The Best Ten Books I’ve Read

J.L. Weinmeister

I’ve always been an avid reader, and in my lifetime I’ve read hundreds of books. Today I’m sharing my top ten favorite books of all time. For series, I’m using the first book’s title even if I like the later books better. This post includes spoiler-free discussions of the books.

Disclaimer: This list is the top ten best books in my opinion. You have every right to disagree with my choices.

Number 10: Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Apprentice is an adult fantasy book about a prince’s bastard son who trains to be a royal assassin. I read this book my sophomore year of college. I remember working the circulation desk at my university’s library toward the end of the fall semester, and this book kept me company in between patrons and tasks. Hobb’s prose isn’t as dense as other adult fantasy writers’ like J.R.R. Tolkien and Terry Brooks. I found Assassin’s Apprentice far more accessible than other adult fantasy books I had read. Ever since I’ve matured as a writer, it’s been challenging for me to find books that draw me in and keep me engaged. Assassin’s Apprentice is one of the few books that truly hooked me in college, which is why it deserves a spot in my top ten. It’s the first book in the Farseer Trilogy, followed by Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest. I haven’t yet read the other two books, but they’re on my TBR.

Number 9: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone is a YA fantasy book about an orphan girl who discovers she has a unique power that sets her up to be the savior her nation needs. I read Shadow and Bone the summer before I started college. I was overnight pet sitting in my hometown, and I borrowed the whole trilogy from the library to keep me occupied. What really drew me into this book was one of the characters, the Darkling. There’s a lot of tension (I won’t say what kind) between him and Alina, the protagonist, and it kept me turning pages as fast I could read them. Shadow and Bone is the first book in the Grisha Trilogy, followed by Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising. I read all three books that summer. I almost always like the first book in a trilogy the most, and that is true for the Grisha Trilogy.

Number 8: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit is a classic fantasy novel about a hobbit who goes on an adventure to help a group of dwarves reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the treasure within from a dragon. I first read this book right after I read Harry Potter. I can’t remember if it was in fourth grade or sixth grade because I read Harry Potter both of those years. My uncle and I watched The Fellowship of the Ring when I stayed with him, which is what got me interested in the books. I reread The Hobbit during my last semester of college. By reread, I mean I listened to this super awesome theatrical audiobook of it while sorting rocks at my job. Going to work was fun because I got to listen to The Hobbit. Tolkien’s writing style in this book makes it a great book to listen to. I think the experience is augmented when it’s read aloud. Tolkien is a master storyteller, and this book is my favorite of his. I’ll be sharing more in-depth thoughts on it in next week’s posts.

Number 7: Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull

You will quickly learn I idolize Brandon Mull and practically worship his books. Beyonders: A World Without Heroes is a YA fantasy novel about a young teenage boy who is swallowed by a hippo and ends up in a different world where he must face an evil emperor in order to find his way home again. I first read this book in either sixth or seventh grade. I remember going to the launch party for the third book in the trilogy. My dad let me skip a day of school and drove me to Salt Lake City where I met Mull in addition to some other amazing authors. I reread the trilogy in May 2020 when I was in my third year of college. Mull’s worldbuilding is amazing. Lyrian is such a unique setting, I couldn’t get enough of it. That rule I mentioned about trilogies doesn’t apply to Mull. I always like the last book best, so in this case Beyonders: Chasing the Prophecy is my favorite. I will be doing a more in-depth look at this trilogy later this year, so if you’re interested, stay tuned.

Number 6: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Angel’s Game is an adult book that fits into several genres, mainly magical realism, mystery, and thriller. The book follows a writer who has mysterious encounters with an equally mysterious man, and there’s a romantic subplot. I was first introduced to Zafon by his book The Shadow of the Wind. I read that book, The Prisoner of Heaven, and The Angel’s Game in high school, all for book report projects. The Angel’s Game is my favorite of the three. They all take place in the same world where there’s the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, but The Angel’s Game can be read as a stand-alone. It’s a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind. Again, this book kept me turning pages. I read it as quickly as I could. Zafon’s work is pretty dark, and it feeds the darkness in my soul.

Number 5: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is a YA historical fiction novel. It’s interesting because it’s in Death’s POV, and it follows the story of a young girl growing up in Nazi-era Germany. This is another high school book report read. I think I read it in three days while I was staying with my grandpa over summer break between my sophomore and junior years. This is another one of those gripping books I couldn’t put down. I honestly don’t remember much about the plot, but I remember raving about it for quite a while after reading it.

Number 4: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

You probably knew this was coming. Fablehaven is a middle grade fantasy series about a brother and sister who find out their grandparents run a preserve for magical creatures. This book was my introduction to Mull, and it is by far one of my absolute favorite series of all time. I first read it in fifth grade, shortly before the fifth and final book was released. I proceeded to reread it six times between then and the spring before I started college. Even after all those rereads, I still love this series. I love the plot, the worldbuilding, the setting, the characters, all of it. Mull’s plot twists are the best. There are so many amazing plot twists in this series, and I never saw any of them coming, which is saying something because I’m one of those people who picks up on plot twists before they’re even foreshadowed. Sometimes I guess them before I even read the book, but not with Mull. My favorite book in this series is the last one, Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison, though I like the third and fourth books a lot as well.

Number 3: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a YA fantasy about a princess who has a Godstone imbedded in her navel. When she enters an arranged marriage with a king, she finds herself face-to-face with a terrible war. This is another book I couldn’t put down. I can’t remember if I first read it in middle school or high school—I’m thinking seventh grade. I know I reread it my junior year of high school. It’s the first book in a trilogy, and it follows my trilogy rule. I love the first book. I will be taking a more in-depth look at this trilogy later this year, so stay tuned.

Number 2: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl is a YA contemporary romance about a young woman who is in her freshman year of college and is navigating the challenges that accompany it. I read Fangirl the summer before I went off to college, which was very appropriate timing. I reread it a few weeks after I graduated college, which was just last month. This was another one of those very quick, minimum-of-three-days reads. The romance is so sweet and healthy, unlike so many YA and adult books I’ve read. Many people argue one of the characters is the best book boyfriend ever, and I would have to agree. The book also incorporates mental health issues, which is so important in a time when they’re heavily stigmatized.

Number 1: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo is an adult adventure novel that focuses on a man’s revenge after he is wrongfully imprisoned on his wedding day. I wasn’t expecting a book report read to be my favorite book ever, especially a 1200 page monster, but I love this book. I read it in a week, either right before or right after reading The Book Thief while still at my grandpa’s house. There was a 100-page stretch that was slow—I think it was pages 300-400. Other than that, it drew me in and didn’t let me go. There’s so much tension as Edmond Dantes seeks his revenge on the people who wronged him and tries to get his fiancée back. Words cannot express how good this book is. I need to reread it. Like right now. Why did I leave it at my parents’ house?

There you have it. These are my top ten favorite books. Are any of these your favorites? Do you hate any of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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