Tag Archives: Top Ten Lists

Top Ten Books I Really Should Have Reviewed

I read these books shortly before I began my blog, but too much time had passed to do them justice. Now that I’ve compiled the list, though, I’d kind of like to re-read and review these titles, because they were just that good.

Note: Many of these books look like they’ve been drawn from a tenth-grade reading list. (Or lower.) Despite my youthful good looks, I am actually not in high school. I was just on a classics kick before I started blogging (and before I realized that there are living authors who write, too. And well.). But feel free to be impressed by how totally erudite I am.

10. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
I read somewhere on the internet that some people think this is a children’s story. (I guess Jack Black doesn’t help.) It is, in fact, a pretty brilliant satire that has transcended centuries.

9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Oh, Okonkwo. How can you not love a man like this? “No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (and especially his women) he was not really a man.” But for realz, Achebe is really freaking awesome. Which is why everyone else has probably already read him, and I’m just late to the party. As usual.

8. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
This was the first YA book I read as an adult, not counting Harry Potter, which I obviously don’t. I picked it up one summer vacation during college, and the story has stayed with me ever since. It’s the start of an awesome series, too.

7. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Have you always been secretly ashamed that you’ve never actually read Hemingway? Now’s your chance to make amends! The Old Man and the Sea is short, poetic, awesome, and won some big prize or the other. Read it.

6. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
This was given to me by a boy whom I very much admired at the time, so it’s hard to separate my feelings for him from my feelings for the book. (It’s also why I haven’t been able to re-read it.) But in my admittedly subjective opinion, this was a really interesting and thought-provoking book. Even if the boy wasn’t.

5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I resisted reading Jane Eyre for a long time. I would have gotten away with it, too, because everyone assumed that I’d already read it, probably based on the fact that I was a girl and a reader. But after Susan Redington Bobby’s class on fairy tales, in which she made repeated references to “the madwoman in the attic,” I knew I’d have to cave. And it was actually quite good!

4. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
One of the literary gifts Jack has given me, in addition to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, was Ender’s Game. I had dismissed it as the realm of ten-year-old boys, but boy, was I wrong. I loved this book. I’m not saying it’s why Jack and I are still together, but I’m not not saying that.

3. 1984 by George Orwell
My classics kick was fueled, in part, by a desire to understand literary references. And what book is referenced more than 1984? (Please tell me so I can read it.) In my humble opinion, this book was the second-best thing about the ‘80s.

2. Candide by Voltaire
I very clearly remember studying for a history exam in high school, and this was the flashcard entry I made:

“Voltaire: The 18th century French infidel.”

No lie. My history book was a bit… biased. Luckily for me, I read it anyway. Candide is thoughtful and hilarious—essential reading.

1. Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut
Look, you don’t need me to tell you that Kurt Vonnegut is a genius. But I can’t really describe this book any other way, which kind of explains why I didn’t review it. I can only quote one of the most powerful lines of literature: “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each Tuesday, bloggers create top ten lists about reading, writing, blogging, and more!

I receive a very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Top Ten Book Club Picks

I’ll admit, I’ve never been good about attending a book group. But I usually follow along, reading each selection in the quiet of my own home. So I’ve never before offered recommendations.

If I did, however, I would look for books that have a lot of complexity, so that there will be many angles to approach a discussion about the book. They also have to be memorable–the kind of books you can’t stop thinking about long after you’ve put them down.

10. The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
This is a quintessential D.C. book (my review here); more than simply preserving familiar sights, Mengestu captures the feeling of a D.C. community caught between two worlds, which would in itself make for very interesting discussion. But the main character’s experience—as an immigrant, a man, an American— and his place in society also leaves a lot open to interpretation.

9. Push by Sapphire
Push is not an easy book to read or even talk about. But it’s totally worth it. Sapphire exposes the pain of abuse and neglect, but more importantly, she presents a strong black heroine who takes her own life into her hands. This book came highly recommended from many of my friends, and it is guaranteed to get a reaction from book-group readers.

8. Holy Ghost Girl by Donna M. Johnson
In her memoir (my review here), Donna Johnson offers insight into the complexity of faith and why people choose to follow charismatic leaders, all without without being judgmental—a seemingly Herculean task that Johnson manages without even breaking into a literary sweat. Book group members will enjoy teasing out the complexity of the black-and-white world of big tent revivalists.

