Yesterday was my Hobbit Birthday! I’m 33! (Hobbits become adults at 33) So I thought it would be fun to pick my top 33 all-time favorite books in honor of this double-favorite-number day! Honestly, this could easily have turned into my top 55, but I managed to narrow it down. I had to sacrifice a couple non-fiction selections, so this is actually more accurately my top fiction 33, but that’s okay. Those non fiction books can have their own list.
So now, in no particular order (actually, in rainbow order) here are my top favorite books of all time!
Okay, so after I read the Hunger Games, I was looking for reviews because I needed to find someone else who had read it (This was before bookstagram) and someone was complaining about how it was a ripoff of Battle Royale. Naturally, I was curious, so I picked it up. It was SO much more intense (and violent) than the Hunger Games, but dang was it fantastic. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I even actually physically turned my head from the words at one point like that was going to stop me from witnessing what I read (lol). But what makes this a top 33 was that you didn’t actually see at first who the main characters were going to be, so you ended up invested in a bunch of characters and then how the end played out was so unexpected and satisfying. In the end this was just a book that really stuck with me.
A Little Princess
I read this for the first time only this past summer. I had seen, and loved, the movie as a kid, but for some reason had never picked up the book. I think I underlined half the words in this thing. I connected to the main character and her love of stories so much. I mean, how could a reader like me not?
The fact that this series is one of the coolest works of fiction in terms of design plays a large part in why this series made my top 33. It is just such a cool experience. But on top of it is a really good space story and one of the few YA book with romance tucked in it that I can actually stand. I really rooted for these characters and was very sad when I finished the final book. I did not want it to end.
I only initially picked this book up because the cover art reminded me of an artist I was a bit obsessed with at the time. And then I read it, and it was so intense and so hilarious and smart that it instantly became an all-time favorite. I couldn’t help but love this character and his voice throughout this super-intense story!
The Symphony of Ages Series
My ex boyfriend lent me the first book in this series. A first edition that I never gave back. I ended up identifying so strongly with the main character that when I met my now-husband, his similarities to the main character’s love interest I sort of took as a sign that we were meant to be. This cracks me up to think of now. But it’s true. I mean, it worked out for me. So I’m not mad about it. But this was probably one of the first true epic fantasies I had ever read, and I was totally hooked. I loved the magic systems of this book and then there were dragons and a bit of time travel and just this absolutely epic love story. I haven’t read it since high school, but it sticks with me even now.
Chaos Walking Trilogy
The format of this storytelling is so fantastic and so unique. The idea behind it is so different. I was totally hooked by that, but then I was just carried away by the story and the character and wanting everything to work out. This whole series was fantastic. I’m going to get repetitive by the end of this, but *shrug* it is what it is. The voice and storytelling style really won this one for me.
I read this in high school and for whatever reason, this particular book in the series really stuck with me. I absolutely loved the idea of time travel back to biblical times and seeing these people in action. How their lives were different. How they were different. It was fascinating. I also imagined that the boys were very attractive. I’m sure that didn’t hurt my love of this story (lol). But all in all, it was the story itself that made this a favorite.
Harry Potter Series (Order of the Phoenix)
I found these properly about the time that book 4 came out. I stole the first four from my sister (and never gave them back. There’s a pattern here) From then on, every time a new book came out, my sister and I would re-read the stories out loud from book 1 up to release day and then read the new one together. It was such a tradition that by the time we got to book 7, my now-husband joined us. My entire teenage years are tied up in these books, along with fond memories of two of favorite people in the world. Of course this is on my top 33.
I found this book at a hard time in my life, and became so emotionally invested in this character’s journey. It was reminiscent of a video game, except falling into a fantasy world. Like Alice in Wonderland meets Mario Brothers or something strange and amazing like that. This is a classic hero’s quest, but man, was it a wonderful one. Even thinking about it now makes me that happy-sad of remembering something that put your emotions through the wringer.
Lord of the Rings Series
This has weirdly become one of my most re-read series, though it wasn’t until after college that I finally read it for the first time! I always kind considered it my sister’s thing, which is ridiculous, because it’s high fantasy and so totally my thing. But because it was her favorite, I kept my distance. I’m older and wiser now, and every time I read these stories, I love them even more. I cannot accurately express how much the quotes and characters mean to me. So I’m not going to try! Just know they do.
Fifth Season Trilogy
This is an impressively recent addition to my all time favorites. I literally finished the third book yesterday. But it could have sucked and I still would have put the Fifth Season in this list. These book are honestly unlike any fantasy I’ve ever read. Which is saying a lot, considering how much fantasy I have read and loved. There’s a dystopian aspect to it as well, but what really wins out here is the exceptional world building and use of the second person point of view in one of the narratives. At first, it takes getting used to, because “you” usually does. But after a while, it’s the perfect choice and it doesn’t bother you at all. I will be wrapped up in this world for a long time.
