A family of listmakers

A few years ago, my sister and I decided to exchange a list of our top ten favorite books of all time. We tried to set some parameters–you couldn’t put anything on the list because you thought you should, ie, smarty pants books; they could be special for different reasons not just because they were well written–but really we just had to go with our guts and pick the books that felt momumental to us personally when we read them or in retrospect. We vowed then we’d read each other’s lists and are almost there. Not too long ago I finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (which was a total sneak because Kelly couldn’t decide between that and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and she knew I’d have to read the first before the second). The last I read on her list was The Mystery of the Old Clock, the first in the Nancy Drew series (I should be glad she didn’t pick the thirty-seventh).

Here’s what made my top ten in no particular order:

The Stand, Stephen King
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
I Know Some Things, ed. Lorrie Moore
She’s Come Undone, Wally Lamb
The Giant’s House, Elizabeth McCracken
The Bright Forever, Lee Martin
Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates
Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver

Sometimes I look at that list and can’t believe the hard cuts I had to make. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, The Half-Known World by Robert Boswell, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I’m convinced I’m going to see Curtis Sittenfeld at a coffee shop one day and tell her she’s on my list and it’s totally going to be that Ross Geller/Isabella Rosselini “it’s laminated” moment on Friends, only Curtis, I don’t want to sleep with you, just talk about US magazine and how we’re still recovering from Kathy Griffin’s divorce.

Overall, exchanging the lists was super fun, and I’ve definitely read things I wouldn’t have otherwise. My whole family and a few friends ended up getting in on the action and it was fun to see how we were represented by our reading. Kelly loves thrillers; so does my dad. Mom and I tend toward literary fiction but she has more classics. I like darker books; while I’ve gotten to read Nancy Drew, poor Kelly had to be emotionally beat down by Joyce Carol Oates.

What would make your list, and why? And how would you decide the parameters?


  1. Mindy says:

    Here’s my list, and because I don’t always like limits, mine has 11, including a series, so I’m really cheating:
    – Alice Walker’s The Color Purple
    – Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
    – Mark Zusak’s The Book Thief
    – Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
    – Lawrence Hill’s Someone Knows My Name
    – Ridley Pearson’s Parallel Lies
    – Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book
    – Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men
    – J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
    – Alan Zweibel’s Bunny, Bunny
    – Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

    It was hard to get the list down to so few, but I chose these because they’ve all stuck with me for one reason or another, and several of them I’ve given as gifts. Also, there are SO many good books in the world, and more written every day, that I rarely read a book twice, no matter how good, but I’ve read most of these more than once and will probably read some of them yet again.

    Thanks for sharing, Erin. I’ll likely be adding some of your choices to my Goodreads “to read” list.

    • erin flanagan says:

      That is an awesome list! And I’m glad to know you liked Quiet – that’s one I’ve been debating reading and will now get on for sure.

      And look at you with your eleventh entry! I could never be so rebellious (I wish I were kidding).

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