Okay, I’ll be the first one to admit it: I probably have around fifty favorite books total. Once I fall in love with a story, it’s just too difficult to compare it to another story that I absolutely love. I’m really not capable of picking favorites when it comes to well-written novels. I can’t do it.
But I can give you some examples of my favorite books. Not just the ones that I’m going to discuss below, but books like The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (and the rest of the series), and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.
Certain books just capture me for the rest of my life. Once I read them once, I’ll keep reading them forever. And books like that have been few and far in between lately. Sure, a lot of the newer books I read are good. Don’t get me wrong: they’re good. Sometimes very good. I enjoy reading them. But they don’t hook me. They don’t make me want to read them every twice a year for the rest of my life. I want them to, but they don’t.
Yet other books are somehow straight up the most addictive books I’ve ever read. I absolutely adore them. Sometimes I don’t even know why I still read them until I’m picking them up again and completely absorbed in the storyline. Even knowing exactly what’s going to happen, I love them.
I’ll probably list more than these three at some point, but here I go.
1. Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
Back of the Book (Amazon.com)
Epic adventures. Fierce warrior cats. A thrilling fantasy world. It all begins here.
Read the book that began a phenomenon—and join the legion of fans who have made Erin Hunter’s Warriors series a #1 national bestseller.
For generations, four Clans of wild cats have shared the forest according to the laws laid down by their ancestors. But the warrior code has been threatened, and the ThunderClan cats are in grave danger. The sinister ShadowClan grows stronger every day. Noble warriors are dying—and some deaths are more mysterious than others.
In the midst of this turmoil appears an ordinary housecat named Rusty… who may turn out to be the bravest warrior of them all.
My Take On It
I figured I’d start with my earliest literary addiction: The Warriors Series. Into the Wild follows the journey of a normal house cat into becoming a fierce warrior of Thunderclan. The cat, Rusty, encounters a lifestyle and pattern of behavior that he barely understands. These new cats prioritize each other, their clan’s history, and their own honor above everything else. He meets new cats, learns about their rich society, and fights for the honor of his clan. It sounds a little bit ridiculous, but it’s anything but! It’s probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. Meant to target readers eight and up, these books still completely captivate me. The entire first series is literary gold.
A lot of the appeal for me, however, is definitely nostalgia. I grew up reading this series and absolutely fell in love with these books. I feel at home when I read about Firepaw and Thunderclan. I’m not sure if another adult my age (22) would have the same reaction to this series if they picked up the first book now. They are written with the intention of appealing to children after all. But that’s honestly fine with me. Sometimes you don’t need a book that’s at the level you are. Sometimes you want nostalgia. It’s amazing that these books are capable of still appealing to me even though I’ve grown so much since first reading them. Talk about inspiring reader loyalty! These books have been out for 17 years!
Into the Wild may be targeted at kids, but it has a special place in my heart and, as a twenty-two year old, I read the entire first collection at least once a year. If you have a child (or some free time for yourself), I definitely recommend picking this book up. Heck, I’d recommend picking up the entire first series. They’re that good! You may not love it quite as much as I still do, but they’re still worth a read. Plus, you can let me know if this series is capable of appealing to an older audience from the first read or if you have to have that element of nostalgia to really enjoy them.
However, if you do plan on gifting this book to a child, you may want to read it with them. The series does include some elements of violence and death, but I definitely feel like it’s at an approachable and child-friendly level. They’re incredibly tame compared to most video games young kids play! The fights are literally cat fights. Plus, the series isn’t really gory and is more meant to reflect the challenges of survival and diplomacy. The Warriors Series also includes a bunch of positive role models and messages, gives you a great chance to educate your kids about survival, wildlife, and death. They even include a cat version of heaven and hell. They’re just really good books.
2. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Back of the Book (Amazon.com)
Kristin Cashore’s bestselling, award-winning fantasy Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, a smart, beautiful teenager who lives in a world where selected people are given a Grace, a special talent that can be anything from dancing to swimming. Katsa’s is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his thug. Along the way, Katsa must learn to decipher the true nature of her Grace… and how to put it to good use. A thrilling, action-packed fantasy adventure (and steamy romance!) that will resonate deeply with adolescents trying to find their way in the world.
