Deb’s Book Recommendations

Top 10 All Time

Not in order because ranking things is of the devil. Even having a top ten hurts my soul, but I value your time, so if you really want to know which books I wish everyone in the world would read so we could talk about them, here you go:

The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkein
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor
A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken
The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
The Stand, Steven King
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
The Expanse, James SA Corey

Books About Writing

I read Stephen King’s On Writing in the early days of writing my first novel, and its impact on my writing process can’t be overstated. To this day, I’ve bought that book more times than any other, mostly because Nate keeps giving them away to people. The other books are also wonderful (and none of them are boring, even Dryer’s English, I swear), but if you’re only going to read one…

On Writing, Steven King
How to Write One Song, Jeff Tweedy
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett
Pity the Reader, Kurt Vonnegut and Suzanne McConnell
Dreyer’s English, Benjamin Dreyer
Walking on Water, Madeleine L-Engle

Science Fiction

Of course, three of my favorites are already in the Top Ten. Some of these are all-time greats. Some are hidden gems. All are books I’ve read more than once. To keep it brief, I’ve only included one book from any one series, and I tried to pick the one I thought was the best, but you can pretty much assume the whole series is worthwhile. So, in no particular order, the science fiction that has influenced, impressed, or delighted me the most:

Chaperhouse: Dune, Frank Herbert
Ancillary Justice,
The Martian, Andy Weir
Foundation, Isaac Asimov
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
The Book of Phoenix, Nnedi Okorafor


As with sci-fi, I already have a few of these in my Top 10. This is easily the category where I’ve spent the most time, largely because I lean toward epic fantasy and the books are so deliciously LONG. Also because I’ve read them multiple times. (If someone builds you a whole world to explore, it’s only fair to visit more than once.) If you DO want something short and delightful, read Piranesi. I can’t even describe it to you. Just read it like the mysterious wonder it was meant to be. On the other end of the spectrum, if you want sink as deep into geekery as you can go, read The Wheel of Time. I only know a handful of others who have read it, and every time I meet them it’s like we’ve got membership cards into the same weird club. The series is ridiculously long (14 books) and books 4-7 are a bit of a trudge, but it pays off so well. SO WELL.

The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
The Wheel of Time series, Robert Jordan
Piranesi, Susanna Clarke
The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir

Historical Fiction

Yes, most of these are what you might call classics, but for me classic lit and historical fiction fill the same niche in my heart. I made no attempt to choose these based on their claim to greatness. These are just the ones I have loved the most.

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
The Count of Montecristo, Alexandre Dumas
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mansfield Park, Jane Austen
Rilla of Ingleside, LM Montgomery
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

For Teens

Nothing on this list will be a shock. I read A LOT of YA fiction, and after extensive research I can confirm that usually the ones that really hit it big are legitimately the best-written. Sure, some big hits aren’t really that great (I’m looking at you, Divergent) and there are hidden gems, but really there’s some horrible YA out there and even more mediocre fluff. These six still top my list. If I had to pick one of them? Six of Crows. Give me a band of lovable outlaws pulling off a heist every day of the week. Please.

Legend, Marie Lu
Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins
Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo
The Fault in Our Stars, John Greene
The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

For Kids

I wanted to keep going and going. I could have made a whole separate list of the books my own kids have loved, but I confined myself to the ones I’ve personally read and can confirm are amazing. Unlike my YA category, there are probably a couple here you haven’t heard of. Each one delighted me. (And yes, you should read the entire Harry Potter series, obviously. I just like Order of the Phoenix best. I think. I can never decide for sure.)

When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead
Goodbye, Stranger , Rebecca Stead
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket
Connect the Stars, Marisa de los Santos and David Teague
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Inquisitor’s Tale, Adam Gidwitz
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norman Juster
Tuesdays at the Castle, Jessica Day George


Because yes, there is some really great non-fiction. I just can’t seem to get around to reading much of it. That said, these ones have really helped my life.

Living with Intensity, edited by Daniels and Pechowski
The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Bondage Breaker, Neil Anderson
Death By Living, N.D. Wilson