The Eyes of the Dragon
My sister actually recommended this one to me. She lent me her copy (brave of her, really) and said I would love it. She was right. It has this classic fantasy feel that is hard to describe. Almost fairytale-esque, though darker. But the actual plot is really good as well, of course, because it’s Stephen King. Overall just a fantastic story and one of my favorites from him.
A Song of Ice and Fire
I am actually guilty of watching the first season before starting these books, though I had a copy of the first book for years before I read it. But after my best friend lent me the first season, I knew I *had* to start the books. Obviously the fact that no character is off limits to be murdered by the author is something that makes these books stand out. But there are so many characters you come to be invested in because they are awesome characters. And then on top of that you have this complex, fantastic storytelling. There is seriously so much to love in these stories. I mean, it even managed to hook my non-reader, non-fantasy-show-fan husband into watching and loving the Game of Thrones TV series. That’s quite the accomplishment.
Strange the Dreamer
I cannot believe I haven’t read the sequel to this book, considering how much I loved it. The main characters you just can’t help but love, especially the book’s namesake. He is bookish and filled with untapped potential and you just root for him so hard. I’m really anxious to see how on earth he’s going to deal with what the first book left him to deal with and mad at all the work that kept me from finding out sooner because I’m only just next week finally going to get to read it. I’m sure it’ll be amazing. The first one was.
Pride and Prejudice
Here is what you might consider my favorite book ever. This is the book that I collect as many different versions of as possible. I read it one December in college and fell in love with it. It was the first real classic I had ever read by choice, and the romance was exactly to my taste. Sweet. Under the surface. Not smutty. Lots of missed cues, misunderstandings… which I love! I have read this book every single December since that first one and I never tire of it. Ever.
The Unwanteds Series
I love Middle Grade books and when I picked up the first one of this series, I was hoping to be entertained, especially with a tag line like “Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games” but I was in no way expecting the story I got. It just raised the bar so high for Middle Grade stories after that. And each one continued to meet that same bar and exceed it in some way. The character arcs were so sophisticated compared to what I usually see in this genre, and the story itself was on a level of complex and interesting that I would say meets Harry Potter. I wish everyone could read these stories. And yet I have avoided reading the last one because I don’t want it to end! By now it means I’ll have to re-read the entire series. I’m not at all mad at that.
Life of Pi
Our book club started with this story and it was such a great pick for discussion because each of us interpreted the ending, and thus the entire story, in a different way. And yet we each took so much depth and meaning from it as well. It is at once fantastic and tragic, harrowing and wonderful. I loved it so much I recommended it to my mom’s newly formed book club. They argued so much about the ending that the club broke up (lol) and I was never again allowed to recommend books to book clubs that were really more about easy reads rather than thoughtful ones. Oops!
The Seven Realms Series
Another recommendation from my sister. I absolutely loved the Heir series that preceded this. But it ended up getting beat out for a spot on this list by this series because it was twice as fantastic. I loved the world building and magic structures here, and the plot was so well done. It’s another that sticks with me and needs visiting again soon.
I totally cover bought this book. I’m a sucker for birds on the covers of books and this actually even had the word in the title! It was brand new at the time and I had not seen anything about it. But it sounded pretty interesting and I was on the mood for something moderately scary. I was not at all prepared for how gripped I was by this story. I had only just had my first baby a couple months before, and the story follows a character trying to survive this monstrous future world while caring for two children. I walked around my house for several hours with my daughter strapped to me in her carrier so she would take as long a nap as possible while I finished the second half of this book. It was THAT good.
Night Angel Trilogy
My best friend recommended this trilogy to me and I was so grateful that I didn’t have to wait between books because this world and characters swallowed me up whole. I have a special love for assassin main characters, it turns out, and the character was just as great as the plot and the world building. This one continues to stick with me and make me feel all the feels when I think about it. There was even a romance in it that I loved. Major bonus points for that!
I was pregnant with my second daughter when I read this series. I absolutely devoured it. I was so emotionally invested in this roller coaster of a plot and these characters that when I finished the third book, I couldn’t get my emotions under control. It was overwhelming for me. I cried for like 20 solid minutes before I could get myself together. Not even kidding. There needs to be a warning label on these books. Do not read while under the influence of pregnancy hormones! On the plus side, I’m so emotionally attached to this book because of it that it easily makes me top 5.
Six of Crows
While I enjoyed the Shadow and Bone series, I didn’t fall as head over heels for the characters as I did for these. This whole duology has the feel of Oceans Eleven set in the world that Bardugo creates with the first series. I love heist plots. I don’t exactly know why. But it’s like one side step from assassins, which I’ve already mentioned my love for. Which is good, since one of my favorite characters in these books (who honestly has the best lines) is an assassin. The plotting is really well done, but the characters make this a top 33 for me.