7. Faith by Jennifer Haigh
In Faith, Jennifer Haigh reveals an entangled world of secrets and beliefs, pain and joy, identity and desire, and the enduring ties of family and faith. She tackles a difficult topic, but she does so with grace and aplomb (my review here). This is a timely book that is sure to inspire a meaningful conversation.

6. Next to Love by Ellen Feldman
Next to Love is moving and beautiful, rich with the pain and the joys of vivid and believable men and women (my review here). The book delicately handles sweeping topics such as war, love, grief, and equality, which almost certainly lead to a great conversation.

5. The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
Tatjana Soli paints a vivid picture of 1960s Vietnam in The Lotus Eaters (my review here), and her prose reflects the jarring hardness of war, the allure of obsession, and the tenderness of love in turns. I think Soli’s exploration of the emotional and physical effects of the war on all sides—Vietnamese and American, soldier and civilian—would elicit strong reactions from all ages.

4. The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier
Brockmeier’s characters are painfully insightful and wonderfully human, and I think readers from all walks of life will identify with some, if not all, of them. (I did.) The journal that passes from person to person makes them greater than they were—a brilliance greater than their loneliness and pain.

3. Camp Nine by Vivienne R. Schiffer
In Camp Nine, Vivienne Schiffer shows readers a hidden side of the Delta, when racial tensions cracked the surface of a small town’s placid surface (my review here). Schiffer expertly teases out various themes of family and history in a world where little is forgotten, and her portrayal of the vast chasms within its society in the forties is fantastic. I think I would’ve enjoyed the novel even more if I’d discussed it in a group; it’s a short book, but there is a lot at play in the story.

2. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls’s account of her less-than-idyllic childhood is a must read, and I would love to get a group together to talk about this engaging memoir. Her story inspires pity and incredulity at some points and joy and optimism at others. This book was highly recommended by several women I know, and after I tore through it, I passed it on to other women, all of whom agree that Walls is a powerful storyteller. I’d love to hear a guy’s perspective, too.

1. The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber
This book covers so much ground–race, class, women’s rights, war—without feeling sluggish or heavy. As I described it in my review, “It’s as though Little House on the Prairie grew up and developed a racially and culturally aware conscience.” Weisgarber offers many topics for discussion while also crafting a thoroughly enjoyable story.

Creating this list makes me wish I were a more active part of a book club. What do you think–should I finally start taking attendance seriously?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each Tuesday, bloggers create top ten lists about reading, writing, blogging, and more!

I receive a very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links to Indiebound. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Top Ten Books About Writing

I’m beginning another nonfiction writing class this week, so my mind is occupied with books about writing right now. Whether you read them cover to cover or simply flip through the pages in search of inspiration, the following books are very valuable tools for writers.

10. No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty

Chris Baty founded National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the premise of which is simple: write a novel in 30 days. It doesn’t have to be pretty and it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect, but you do have to sit your butt in a chair and write every day. This book is intended as a guide for that month-long writingpalooza, billing itself as a “results-oriented, quick-fix strategy” for writers on the go. If your writing stretches out longer than a month—and it almost certainly will—Baty’s advice is also useful as a stand-alone handbook, especially if you have writer’s block or trouble motivating yourself.

9. The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself) by Carol Fisher Saller

Technically, this book is about copyediting. But as I noted in my review, Carol Fisher Saller’s advice applies to all working relationships, especially those engaged in the creative professions of writing and publishing. Saller blends an irreverent sense of humor with years of experience as editor of the Chicago Manual of Style Online‘s Q&A, offering very practical and sound advice for working with one’s colleagues–and one’s self.

8. Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors by Bill Bryson

Speaking of useful volumes for writers and editors alike… Bill Bryson’s accessible guide covers spelling, capitalization, plurals, hyphens, abbreviations, and foreign names and phrases—and much more. He guides writerly readers through the most commonly encountered problems of the English language toward precise, mistake-free usage. This is not a book you’ll want to read all the way through, but it is an indispensable resource. As Bryson notes, it will provide you with “the answers to all those points of written usage that you kind of know or ought to know but can’t quite remember.”

7. How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman

Many writing books offer sound advice on how to write well. This is not one of those books. On the contrary, this is a collection of terrible, awkward, and laughably unreadable excerpts that will teach you what to avoid—at all costs—if you ever want your novel published.

