1. The Duino Elegies (Rainer Maria Rilke)
2. The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien)
3. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
4. Transformations (Anne Sexton)
5. The Time-Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
6. Stardust (Neil Gaiman)
7. The Last Unicorn (Peter S. Beagle)
8. Possession (AS Byatt)
9. Smoke and Mirrors (Neil Gaiman)
10. Well Loved Tales (Ladybird Books)
11. Till We Have Faces (CS Lewis)
12. Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones)
13. Sandman (Neil Gaiman)
14. Letters to a Young Poet (Rainer Maria Rilke)
15. 95 Poems (EE Cummings)
16. Lord of Scoundrels (Loretta Chase)
17. Beauty (Robin McKinley)
18. Dark Hours (Conchitina Cruz)
19. Winter Rose (Patricia A. McKillip)
20. Tam Lin (Pamela Dean)
21. Einstein’s Dreams (Alan Lightman)
22. Don’t Bet on the Prince (Jack Zipes)
23. Dreaming of You (Lisa Kleypas)
24. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
25. Fables (Bill Willingham)
26. The Seven Ages (Louise Gluck)
27. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (Julia Quinn)
28. Twelfth Night (William Shakespeare)
29. Much Ado About Nothing (William Shakespeare)
30. Watchmen (Alan Moore)
31. We the Living (Ayn Rand)
32. Persuasion (Jane Austen)
33. Twisted (Jessica Zafra)
34. The Rose and the Beast (Francesca Lia Block)
35. South of the Border, West of the Sun (Haruki Murakami)
36. Alone (Rod McKuen)
37. Atonement (Ian McEwan)
38. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
39. I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith)
40. Tales From Shakespeare (Charles and Mary Lamb)
41. Fourteen Love Stories (various authors)
42. Bluebeard’s Egg (Margaret Atwood)
43. Cyrano de Bergerac (Edmond Rostand)
44. The Hours (Michael Cunningham)
45. The Princess Bride (William Goldman)
46. Happy Endings (Luis Joaquin Katigbak)
47. One Hundred Love Poems (various authors)
48. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (Pablo Neruda)
49. Eros the Bittersweet (Anne Carson)
50. The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
51. The Beauty Myth (Naomi Wolf)
52. Spells of Enchantment (Jack Zipes)
53. The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody (Will Cuppy)
54. The Bloody Chamber (Angela Carter)
55. Reconnaissance (Tara FT Sering)
56. The Virgin Suicides (Jeffrey Eugenides)
57. Psyche in a Dress (Francesca Lia Block)
58. The Mythology Class (Arnold Arre)
59. Fairy Tales for Adults series (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
60. The Spanish Groom (Lynne Graham)
61. Bulfinch’s Mythology (Thomas Bulfinch)
62. Red as Blood (Tanith Lee)
63. The Rule of Four (Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason)
64. The Adventures of Tintin (Herge)
65. Self-Help (Lorrie Moore)
66. Wasteland (Francesca Lia Block)
67. Anne of Green Gables (LM Montgomery)
68. I Do (Elizabeth Chandler)
69. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 (Joss Whedon)
70. Smoke in the Wind (Robyn Donald)
1. The Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke (1912-1922)
And we: spectators, always, everywhere,
Looking at everything and never from!
It floods us. We arrange it. It decays.
We arrange it again, and we decay.
Who’s turned us around like this,
so that whatever we do, we always have
the look of someone going away? Just as a man
on the last hill showing him his whole valley
one last time, turns, and stops, and lingers –
so we live, and are forever leaving. ~ Eighth Elegy
This is the book that never fails to move me. Never fails to inspire me. Never fails to make me think. Never fails to be awesome. Which is why I read it at least once a year. And which is why it’s at the top of this list.
2. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien (1954-1955)
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
My love for The Lord of the Rings was not at first sight–I barely made it through The Fellowship of the Ring. But somehow by The Two Towers, I was hooked. And by the end, I was obsessed. It’s one of the books that changed my life.
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice is the most beloved romantic novel in history…well it is at the very least in mine. 200 years have passed yet the tension between Elizabeth and Darcy still crackles. No wonder it keeps getting adapted.