The Handmaid’s Tale
I actually watched the show on Hulu before I read this. It did not lessen the emotions I felt as I read the book. In both cases, I can safely say, I have never been so mad or scared for the future reading a book before. I was also super invested in this for one very specific reason: they take her daughter. I was gripped by the thoughts of a woman in that position and couldn’t help but contemplate how I would not only fit into that society, but also how I would handle her exact situation. This one takes you deep and it doesn’t go easy. You’ll probably notice another theme by now: if the book evokes strong emotions or reactions in me, it’s likely it will make the list of favorites. This, clearly, is no exception.
The Hunger Games
I could not help but relate very strongly with the main character in this book, as I feel very much the same about my own younger sister, her protectiveness over said sister being the catalyst to this story. Again, I found myself pondering my own actions compared to those of the characters, and being in awe of the badassery of the character. I also loved that the romance was, if not subtle, at least a struggle for the main character. It was a byproduct of the story rather than the point, which I really liked. These books will break your heart and make you want to learn to shoot a bow and arrow.
I read this one back in high school. It was my first dip into quantam physics. It was fascinating. And the story was so cool to me because it combined that Renaissance age, which I’ve always kind of had a soft spot for (I mean, it’s all very in line with where most fantasy is set, in a way. Castles. Knights. Everyone rides horses and carriages to get places) with time travel! Two things I love! And it was the type of thriller I love which is more psychological and less action/murdery. I have never watched the movie adaptation, but I saw the preview and knew they ruined it. So you know my love is strong for this book if I flat out refused to watch it be destroyed through film.
His Dark Materials Trilogy
I read this trilogy in college and devoured it. It has been years and years since I read it and I can still visualize scenes like I read the books last week. The concepts and world building in this book are just magical, and this trilogy contains one of the most heartbreaking moments I’ve read in any book. Also daemons are awesome and I want one. I still wonder what mine would end up manifesting as. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read the books right now and thank me later.
The Shifter (Healing Wars series)
This is honestly one of the more underrated series I own (Unwanteds would be a close second). The premise was- and still is, years later- so fresh and interesting. The series is called the HEALING WARS. I mean. That right there has to catch your attention. It’s called the shifter because the main character can shift pain to others. Everyone deals in pain rather than money. It’s fascinating and an utterly fantastic fantasy! I wish more people had read this series because it is extremely rare for me to get to fangirl over them with anyone else!
This was another book I borrowed from my ex boyfriend and never gave back. I will say this for him, he knew my taste in books better than I did at the time! I loved this book so much when I first read it. I loved how smart the main character was, how determined and strong. He was such a young kid but he never seemed like it (and it never seems like you’re a kid when you’re a kid so it made absolute sense to me that he would be written that way). I recently re-read it, and my opinion did not change. This is still one of my favorite books. Weirdly, I have never had the desire to read any further in the series than Ender’s Shadow. It has always felt complete to me as is.
While I can’t claim the entire trilogy as a favorite quite yet, since book 3 doesn’t release for another few months, it would have to go horribly wrong in the writing department for it not to be a favorite. This book (and series so far) has been absolutely gripping and funny and badass. Another assassin story. At this point, are you even surprised? But along with it is the coming of age story and the how-did-she-become-a-killer-in
The Book Thief
Another recommendation from my sister, who is much harder to crack, emotionally, with stories than I am. So when she told me how she had read the book on a trip with her friend and cried, but then tried to apologize to her friend for not driving and offering to drive while still basically sobbing? Yeah. That story was a challenge to me. Could I get through it without crying? For a while there, I honestly thought, yes. And then there was a moment I started crying while reading on my lunch break, and when I finally stopped, I thought wow, I’ve been crying a while. How many pages did I just cry through? So I counted them. It was 50. FIFTY pages! The book was beautiful and sad and the point of view of death was brilliant and this will never not be in my top 33.
This is like assassins, but with words. It’s like magic school, but not magic, just an insanely good grip on language. It’s… it’s so hard to describe. But at this point, need I say more? I love words and bookishness in books. I love magic (and magic schools) and assassins. This book was basically made for me!
I will admit that my first foray into Neil Gaiman books did not go particularly well. I read American Gods and was not in the right head space for it because I was very confused. But eventually I came back around to him and I picked this one up. I’m so very glad I did. I adored this book! The story is lighter, at the heart of it, than a lot of my picks here. But it has such heart. It’s one of the only Fae related stories I’ve read (somehow I completely missed that train all my life) and it has that classic feel that makes me think of books that have been around forever. Or the Princess Bride. A combination much like The Eyes is the Dragon, which I mentioned earlier. I love that about it. Its probably a reason I’ll never tire of it, either!
Never Let Me Go
And finally, the book that beat out a stack of about 20 for making the cut! I found this on some random blog list of books you must read in your 20’s or something and had picked up anything that sounded good. This one sounded good. But it was actually very unexpected. This one cuts you deep. Oh, but it was so good. The whole book was like a slow, unsettling heartbreak. You make characters that can break my heart, you make the top 33. Simple as that.
And now we have come to the end of this list. I’m a whole year older and my TBR pile just got exceptionally longer, because this trip down favorites lane has me wanting to re-read all of these immediately.