Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Unforgettable Books

This week, we’re talking about memorable books. Here are 10 books that I didn’t want to put down and then couldn’t stop thinking about when they were over.

*This post contains affiliate links. I earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Books I’ll Remember Forever

1. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (Ripley #1)

Adult Crime / Thriller

In this first novel, we are introduced to suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s. A product of a broken home, branded a "sissy" by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal but grows enraged by Dickie's ambivalent feelings for Marge, a charming American dilettante.

Why I Remember It: Tom Ripley is a devious dude. This novel is full of near misses. I wanted Ripley to be caught because he’s a dangerous criminal, but I didn’t want the story to end. I was gripped by how far Ripley would push his crimes.

2. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Adult Historical Fiction

For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She's barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world--until the unthinkable happens.
For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She's barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.

Why I Remember It: The nature writing. Seriously, some of the best nature writing I’ve ever read. The North Carolina marshes are so vividly described that I can picture every detail, even though I’ve never seen them in real life.

3. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Nonfiction / Memoir

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag." In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Why I Remember It: I had to keep reminding myself that this story is true. The author’s childhood is intense and bizarre. I don’t know how she survived it. This is an edge-of-your-seat memoir.

4. Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Nonfiction Memoir / Essays

One of the comedy world's brightest new voices, Trevor Noah is a light-footed but sharp-minded observer of the absurdities of politics, race and identity, sharing jokes and insights drawn from the wealth of experience acquired in his relatively young life. As host of the US hit show The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he provides viewers around the globe with their nightly dose of biting satire, but here Noah turns his focus inward, giving readers a deeply personal, heartfelt and humorous look at the world that shaped him.

Noah was born a crime, son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the first years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, take him away.

A collection of eighteen personal stories, Born a Crime tells the story of a mischievous young boy growing into a restless young man as he struggles to find his place in a world where he was never supposed to exist. Born a Crime is equally the story of that young man's fearless, rebellious and fervently religious mother—a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse that ultimately threatens her own life.

Why I Remember It: Another memoir where I don’t know how the author survived his childhood. This book is both accessible and hilarious. You’ll learn a ton about South Africa’s history, culture, and government, but you’ll never feel like you’re learning because Trevor Noah is an entertaining storyteller.

5. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

Adult Literary Fiction

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage—after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures—Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time—until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does—but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine.

Why I Remember It: Every time I thought I knew where the plot was going, it completely changed directions. The characters are complicated. I was so invested in their story that I downloaded the audiobook so I could listen to it at work. I’d get mildly irritated when I had to pause the book to help a customer. I didn’t want to be rudely jerked out of Yejide’s world. I could have read this novel in one sitting if work hadn’t gotten in the way.

6. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Middlegrade Historical Fiction

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Why I Remember It: That ending. Middlegrade books usually have sweet endings. This one goes for ultra-realistic. I would have loved it as a preteen. I preferred intense books that dealt with real-life topics. This one is very “real.”

7. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Young Adult Historical Fiction

Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Why I Remember It: It’s a story about small gestures and the impact that people can have on each other’s lives. There’s a quote on the back cover from Eowyn Ivey that says “This book is Alaska.” I fully believe that. The setting is vivid, and the characters are products of their environment. This story couldn’t exist anywhere else. I love that. The setting is important!

8. This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

Young Adult Historical Fantasy

In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay.

Why I Remember It: All of Mackenzi Lee’s books stay with me, but this one needs more hype. It’s compulsively readable with a fast-paced plot. The characters are morally gray anti-heroes. If you love Vicious by VE Schwab, you should give This Monstrous Thing a shot.

9. The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

Adult Nonfiction / Biography

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? What did he learn? As well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.

Why I Remember It: The history of hermits is surprisingly fascinating. This is another nonfiction book that you’ll have to keep reminding yourself is true. Christopher Knight is an unusual person. I’m not a people-lover, but I don’t think I could live like he did.

10. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Adult Mystery

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

So the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive, past the beeches, to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten, her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant—the sinister Mrs. Danvers—still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca.

