in music and instead of settling for life in the choir of major musical performances, she meets an intriguing stranger and heads out with him to the myth-shrouded world of Ballybran to work as a crystal singer.  This is the first in a series of three and I loved all the books, but this one stands alone and is the best.

Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein. I first read this in high school as well and it instantly clicked with me. Martian Michael Valentine visits Earth and while he learns about our culture, he teaches us about his.

Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray. The very proper girls’ school I attended did not ask us to read this novel as one of the hundreds they recommended. Yet somehow I found it and devoured it. Although there are no true ‘heroes’ in the novel and Thackeray has a profoundly dark view of humankind, this novel sparkles with intelligence, observations on humankind and history.

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin. In college, I went through a period where I read every utopian and dystopian novel I could. This is one of the best. LeGuin develops an entire culture/world where all the pieces fit together and work and yet her outlook is so revolutionary, it really made me think. I also loved her book The Left Hand of Darkness, set in the same world.

Dune, by Frank Herbert. I adore this novel. It was one of my first experiences with sci fi and I was instantly hooked. If you haven’t read this book, do yourself a favor and pick it up. It is amazing. And don’t watch any of the movies they’ve made based on the series – none of them are worth the time. I’ve read most of this series, including the novels by Herbert’s son Brian and his co-writer Kevin J. Anderson. These two add to the genius of the Dune universe, giving us hundreds of years of backstory and much more.

The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

East of the Sun, West of the Moon, compiled by Sir George Webbe Dasent. A classic translation of Norwegian folk tales

What are you reading this holiday season? What books are you giving?




About Diann Writes

Diann L. Tongco enjoys sketching, crafts and photography as well as writing poetry and novels. To stay out of trouble, she writes, shows curly-coated retrievers, grows fragrant roses, drinks good of wine with friends, and spends time with her grandchildren. She lives on Washington's Puget Sound with her boyfriend Nick and their dog Ozzy.
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4 Responses to Bucket List of Books

  1. Donna says:

    I’ve read, “Crystal Singer” (and “Killashandra” the second of the Trilogy), “Stranger in a Strange Land,” and the Harry Potter series. I’ve seen the film versions of “Vanity Fair” and “The Great Gatsby” and I own copies of both of those–no, I only own “Vanity Fair.” I think it’s my daughter who has “The Great Gatsby.” And I have seen 2 film versions of “Dune” plus “The Children of Dune.” I know, that doesn’t count, and I still have those on my list as well.

    I would like to add the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series to anyone’s bucket list of books. I loved them–not difficult reads but humorous and dark at the same time.

    I think everyone should read “Madame Bovary” before being allowed to extend a line of credit, 😉

    Right now, I am staring at my copy of “The Fountainhead” that I have yet to finish, and yet I also seem to want to tackle “Atlas Shrugged.” My daughter recently purchased “They Virtue of Selfishness” (no, she is not a particularly selfish person) 😉

    • Diann Writes says:

      I’ve read quite a few of the Hitchhiker books. I guess the British humor isn’t my thing – they’re OK, but I wasn’t that enthralled. Ayn Rand was another author I tackled in high school – in part because my peer group was into her. I didn’t like Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged much, but I adored her book Anthem. It’s apparently no longer covered by copyright so it’s pretty accessible online. And it’s short. Madame Bovary is one I haven’t considered but I will now.

      There are so many books that everyone should read but obviously there’s not time or we may simply not know of a book… My next list of books to read will probably be some of the historical tomes I’ve loved or been heavily influenced by. Please keep suggesting more as they come to mind.

  2. Cassie says:

    You should try reading through the BBC list since a lot of the books you mention are on it. I’m pretty sure it’s 100 books long 🙂 Good luck with it!

    • Diann Writes says:

      Hi Cassie,

      I’ve seen that list (altho it’s not from BBC) and have read most of the books on it. Yet there are some books on it I hated (for example, I am NOT a J.R.R. Tolkien fan and Hemingway leaves me cold) so I thought I’d create my own list.

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