Rather than tell aspiring writers what to do, Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman tell you what to avoid. With rousing good humor and tons of experience between the two of them, they identify the 200 most common mistakes made by writers–consciously or unconsciously–and teach them to recognize, avoid, and amend them. Did I mention it’s hilarious?

6. Views from the Loft: A Portable Writer’s Workshop edited by Daniel Slager

For years, Minneapolis’s Loft Literary Center has brought together a community of writers, and now the wisdom of its authors, students, and editors has been collected in Views from the Loft. Featuring tips, questions, essays, and interviews from and with Mark Doty, Kate DiCamillo, Rick Bass, Michael Cunningham, Grace Paley, Susan Power, Susan Straight, Marilyn Hacker, and many more, this workshop-in-a-book outfits any aspiring the tools and inspiration necessary to thrive in the writing life.

5. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose

One of the best ways to learn about writing is to examine great works of literature. You don’t need a creative-writing workshop or degree to be a good writer (though that helps). All you need is a bookshelf and some time. Francine Prose, a well-known fiction writer, reads the work of the masters—Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhov, and many others—to discover why their work has endured, and she looks at modern writers to prove that paying attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted, pays off.

4. On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner

Gardner’s book is a classic resource for writers, despite occasionally cumbersome prose and now-commonsense advice. He offers advice on the writing life—the pitfalls and joys of creating stories for a living—and he discusses common questions that beginning writers have: Should I enroll in a writer’s workshops? What do agents and editors actually do? Anne Tyler, one of my favorite novelists, called it “a miraculously detailed account of the creative process.”

3. Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir edited by William Zinsser

If you’ve ever considered writing a memoir, you’ve probably wondered how an author reaches into the tumult of her own memory–a cacophony of emotions, senses, places, and events long gone–and pull out a crisp, compelling storyline. Drawing from the wisdom of some of the greatest literary memoirists, Inventing the Truth explores their writing processes, the unexpected obstacles they faced, and the overwhelming joy they experienced in researching, writing, and publishing their pasts. The featured authors include Russell Baker (Growing Up); Jill Ker Conway (The Road from Coorain); Annie Dillard (An American Childhood); Ian Frazier (Family); Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Colored People); Alfred Kazin (A Walker in the City); Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes); Toni Morrison (Beloved); and Eileen Simpson (Poets in Their Youth).

2. The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

How does a writer go from a good idea to a career in writing? In The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published (my review here), Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry present lucid, step-by-step advice to would-be authors, from inception to publicity. They walk budding authors through the many steps of publishing a book, including how to begin, what to expect once the process is underway, and how to maximize your book to achieve your goal—whether it be riches, fame, or simply the satisfaction of being a published author.

1. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

Ever since Millie gave me this book a few years ago, it has popped up again and again as an indispensable guide for writers. (To be fair, it was considered such long before Millie gave it to me; I’m only just noticing it.) Zinsser, a professor at the New School and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, outlines the principles of nonfiction writing and offers lucid advice to anyone who wants to learn how to write, no matter the topic. This is one of those books that stays on my desk, right next to my dictionary and thesaurus.

Want more personal accounts on writing and reading? Check out these titles:

Interested in the intricacies of grammar? Let these reference works be your guide:

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each Tuesday, bloggers create top ten lists about reading, writing, blogging, and more!

I receive a very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links to Indiebound. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Top Ten Authors of Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, and Legends

This week, I’d like to introduce you to some of the best authors I’ve found who analyze or write fairy tales, folk tales, and legends. I’ve mentioned before how much I love this genre; my college classes on fairy tales, legends, and mythology had a great impact upon the way I read and think about stories. Think of this as primer to the genre, albeit a subjective one; I’m certain I’m forgetting some great writers, and I’m sure there are many I haven’t yet discovered.

Fairy tales, folk tales, and legends tell extraordinary stories that tap into the very real fears, anxieties, and emotions of everyday life. One of the best parts about reading the classic tales is comparing all of the variants. I felt like I knew so much more about the stories than people who have only heard the Grimms’ versions or (worse!) only seen Disney movies.