Why I Remember It: The mystery. What happened to Rebecca? Why is Mrs. Danvers so creepily loyal to her dead mistress? Is the narrator’s new husband a murderer? My feelings about the characters were constantly shifting. I never knew what to believe or who to trust.

What book will you remember forever?


  1. Ripley is such a great character. I read the first three books and enjoyed them. I found myself rooting for him as the characters he was harming were all horrible!

  2. I've heard so many good things about Where the Crawdads Sing.

    My TTT .

    1. I am an avid reader, Lydia, and I have to say ... I think this is in the top 5 of my most-enjoyed reads! I was captivated and upset that the book actually ended! It was just one of those reads that you don't want to end!

    2. My all time favourite book. I feel as though I lived in the Marsh with Kya. Beautiful life story.

    3. I have to disagree. I thought Crawdads was one of the worst books I have ever read. And during the pandemic, I was reading a book a day. The book is so flawed that I just cannot understand the hype. I almost didn’t even finish it. It’s a completely incredulous story from beginning to end. But I can’t say why without spoiling the book for people. I don’t recommend it to anyone!

    4. I felt the same way about Crawdads. I can’t understand why people loved it as much as they did. Each to his own.

    5. I personally hated that book. It wasn’t the writing. It was the fact that the author asks us readers to suspend belief on so many occasions that it got to be utterly ridiculous. I found myself groaning so many times while reading it. To me, it was more like a bad soap opera. YUCK!!

    6. I will never forget The Gentleman in Moscow. The elegant writing, the lessons in history, and the ineffably wonderful man who tied everything together. I didn’t want it to end.

      I felt the same way about Memoirs of a Geisha. What a literary masterpiece! I learned so much about that culture and was mesmerized by the characters and their stories.

    7. I have tried to find other books by Arthur Golden because I also love Memoirs of a Geisha.

  3. Great list! I love Rebecca - it really is du Maurier's masterpiece - and I really enjoyed Stay With Me too. I think about that one quite a lot, actually!

  4. I do want to read This Monstrous Thing, and I'm curious about Rebecca too!


  5. My mom has been trying to get me to read Rebecca for probably 30 years. LOL I saw the movie many years ago but I know that’s not the same. Maybe one days of these days I’ll make her happy and read the book.

  6. I just got Where the Crawdad Sings from the library. I am even more excited to start it now after seeing it made your list!

  7. Glad you enjoyed these books and they stayed with you. https://pmprescott.blogspot.com/2020/02/ttt-021820.html

  8. Oooh, fantastic list as always. My responses:
    1. Only know this story from the movie.
    2. Liked, but didn't love this one, but I see what you're saying. Ramona Blue was like that for me--such a vivid sense of place.
    3. Yes! I still bring up details from this book in conversation.
    4. My all time favorite audiobook AND my all time favorite celebrity biography. Because even if Trevor Noah had grown up to be a car mechanic in Boise, this memoir would be well worth reading.
    5. All right, you've convinced me. Adding to my TBR immediately.
    6. Meh.
    7. YES. Though I don't remember it was well as some on this list. I should re-read it, right?
    8. See #5.
    9. I think we've established that we both really liked this one.
    10. Oh the DRAMA. I read this in my early teens, which is PERFECT.

  9. Other People's Houses would have made my list had I gone back further. It was a phenomenal book. Once I saw the way all these people's lives were connected, I was awed. I love when author's do that, and it was fantastic story too.

  10. I loved Rebecca - creepier than I expected, and all those revelations!

  11. It's funny, for the longest time I never knew Mr. Ripley was a book! I knew about the movie of course but not the book. The Smell of Other People's Houses sounds pretty good, and Rebecca is a book I've heard so much about over the years, but I've never read her either.

    1. After reading Rebecca, I had to read all of her books. After all these years I remember almost all of them. She was an incredible writer.

  12. I did not know these books but I've added some of them to my TBR! One of the books I'll never forget is a book about Christiane F, written by her mother. And also the book Salt to the Sea made a deep impact.