4. Transformations by Anne Sexton (1971)
should a certain
quite adorable princess
be walking in her garden
at such a time
and toss her golden ball
up like a bubble
and drop it into the well?
It was ordained.
Just as the fates deal out
the plague with a tarot card.
Just as the Supreme Being drills
holes in our skulls to let
the Boston Symphony through. ~ The Frog Prince
This collection of retold fairy tales set in poetry never fails to give me goosebumps. Just like a good fairy tale should.
5. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)
Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting. Why has he gone where I cannot follow?
This is just so beautifully perfect, it will break your heart.
6. Stardust (Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie) by Neil Gaiman (1998 )
There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.
Sorry, can’t be anything but a fangirl because Neil Gaiman is love love love.
7. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (1968 )
We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.
Wonder and love and great sorrow shook Schmendrick the Magician then, and came together inside him and filled him, filled him until he felt himself brimming and flowing with something that was none of these. He did not believe it, but it came to him anyway, as it had touched him twice before and left him more barren than he had been. This time, there was too much of it for him to hold; it spilled through his fingers and toes, welled up equally in his eyes and his hair and the hollows of his shoulders. There was too much to hold — too much ever to use; and still he found himself weeping with the pain of his impossible greed. He thought, or said, or sang, I did not know that I was so empty, to be so full.
As for you and the things you said and didn’t say, she will remember them all, when men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits.
Sorry to just quote but gosh I love this book. I would put more but (as with Possession, I lost the file).
8. Possession: A Romance by AS Byatt (1990)
This is where I have always been coming to. Since my time began. And when I go away from here, this will be the mid-point, to which everything ran, before, and from which everything will run. But now, my love, we are here, we are now, and those other times are running elsewhere.
It’s nothing like the film adaptation because it’s better. Way way way better. (But I still love Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle) I’d post more quotes but I’ve lost the file…I’ll look for it and edit this to add.
9. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (1998)
I will not scream. I will not give them that satisfaction. They will have my body, but my soul and my story are my own, and will die with me. ~ Snow, Glass, Apples
You already know how much I love Neil Gaiman. The reason why is in this book. I fell in love the first time I read Snow, Glass, Apples and I haven’t fallen out of love since.
1o. Well Loved Tales by Ladybird Books (1964-1980s)
Once upon a time…
Not so much a book as books but these were the stories that captivated my childhood : The Little Mermaid, The Goose Girl, The Firebird, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Princess and the Frog, The Tinder Box, The Emperor and the Nightingale, The Princess and the Pea… They were my favorite books, my treasured collection–which were then destroyed by my not so book loving cousins who vandalized them much to my annoyance. Oh well. At least they’re still here, somewhat battered yet still irreplaceable.
11. Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by CS Lewis (1956)
It burned me from within. It quickened; I was with book, as a woman is with child.
First, above all, I love love love the title. This is Cupid and Psyche myth told through the eyes of Psyche’s “ugly” sister but it’s more that just their story. Just read it, it’s wonderful.
12. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)
In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first; and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.
This is pretty much perfect to me. Also watch: the Hayao Miyazaki adaptation although I love this book more than the film.
13. Sandman by Neil Gaiman (1989-1996)
You say that I have no power? Perhaps you speak truly. But you say that DREAMS have no power? Ask yourselves, all of you, what power would hell have if those imprisoned here could not dream of heaven?
You already know how much I love Neil Gaiman. I don’t have to tell you anymore.
14. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1934)
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
Rilke is my favorite poet and I always reread his books because of the advice and truths he offers. So I’ll just post more of that here, below the cut:
15. 95 Poems by ee cummings (1958)
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of the tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind,can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart ~ 92
I love ee cummings (as you saw in my fave poems list) and this is one of his first collections that I’ve read (which is why I chose it. that and i carry your heart [excerpt from poem above] is in it.)
16. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase (1995)
“I must be besotted,” he said evenly. “I have the imbecilic idea that you’re the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. Except for your coiffure,” he added, with a disgusted glance at the coils and plumes and pearls. “That is ghastly.”
She scowled. “Your romantic effusions leave me breathless.”
