Books that have changed my life for the better

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Perhaps by now you guys know that I am a reader. Books, to me, are like gifts. Perfectly crisp little presents, each waiting to be unwrapped and praised. Books are gifts that keep on giving, each re-read showing you something new and beautiful. This list contains all of my most favorite reads, ever. Books that have made me weep with joy over beautiful writing, laugh out loud, and left  me hungry for that “first time reading” feeling. This list is a well thought out one, and is for sure to grow as I make my way through more books, but here it is so far. These will be numbered from all time most favorite, can’t live without story to still love so much but not as much as my number one. Fair ranking system, right?

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Side note: I’m not going to include Harry Potter, because really, it’s so ingrained in my life that I don’t feel it justice to include it here. It is the all time favorite book series, ever. Let’s just say this list is a “after listing all of the Harry Potter books, my next favorite books would be….” list. 🙂 

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1. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

“If you knew how you were going to die, when you were going to die, and why you were going to die, how would that affect you? How much differently would you live your life? Would it be different at all?” Kazuo Ishiguro, in an interview about Never Let Me Go

I’ve spoken about this book before, and probably told everyone I know that they must.read.this.book. It’s my all time favorite for a good reason. The story is so unique and I’ve never read anything else like it. Ishiguro’s narration through his characters is chillingly unsentimental. The language he uses is so subtle, such normal phrases that somehow equal a slightly devastating feel. I honestly don’t know how to describe his writing, but he is amazing. This story is about three people, Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth. They attend a school called Hailsham, but it is unlike any other school you or I attended. It has a different purpose, one that all the students accept and know, but they don’t really know. “They’ve been told, and not told.” It’s not until they are adults that they begin to understand, to know, what their lives are really like. And how different they really are. The book is a good one. Sad, beautiful. Amazing writing.

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2. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Being a Christian can have a negative meaning in today’s time. Unfortunately, instead of being known for love, some “Christians” tend to make a name for being judgmental hypocrites. Unforgiving, unloving, and ignorant. That isn’t a label I ever want to identify with. Donald Miller writes a beautiful memoir of his life as a person of love, a person confused by a great God, and a person in love with humanity. He attends Reed College, appropriately named the most Godless campus in America. Don’s book teaches us that love really knows no bounds, and that humanity is great and broken and so beautiful. His book teaches us that loving people has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with why Jesus came for us. His book teaches us that we are no different, that we are all trying to figure out this thing, and that we are so much better together, as a race, as a species, as humanity. This book changed my life for the better.

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

“All I was able to do was turn to Liesel Meminger and tell her the only truth I truly know. I said it to the book thief and I say it now to you. I am haunted by humans.” Death, p. 550

Oh my. Oh my. OH MY. Markus Zusak is a genius. The Book Thief is a forever haunting novel, a story that rips you open, and makes you rethink the Holocaust, death, and life. Liesel is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever read. This beautiful story is one of hope, life, life after death, prejudice, hatred, love, and the change that one book can make in a person’s life. And I love that this book is narrated by Death, such a fantastic point of view to read a book from. It’s an amazing, beautiful story.

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4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

“That’s the thing about pain, Hazel Grace. It demands to be felt.” -Augusts Waters

I mean, do I even need to say anything about this book? Come on. Talk about tears for days. This book made me so excited for life, and love, and thankful for the chance to be living a love story. It made me rethink how I see cancer, and the people who unfortunately have it. It made me so thankful for teenagers, and the brilliant, wholeheartedly, encompassing way that they love. John Green somehow manages to perfectly capture a teenage love every time he writes, and I am so thankful for it. Read it, grab some tissues. (Sidenote: THIS MOVIE IS SOOOO GOOD!!)

5. Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

Shauna is a perfect writer. I hope, when I write a book, that I will write with a smidgen of her beautiful writing. All of her books are like my favorite blanket and cup of tea, perfect for any season, words for comfort on hard seasons. I am so thankful that she is a writer and SO excited that she is writing a new book this fall! Her essays are life lessons to be revisited, over and over, gentle reminders of how important community, love, faith, and hard work is. Bittersweet is my favorite out of her three books, but really, I re-read all three of them all the time.

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6. Emma by Jane Austen

You can’t make a favorites list without including a classic, right? I love Emma. Emma is one of those rainy day stories, to curl up with and dream about the English countryside. To imagine yourself at the ball, or on a picnic or spending all day reading or exploring the grounds of the huge house. I love this story, how witty it is, how ridiculous Emma is, and how hilariously wrong she is about love. She figures it out eventually 🙂 Close seconds to Emma, are Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. 

7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This is an iconic story, one that makes me want to shake hands with Stephen Chbosky. Charlie is such a brave, unique character. The story is a quintessentially high school narrative, a story of love, confusion, drugs, parties and a past that everyone tries to keep hidden. It has a bittersweet ending, and Charlie kind of breaks your heart slowly. But it’s phenomenal. And the movie was good too.

8. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

This book is so hard to find! I’ve looked at every bookstore nearby and I think I will just have to order it. I kept it captive from the library for a while, but had to give it back. This story is scarily close to reality, with the premise of if a World War were to break out again, what would change? What would stay the same? Would anything? Set in the English countryside, a family of kids tries to figure out how to live when adults are missing, a war has started, and love starts to make an appearance between two of the cousins. There is no traditional narrating (no quotations at all) which threw me off a bit, but I loved it. Great book. (Also, fantastic movie. Careful of the language.)
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9. Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
C.S. Lewis was easily the most brilliant man that ever lived. This book blew my mind, and I read it every now and again for a spirit refreshing. So good. Definitely a slower read, perhaps with a cuppa present. 
10. The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad Book #2) by Tana French 
I had to include a novel. If you have not read Tana French, you are seriously missing out. Her books are intriguing, and the “whodunit” is actually hard to figure out sometimes. Irish mystery novels are like my new favorite thing, and hers are so descriptive and personal to the characters that I really get invested in these books. The characters are all mentioned in each book, but each one has a different front man. In the Likeness, for example, Cassie is the main girl, going undercover into a oddly close knit group of students, investigating the murder of a girl who has a scary resemblance to herself. The Likeness is my favorite, but I love them all. (Her newest book will be out in September!!)
And there you have it! My top ten favorite books of all time. Obviously there are so many other books I love and recommend constantly, but you will hard pressed to find a moment when I don’t recommend some of these. Let me know if the comments if you have read any of these. Also, let me know what your favorites are! 
Steffanie xo
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