While contemporary tales are often more interesting because of their relevancy in my life, I’m glad to have that firm classical base, because now I can read contemporary fantasy/retellings and point to the different variations of classic stories, from popular new releases like The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas (my review here) and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (my review here) to older classics and lesser-known works like The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (my review here), The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and The Little Girl Who was Too Fond of Matches by Gaetan Soucy.

There are several authors you must read to get a good grounding in fairy tales, folk tales, and legends.

10. Peter Sís
In The Conference of the Birds (my review here), his illustrated version of the twelfth-century epic Sufi poem, Peter Sís introduces readers to an ancient, mystical story in a lyrical but beautifully simple way. It adds gorgeous detail in an imaginative way without distracting from the original story. This is a perfect example of a modern retelling of a legend.

9. Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is one of the undisputed masters of modern fairy tales, from children’s books like Coraline (my review) and The Graveyard Book (my review) that are enjoyable at any age to books like American Gods (Jack’s review) and the Sandman trilogy that are more grown up but no less magical.

8. Susan Redington Bobby
I can’t write about fairy tales without mentioning Susan Bobby, author of Fairy Tales Reimagined and professor of my Fairy Tales class, who introduced me to many of the authors on this list. Bobby is passionate about the subject with a particular emphasis on modern retellings of classic tales. I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher, and I’m thrilled that she’s edited this collection of essays. (Prof. Bobby also reviewed Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay here!)

7. Jack Zipes
Zipes’s Don’t Bet on the Prince, a collection of contemporary feminist fairy tales and essays in North America and England, is an excellent introduction both to fairy tales in general and to feminist literary criticism in particular. It manages to be serious and informative without being boring.

6. A.S. Byatt
A.S. Byatt–author of Possession, The Virgin in the Garden, and Angels & Insects, among others–is a master at retelling (or, more often, inventing) modern fairy tales. Her books The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye and the Little Black Book of Stories need to be added to your reading list right now.

5. Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood has authored more than forty books, including The Handmaid’s Tale, Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin, and Oryx and Crake. Your life isn’t complete until you’ve read something by Margaret Atwood. (I would know–there are so many titles I haven’t read yet that I want desperately to get to!)

4. Kate Bernheimer
Kate Bernheimer is an expert on writing and analyzing fairy tales, with the collections of essays Mirror, Mirror on the Wall and My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me as well as the fiction series The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold, Merry Gold, and Lucy Gold under her belt.

3. Maria Tatar
Maria Tatar is editor of The Classic Fairy Tales, the book that built my knowledge of classic fairy tales. It made me look at variants across tales–stories across languages and cultures that are surprisingly similar–so that I could then see the underpinnings of these tales in countless works of fiction produced today. If you’re interested in fairy tale criticism, this book is a must.

2. Anne Sexton
Anne Sexton’s poetry deals heavily in fairy tale retellings, drawing upon raw subjects like child abuse and neglect. One poem, “The Abortion,” has always stood out in my memory, especially this line: “I met a little man, / not Rumpelstiltskin, at all, at all… / he took the fullness that love began.” Sexton published an entire volume of fairy tale retellings, Transformations, that contains sometimes difficult but always powerful themes.

1. Emma Donoghue
One of the best authors I discovered in school was Emma Donoghue. I wrote a paper on “The Tale of the Voice,” a feminist retelling contained in Donoghue’s marvelous book Kissing the Witch. And it won’t surprise my longtime readers to hear that Donoghue’s Room (my review here) is one of the best books I’ve ever read!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each Tuesday, bloggers create top ten lists about reading, writing, blogging, and more!

I receive a very, very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links to Indiebound. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Top Ten Books I’m Excited To Read in 2012

There are some reviewers who have their finger placed perfectly on the pulse of new releases. They know in January what July’s bestseller will be, and they are busy composing their 2012 sneak preview lists right now.

I am not one of those reviewers. For a variety of reasons, none of which matter enough to mention, I rarely pay attention to books before they are released. I know, I know; strip my of my reviewing credentials right now. But I believe there are plenty of books already out there that I am missing out on that deserve my attention; I can’t go around dreaming of “hypothetical” books!

When I first began reviewing, I read mostly classics. But as I began blogging more, my focus shifted to “buzzed-about” books, mostly because so many of the book bloggers I was discovering highly recommended them. The more new releases I read, the more I discovered new authors and titles. But, as much as I’ve loved getting into new releases, I’m beginning to feel as though I have veered a little off course. I read books because they appeal to me, not because everyone is talking about them, and I don’t want to forget that.

