Last month Sarah of the blog Puss Reboots recounted how she has been keeping track of her reading for 32 years – in handwritten volumes – since junior high school. Then last week Wendy of the blog Falconer’s Reading looked back on her favorite books at every age she’s been, in celebration of her turning 50 this month. Both of those posts got me thinking about how I’ve kept track of my own reading over the years and compiling my own list of favorite books since I turned 50 last month.
Unlike Sarah, I didn’t start keeping track of my reading in junior high school. I didn’t keep track in senior high school or college either, although I do remember having summer reading lists of books, mostly classics I wanted to read and many of which I did read in high school. Then in college, I didn’t keep track of what I read until I started a book blog in the late 2000s. And then I only kept track sporadically, from LibraryThing, lists on my former book blog, and now Goodreads.
So instead of a list of favorite books that I read each year, I am going to give you a list of my five favorite books, from each decade of my life:
- 1969-1979: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss
- 1979-1989: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- 1989-1999: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
- 1999-2009: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
- 2009-2019: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
The last three were all based on recommendations from friends or book bloggers.
Wendy also made a list of her favorite books published in each year she’s been alive. Instead I will give you five favorite books published during each decade I’ve been alive, rounding up to the 1970s to start:
- the 1970s: The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1971)
- the 1980s: Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins (1980)
- the 1990s: Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63 by Taylor Branch (1992)
- the 2000s: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007)
- the 2010s: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (2010)
These are books that either blew me away at the time (the Alexie) or were just so different from anything I had ever read (the Robbins one for example) or from which I learned a lot about a time period I didn’t know much about (the Branch book). I had a class on William Faulkner and O’Connor in college and I admired the amount of research that Hillenbrand put into Unbroken as well as the story itself.
What are some of your all-time favorite books? Ones that you just can’t forget, even without delving back into notebooks or Goodreads or LibraryThing? That ones that immediately come to mind? Others, for me, include All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Truman by David McCullough, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, All of Us: The Collected Poems by Raymond Carver, The River Why by David James Duncan (one that Wendy also mentioned), just to name another handful.