My Take On It
Ahhhh, enter my teenage years. Meeting Katsa for the first time was an absolute blessing. I was struggling with my own identity and sense of self worth. Meeting such a strong, independent woman who tackled her own sense of self worth inspired me. I wanted to be as strong as Katsa was. She made me feel like I could believe in myself. No matter my flaws, no matter what I struggled with, I was worth something.
Plus, her impossible feats made me feel awe-struck. It was so refreshing to see a beautiful young woman that was completely competent in survival and combat situations. I had never encountered such a character before! Katsa’s power came across to me, during that first read, as seemingly limitless. Sometimes it even gave me chills.
And the author managed to do this all without diminishing the value of being soft and kind to others. Katsa’s extraordinary strength and power didn’t leave her without the ability to love. Graceling is jam-packed with unexpectedly touching scenes and relationships. Katsa’s interactions with Prince Po in particular captured my whole heart. They made her shine all the brighter and they made me wonder what love had in store for me.
Years later, I still make a point to read Graceling at least once a year. It’s one of those books that remind me of my own strengths, but still make me want to become a better version of myself. It’s the perfect book for teenagers to read, but I recommend it for all ages teenage and up. Cashore’s writing is still beautiful years later and Katsa will always have a special place in my heart.
However, if I’m being critical, I wouldn’t say that this book is perfect. It does sometimes bother me that the villain in this book is so black-and-white. There is no complexity to him. He is simply evil. I would have liked this book better if Cashore had given the villain the same level of complexity and honesty as she gave to Prince Po and Katsa. They are not perfectly good so why would their villan be perfectly evil? It’s the one flaw in the book for me.
Yet that is a small side-note in comparison to the overall success of the novel. And it does get remedied a bit by my next constant re-read…
3. Fire by Kristin Cashore
Back of the Book Summary (Goodreads.com)
It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.
This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.
Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.
If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.
My Take On It
I can’t talk about Graceling without mentioning Fire. I read Fire two or three times a year, more so perhaps than almost every other book I make a point to reread each year. It is the perfect compliment to Graceling, but is a powerful standalone as well. The main character, Fire, is equally as strong as Katsa, but in a completely different way. Whereas Katsa is bold, Fire’s strengths are more based on her compassion and kindness. They give a surprising level of depth to what makes a hero a hero when you compare the two. You do not need to be masculine to be a hero and you do not need to be feminine to be beautiful. You can just be yourself.
It’s a really beautiful, amazing book full of beautiful, amazing messages.
Plus, the world-building in Fire is just stunning. Imagining the appearance of everything from Fire herself to the world around her captivated me from the very first page. I also personally loved the fact that Fire isn’t white. So many authors focus only on white beauty being the best type of beauty that it was refreshing to see another type of beauty reflected in who is supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the universe. However, Fire’s beauty was both a blessing and a curse, and I loved to see that played out. It added a level of depth to her character and her world that she fully understood the horrible impact her own beauty could have on others.
It also furthered the complexity of her relationships with people. Fire constantly struggled with a king who couldn’t resist her beauty, a general who hated her for it , and an ex-lover who couldn’t loosen his grip on her. Almost everyone around her was impacted by the sight of her. It was inescapable.
And a lot of this behavior made me stop and think. Is this how we all really act? A lot of scenes in Fire were very reactive and explosive with a calm and caring main character at the heart of it all. Everything from politics to love were involved. I think in a lot of ways, human society is very reactive. Humans, no matter how beautiful they are, are prone to violence. Fire is in a position where she wishes to prevent the outbreak of war without compromising on her deeply held values. She’s in a complete ethical tangle. You find yourself wondering what you would do in her shoes. From a young age, asking myself questions like that always appealed to me. Books like these make me question myself and get to know myself better. They’re simply art.
Plus, this book revisits the villain from the first book much to his benefit. While he doesn’t get many positive traits, the depth this provides excuses his existence as a purely evil character. There is just something wrong with him, as simple as that.
However, this book isn’t for people who don’t enjoy slow build ups. Much of the action for this series doesn’t happen until later on. It focuses more on character and world building than anything else. I was spell-bound by it all. Other readers might feel more bored. It’s worth giving it a try though if you’re interested! I haven’t found anything else quite like it.