So for my Best of 2012 Preview list, I’m looking to my own bookshelves for some unread but tried-and-true classics–books that are firmly embedded in the American literary tradition, but that I haven’t read yet. Many of these are books that will count toward my Bookshelf ROWDOWN challenge. This is a short list compared to the one in my head–there are so many I wish I could read!

10. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
9. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
8. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
6. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
5. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
3. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
2. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
1. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

For more contemporary classics, you might also want to check out my top ten books to read.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each Tuesday, bloggers create top ten lists about reading, writing, blogging, and more!

Top Ten Books of 2011

You may have noticed that all of the books I’ve been reviewing lately have been really great. If you thought to yourself, “My, it seems like Melody is just reviewing a bunch of books that she read throughout the year and wanted to post before the end of the year because they deserved a spot on her top ten books of 2011 list,” then you are absolutely correct.

This year has been an excellent year in reading for me, and I’m excited to share the list of my favorites with you. (All of the hyperlinked titles lead back to my reviews.) I’ll be keeping my eye on all of these authors for future releases. I hope you enjoy my selections; have a happy new year!

10. Push by Sapphire
Push is not an easy book to read, even though it is short; it deftly exposes the intense pain of abuse and neglect. However, despite the difficult subjects explored in the book, I ultimately found it to be powerful and optimistic. It will keep you up at night thinking about everything Precious, the main character, endured and overcame.

9. Next to Love by Ellen Feldman
Next to Love is moving and beautiful, rich with the pain and the joys of vivid and believable men and women. Ellen Feldman weaves a compelling narrative and delicately handles sweeping topics such as war, love, grief, and equality. This book grew more powerful in my imagination in the weeks and months after finishing it, and even now I find myself thinking about the characters and their stories.

8. The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber
Ann Wesigarber’s first book, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, is a welcome addition to my collection of well-loved pioneer stories. Weisgarber manages to cover race, class, women’s rights, and war in powerful and spare prose without losing sight of her main character’s compelling narrative. Rachel is well-developed, personable, authentic, and powerful, and the book’s layers of complexity unfold with perfect pacing.

7. Holy Ghost Girl by Donna M. Johnson
Donna Johnson’s account of her unusual life with Holy Rollers is surreal but convincing, powerful without seeming overwrought, and insightful without being judgmental. Johnson ably demonstrates the complexity of faith and offers an explanation for why people choose to follow charismatic leaders, teasing out the complexity of a black-and-white world. Though the details of my upbringing were drastically different from Johnson’s, this book hit countless familiar notes for me.

6. The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
One of my regrets in 2011 is that I haven’t yet reviewed three of the best books I read this year. Thankfully, Jack already reviewed the series as a whole. I promise to post my own thoughts of the books next month, but Jack’s observations are pretty spot-on. Abercrombie expertly turns the reader’s understanding of the tropes and expectations he may have about the fantasy genre against him. And the series is fun—Abercrombie’s story balances historical allegory and social commentary with more standard fantasy fare to keep the narrative from getting bogged down. The final book ties it all together for a finish that is both climactic and unexpected.

5. The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier
In a world where pain is visible, love must also be palpable, and Kevin Brockmeier expertly balances the two. Brockmeier is a skilled storyteller, and he makes each character incredibly endearing, painfully insightful, and wonderfully human. I enjoyed every page of this well-crafted and imaginative book.

4. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Curtis Sittenfeld had her work cut out for her when she began writing a book about the fictional inner world of former First Lady Laura Bush. Luckily, she succeeded. American Wife presents an incredibly empathetic and deeply complex heroine who is fully aware of the contradictions of her own life. It quietly tackles love, grief, compromise, and character with subtly powerful prose. It is masterfully constructed and beautifully written, and it will make you think twice about our controversial president’s spotlight-shy wife.

3. The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
The Nobodies Album is an unconventional murder mystery whose the slow suspense is accentuated by the unfolding of the characters’ personal tragedies. The bonds between a mother and her child, the pain and power of loss, and the healing power of time are all prominent themes, but Parkhurst succeeds in simultaneously telling an intriguing story that had me questioning the motives of each character and wondering how it will all end. The Nobodies Album is the perfect blend of literary artistry and suspenseful storytelling. Lost and Found, Parkhurst’s second novel, appeared on my Top 5 Books of 2010 list, and with this novel Parkhurst has confirmed her place as one of my favorite authors.

2. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Don’t let Delirium fool you. It may look like a dystopian Young Adult romance, but this book effortlessly transcends those genres and succeeds in telling a fascinating story very well. I was swept into the story, feeling utterly in sync with the heroine as she makes discovery after wrenching discovery. Although Lauren Oliver is a masterful world-builder, it wasn’t just the story that sucked me in; it was also Oliver’s writing. I really enjoyed Before I Fall, but Oliver has truly honed her craft in this, her second book.

1. Bossypants by Tina Fey
Bossypants is one of the funniest books I have ever read. But this book isn’t just about humor. It’s about making it. Fey’s rock-solid work ethic and unbeatable ambition are what vaulted her to the top of the old boys’ club of comedy, and her life story–infused with her signature slapdash humor–is inspiring to anyone pursuing her dreams. But it is also very, very funny. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by the author, and I laughed for about five hours straight. It’s a must-hear/must-read!

I was surprised to note that all but two on this list are from women writers. I suppose I’m a bigger fan of women’s fiction than I’d thought; next month, I will be celebrating winners of the Orange Prize, which is awarded to women who write fiction. But more on that later!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each Tuesday, bloggers create top ten lists about reading, writing, blogging, and more!

Top Ten Books on My Christmas List

This week, I’m listing the top ten books I hope Santa brings. Of course, if Santa has already purchased a book for me that’s not on the list, I’m sure I will be no less joyful on Christmas day.

10. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch
According to the Boston Globe, “This graceful memoir describes a true love affair with books.” I love memoirs and reading, so what could be better than a book about one reader’s year of grief and renewal? It’s the book I wished I had written.

9. The Girl Who Circumnavigated​ Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
I discovered this book on NPR’s top five sci fi/fantasy books of the year, and I immediately added it to my wish list. According to NPR, Neil Gaiman dubbed it “a glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian Fairy Tale.” Yes, please!

8. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
This book stayed pretty low on my radar until recently, when it appeared on several “Best Books of 2011″ lists. Promising more than 460 pages of original artwork–which explains why the book looks so long–it seems creative and fun, and Selznick is an author to watch.

7. The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
A National Book Award finalist, a top ten book from the New York Review of Books, and winner of the 2011 Orange Prize, this book has scooped up almost every accolade that matters to me. (There’s still time for it to win the National Book Critic’s Circle award, too.) I haven’t wanted to read a book this doused in praise since A Visit From the Goon Squad!

6. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
This slim book went entirely unnoticed by me until it won the 2011 Man Booker Prize. (To be fair, I don’t follow that prize very closely.) Then Carrie at nomadreader gave it 5 out of 5 stars, and it zoomed to the top of my wishlist.

5. Charles Dickens: The Classic Radio Dramas
This collection includes Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Little Dorrit, and Hard Times. Admittedly, I’ve already read all but the first and last titles, but man! This collection would look so good on my shelf, and it’s only $24!

4. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
Again, this book was highly recommended by Carrie, who goes so far as to say that Tom Perrotta is her favorite author. Others I know have also read and recommended it, and it was a New York Times Notable Book for 2011. The premise is extremely interesting to me: A small town loses a hundred of its citizens in a Rapture-like event. It reminds me of The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier, one of my favorite books of the year.

3. Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
A colleague walked into my office a few months ago and told me I need to read this book, and since then I’ve seen it popping up everywhere. I loved Donia Bijan’s foodie memoir, Maman’s Homesick Pie, and this volume seems very similar.

2. Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Millie, my unerring book recommender, had great things to say about Campbell’s first offering, American Salvage, which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. This book is also getting rave reviews, and it seems right up my alley.

1. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Named one of The New York Times‘ Best Book of the Year, nominated for the Orange Prize, this book is my kryptonite in 2011. I’ve been dying to read it, and I’ve even gotten it out from the library, but couldn’t read it in time. Every glowing review I read of it reminds me of how I haven’t finished it yet!

I’m on the library wait-list for most of these books, but it’s only a matter of time before I claim a copy for my own!

So, what about you–what books are you hoping to find under your tree?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each Tuesday, bloggers create top ten lists about reading, writing, blogging, and more!