  13. Personally I'll always remember Allegiant by Veronica Roth because it's the first book that made me cry for like 3 days straight lol

  14. Where The Crawdads Sing sounds so good and I've heard so many raves, I'll need to try it for myself ASAP!

    1. I wouldn’t buy it if I were you. I did and it was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. I hated the book. As you read it, ask yourself if a child who basically raised herself in a swamp could possibly do all the things the author wants us to believe she could do. I had a daughter her age who was exceptionally bright. But without the proper resources, contacts, books, and supplies, I can’t imagine her being able to accomplish all the Kya supposedly does. It’s ludicrous. And I won’t add any spoilers other than to say that the ending is ridiculous as well.

    2. Well, you're not her and many, many more loved it than didn't, including me. And yes, children throughout history, and even in modern times, have done such things and more to survive. That said, there's nothing wrong with suspending a little belief now and then to be entertained. And who says buying a book "was one of the biggest mistakes" they ever made? Talk about having to suspend belief, LOL

  15. I totally agree with Where the Crawdads Sing AJ! Yesterday I visited Waterstone in Brussels with a friend and I pushed her to buy it at half price. Then I talked the cashier so ...buy it too!

    1. I don’t understand why you all love this book so much. The story is completely incredulous. I could write an entire thesis in all the incongruities the author expects readers to believe. I personally wasn’t willing to do that. The list had just gotten so long. Just one example. Do you really think that this young girl who lived alone in a swamp her whole life can suddenly begin speaking like a college-educated woman? And we are led to believe that she is this innocent, loving girl who throughout the books has shown no signs of anger, hatred, resentment, or violence, has schemed to viciously murder someone? Seriously? I say… what a crock!

    2. Totally agree with you!! Hated this book!

  16. I love it when books stick in my mind and I keep thinking about them long after I've put the book down. I definitely agree with you about Educated and Trevor Noah. And you've made me want to read Wolf Hollow and The Stranger in the Woods now.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  17. Ahh this is a lovely list! I've heard a whole lot of good things about The Smell of Other People's houses, I really should give it a try someday :)

  18. Educated, and The Smell of Other People's Houses would be on my list, too! 📚✨

  19. This is a great list! I loved Educated and Born a Crime. I think I will be looking for the hermit book soon!

  20. Okay, you've officially convinced me to read This Monstrous Thing! I've loved several of her other books and I love morally gray characters!

  21. First of all, I LOVE the new design! Second, I went down a Wikipedia rabbit hole involving Christopher Knight, so I must read this book! Third, I LOVE Smelly Houses and I am so excited to see it on your list! I also really need to read Trevor Noah, and Educated has been on my radar since I saw it on another one of your posts, so I clearly need to get to it.

  22. I don't think I will be forgetting Born a Crime or Rebecca any time soon either. I so need to read Educated. I have Stay with Me and really need to read it too. And This Monstrous Thing has been on my kindle forever as well! I need to read more... Oh, and I recently got the Talented Mr Ripley.

  23. I've been meaning to read This Monstrous Thing! I loved This Savage Song so I wonder if it compares to that Schwab's book as well :)

  24. The first two pages of Rebecca will hook you on this book. It is lyrical, haunting, and has a sense of doom. This is a must read!

  25. I'd would recommend My Absolute Darling as one of the best books I've read in the last year. I couldn't put it down. The descriptive language was gorgeous and the story devastating in equal measures. Thank you for lots of recommendations!

  26. Thank you for sharing those recommendations. I would also recommend this one. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09T8FFZLQ?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

  27. I'm 64 and have been a constant reader since I was 14. Only one book has ever had that effect on me. The Grapes ot Wrath. It perfectly outlines man's inhumanity to his fellow man. I never want to read it again.

  28. I read Just Stay Away about a nine-year-old gaslighting a father and his family. Couldn’t put it down.

  29. I would add Shogun, Gone with the Wind, The Color Purple and Roots.

  30. I forgot to mention A Wrinkle in Time (YA). So good!

  31. One book I will never forget is Wildflower Hill by Kimberly Freeman. It was passed around in my office and everyone loved it. Check it out if you haven’t already read it. You won’t be disappointed.

  32. The narrow road to the deep north by Richard Flanagan is an extraordinary book. Well worth reading.
    It amazes me that Crawdads has attracted such a strong negative response from some, it’s a work of fiction people! It is beautifully written, engaging and quite addictive. Also well worth reading