Last summer I challenged Margie Clayman to write a blog post about her 10 favorite books.
She did. But she cheated.
Instead of her 10 favorite books, she wrote about her favorite genres: books about Abraham Lincoln, books about the Civil War, guilty-pleasure books, etc. Sure, there were only 10 categories and it was a really good list, but it was cheating nonetheless.
When I teased her about it, she challenged me to write my own top 10 list. It took me 10 months to accept her challenge, but here I am!
It’s a good thing I waited, too. When she challenged me, I hadn’t read “Fifty Shades of Grey” yet, and you would have missed out on three of my favorite books.
I kid. That was a terrible series. I’m mad at myself for reading all three books. I have this bad habit of having to finish everything I start. That includes terrible trilogies.
Here is my list of my 10 favorite books of all time (in no particular order).
1. “My Name is Asher Lev“: My mom gave me this book many years ago. She wrote inside, “Read this book. It will make you happy.” It did—many times over.
It’s a book about a boy deeply ingrained in Judaism who feels the need to render the world he knows and the pain he feels through painting and drawing. It’s full of Yiddish, which made me love it twice as much. I picked up certain phrases I use all the time (oy vey).
2. “The Bell Jar“: Sylvia Plath led a very distraught and sad life before she stuck her head in an oven and committed suicide, but she was extremely talented. I sometimes wonder if you have to be that troubled—cough, Hemingway—to be a great writer.
In this story, Plath draws you into the life of Esther Greenwood as she has a complete breakdown. Some say Plath wrote this as she did the same in her life.
3. “A Prayer for Owen Meany“: I am a big John Irving fan, but I contend this is his best book.
In the summer of 1953, two boys were playing baseball when Owen Meany hit a foul ball that slammed into the head of his friend’s mother. It killed her instantly. What happens throughout the rest of Owen’s life is extraordinary, as he grapples with killing his friend’s mom.
4. “The Fountainhead“: I read this for the first time in high school. In fact, during parent-teacher conferences that year, my AP English teacher said to my mom, “Is she always this motivated?”
I’ve re-read it several times since then, and it continues to be one of my all-time favorite books. This was Ayn Rand’s first book, and her best, in my opinion. It was my first introduction to how the business world treats women, and what we can/should do about it.
5. “The Bluest Eye“: I love Toni Morrison, and this is my favorite book of hers. It’s about a pretty, young girl whom no one notices, even though she has the bluest eyes. She knows if someone would notice her, things would be different: Her parents would stop fighting, her brother would stop running away, and her dad would stop drinking. But, when her dad does notice her, he rapes her.
6. “Under the Banner of Heaven“: I grew up in Utah and was raised Mormon. I read this book to dispel any myths and rumors my friends have about the religion. What I found instead was an incredibly researched story about polygamy and brothers who killed a woman and her baby, claiming they had a commandment from God to do so. It’s the only non-fiction book on my list, but the story is so unreal it seems like fiction.
7. “The Lovely Bones“: Some of you may have seen this movie, but it’s nothing like the book. The book is always better, right?
This is a story about Susie Salmon, who is kidnapped, raped, and killed. She spends many years stuck between Earth and Heaven, and watches her family cope with the grief and loss. I know it doesn’t sound very enlightening, but the story will capture you from page one.
8. “An Object of Beauty“: My dear friend and colleague, Martin Waxman, sent me this book a couple years ago for my birthday. Being a bit of a literature snob, I was reticent to read it because Steve Martin wrote it. Yes, the comedian. But I discovered the man has a talent for storytelling.
The book is about Lacey Yeager, a young woman who begins her art career at Sotheby’s and soon finds herself climbing through the ranks with a lot of power and money. It’s not what you expect from funny man Martin.
9. “The Red Tent“: This may seem like a religious book, but it’s not. I say that because Dinah, whom the Bible only hints at, is the main character. It tells a story—from her point-of-view—of what it was like to live as a woman back then. It’s compelling, interesting, and told really well.
10. “Me Talk Pretty One Day“: I’ll never forget what I was doing when I read this book. I was working on The Catfish Institute account, and we were doing a lot of work with media in New York City. I went back and forth nearly every week. A colleague recommended I read the book, so I picked it up in an airport bookstore.
The book is so funny, I laughed out loud while I read on the plane. In fact, I laughed so hard—tears streamed down my face—I had to sit on it so I’d stop reading and embarrassing myself. No one quite comes as close to hilarity as David Sedaris.
There you have it. These are my 10 favorite books. What are yours?
Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communication ﬁrm. She also is the founder of the professional development site for PR and marketing pros, Spin Sucks Pro, blogger at Spin Sucks, and co-author of “Marketing in the Round.”