Speaking of Beauty and the Beast… this is one of the the romance novel versions of the tale and as a romance novel, it doesn’t get better than this (in fact in reader polls, this is always voted the #1 romance of all time, beating even Pride and Prejudice. Imagine that.) Loretta Chase has been a favorite of mine because her books are always a fun read because she writes strong, fascinating characters and their dialogue just zings (plus her female characters are always kick-ass.) I also highly recommend The Last Hellion and Your Scandalous Ways.
17. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (1978)
“If you wanted someone to talk to,” I said, “why didn’t you keep my father? He knows many more interesting things than I do.”
“Mmm,” said the Beast. “I’m afraid I specifically wanted a girl.”
“Oh?” I said nervously. “Why?”
He turned away from me, walked back to the doorway, and stood, head bowed, hands clasped behind him. The silence squeezed at my heart. “I am looking for a wife,” he said, heavily. “Will you marry me, Beauty?”
Well, Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales and this is one of my favorite retellings of the tale. McKinley wrote another take on the tale, Rose Daughter, which you should also read.
18. Dark Hours by Conchitina Cruz (2005)
Today the news tells me you are scheduled to be lonely. I part my curtains and look up.
Later, when the roads turn slippery with your sadness, i will put on my shoes, soak myself in your tears. It is difficult not to miss you when the evening sky is speechless, when your silence travels down my cheeks, like a request. Alunsina takes a walk in the rain.
19. Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip (1996)
“You come to me, ” he whispered. “Into every dark place. Into every memory. Into the empty eyes of winter. I go alone and find you with me. Why do you care for me?”
I did not know until I spoke. “Because you are making me human.”
I cannot begin to tell you how much I love, love love this book. Again, it’s a retelling of Tam Lin (see previous post) and it’s a beautiful, haunting tale of love. Since reading this Patricia McKillip has become one of my favorite writers and I’ve eagerly begun collecting her work. Below, I’ve posted an excerpt from the book because I just can’t help it.
20. Tam Lin by Pamela Dean (1991)
I forbid ye maidens all
that wear gold in your hair
to travel to Carterhaugh
for young Tam Lin is there
This is a retelling of the Tam Lin ballad (girl meets boy, gets pregnant, has to save boy from the Fairy Queen) that book geeks like me enjoy because Pamela Dean is such a book geek herself, she constantly references literature in the book (Shakespeare, etc…) which is why I love it because you can just see her joy and love for literature you can’t help but also get caught in that joy.
21. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman (1992)
Consider a world in which cause and effect are erratic…It is a world of impulse. It is a world of sincerity. It is a world in which every word spoken speaks just to that moment, every glance given has only one meaning, each touch has no past or no future, each kiss is a kiss of immediacy.
A beautifully written collection of stories that explore the concept of time, connected in the mind of a dreamer, Albert Einstein who is working on his theory of relativity. I would love to travel into the worlds of these stories, every one of them seems possible somehow, helped I think by Lightman’s scientific background. All I can say is, Alan Lightman, I’m a fan (his other novel I’ve read, Reunion, is beautiful too).
22. Don’t Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England, Edited by Jack Zipes (1987)
Some day my prince will come…
Jack Zipes is my favorite Fairy Tale scholar and I would love to buy more of his books if only they weren’t so expensive (I saw one in Fully Booked that was 2000 pesos. and it was softbound! harsh.) I love this collection which has stories/poems by Angela Carter, Tanith Lee, Jane Yolen, Anne Sexton and Margaret Atwood among others. My favorite story is probably Russalka or The Seacoast of Bohemia, a tragic version of The Little Mermaid–I say tragic because it shows the realistic (in terms of the fairy tale world, at least) consequences of giving up everything for young, obsessive love.
23. Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas (1994)
You can’t change the truth. You can act as if you’re blind and deaf, you can walk away from me forever, but the truth will still be there, and you can’t make it go away. I love you.
Sara Fielding is a writer who wrote of a world very different from her safe country home. Derek Craven is a part of that world and he doesn’t want Sara in it. Lisa Kleypas is one of my favorite historical romance writers (another one’s Julia Quinn and the other one is still upcoming on this list) and this is often found in Best Romance Novels lists for a good reason–because it is one of the best romance novels ever written. In fact all of Lisa Kleypas’s novels are good reads. She has recently also written contemporary romance.