Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Top 15 Stand-Alone Books

Hey, y'all! So I was surprised to see that I haven't done any sort of list with my favorite books! I thought it might be cool to make this a bi-annual thing, and since it's about halfway through the year, I figured it might be cool to do it every year halfway through and at the end of the year. Also, at the end of this post, I'm going to discuss some stand-alones that I think/ hope will make the next list, because I plan on reading them in the near future.

This list is not limited just to Stand-Alone novels. It really just includes any book that is not part of a series. I find that series tend to sometimes muddle my lists up, because you can only put Harry Potter on your favorites list a few times before it becomes repetitive. Very repetitive. 

I also tried to actually rank them within this list rather than just doing it in alphabetical order or something like that. However, you'll see that these books are just as varied as my reading interests- Young Adult, Dystopian, Classics, Psychology, Autobiography, Mystery, Fantasy, etc.- and how does one really effectively compare a fantasy novel and an autobiography? So, as I said, I tried to rank them. But I'll be sure to discuss why a book fell higher or lower than another, whether it's because I thought it wasn't quite as good or whether I just had to put them somewhere and played eenie meenie miney mo.

That being said, the last few books on this list aren't quite as significant. I was going to do a 10 book list, but a couple things caused me to decide on 15 rather than 10. First of all, my top 10 books are fairly solid. They sometimes fluctuate, but many of the books in it have been among my favorites for several years. Adding 5 extra slots will show some of the other changes which will occur over the years. Also, I had a list of about 12 books and couldn't narrow it down. So I tacked on a few to make 15. Let's get into the list!

#15: You Are Not So Smart 
by David McRaney

Like I said, this one was mostly just an add-on to get the list to 15 books. I liked the book, and actually have a book discussion on it (click HERE to see that) but I wouldn't really consider it one of my "favorites." I thought it was really interesting to learn about all of these different ways we're "deluding" ourselves. McRaney's writing was really funny, clever, and sarcastic. He's not a psychologist, so he explains things in layman's terms rather than using stuffy psychology terms. I was a lot more articulate in my actual discussion, so if you're interested, you should definitely check that out. Overall, I enjoyed it and will definitely be picking up the sequel, You Are Now Less Dumb, at some point, but I wouldn't call it one of my "favorite" books.

#14: The House on Hackman's Hill 
by Joan Lowery Nixon

This one is really, really, random. It's still another add-on to get to 15, but it does have a special place in my heart. This is actually a children's chapter book, but it's one of the creepiest stories I've ever read. First off, look at that cover. Seriously, that alone is enough to give you the heebie-jeebies. These two kids are visiting their grandparents, and they find this creepy old mansion. After their grandparents' neighbor tells them a story about when he lived in the mansion as the child, the kids decide to find a way into the mansion to find the mummy that's supposedly inside. I'm surprised this didn't give me nightmares as a child. I'd definitely say that this is my favorite children's book... which is why I still have a copy. 

#13: The Future of Us 
by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

This is the last of the "add-ons." I'd read and loved Jay Asher's debut novel, and loved the concept behind this book. It's 1995, and best friends Emma and Josh get on the internet for the first time. But they somehow get connected to Facebook in 2011 and get a glimpse into their future. The concept and the 3 preview chapters had me insanely excited about this book, and I bought and read the entire thing the day it came out. But it slightly disappointed me. Some things were left unexplained, and some of their actions were incredibly frustrating and illogical. And I felt like they mostly wasted their glimpse into the future. However, despite all the shortcomings, I did enjoy the book. It's disappointing and I wouldn't call it my "favorite" but it was an enjoyable and quick read. 

#12: The Boys Next Door
by Jennifer Echols

I'm certainly not saying that this is an amazing, well-written piece of literature. It's obviously not. It is, however, a very light, entertaining, contemporary read. This is exactly the book you want to take to the beach with you. So many contemporary novels right now are ones like The Fault In Our Stars- riddled with pain, sadness, and tears. This book is the exact opposite. The plot is predictable and slightly laughable, but the characters are funny and entertaining. Like I said, it's not an amazing book, but if I want a fun and happy read, I pick this up. Also: yes, I'm aware that this has a sequel, but honestly, it was completely unnecessary and so I ignore it all-together.

#11: Carrie
by Stephen King

Like I said, I have a very varied taste in books. This one is a pretty distinct step up from the last one. I discussed this book in my stand-alone book discussions post #1 (Click HERE to check that out). This is the first Stephen King book I've gotten all the way through, and it made me want to read more. The story and characters were interesting, but the way it was written was the star of the show. The main plot of the book is intermingled with articles, book excerpts, interviews, etc. about the "incident." I absolutely loved that. It made the book significantly more interesting and added anticipation for the scene at prom. This book was a very pleasant surprise.

#10: The Princess Bride
by William Goldman

It took me forever to realize that this book isn't actually an edited version of a book by S. Morgenstern, but just a novel by William Goldman. I haven't re-read the book since learning about that, so I want to re-read it sometime so that I can get the real full effect of the book. Generally, I'm of the mindset that the book is always better than the movie, but in this case, I have to say that I like the movie better. I grew up with the movie, and didn't pick up the book until high school. That being said, I do still really enjoy the book. Maybe I'll like it even more upon a re-read!

#9: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky

Given my love for young adult books, you might be surprised that it's not higher on my list. Although I really liked this book, I feel like I didn't love it as much as everyone else seemed to. Its strengths are the characters. All of the characters are really interesting, unique, and multi-faceted. It's also written really well and I really like the letter format. I guess that the reason it's not a little higher is because while I liked the plot, it wasn't amazing. That being said, it's obviously in my top 10 stand-alone books, so I do really enjoy the book. For this one, it's just the difference between like and love that keeps it in the lower half of my top 10.

#8: Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley

This book is a combination of several things that I really love. I love almost anything that came out of the first half of the 20th century- books, music, art, etc. I love it all. I'm also a big fan of dystopian novels. This one and the book in the #7 spot tend to go back and forth as to which one I prefer because they're both classic dystopians. What I love about dystopians is learning about the world that the book is set in. That's my favorite part about Brave New World. The plot is kinda meh for me. But the world is incredible. And I love that a lot of the focus is upon the world, and the commentary that Huxley is making using this dystopian world. The plot and characters really take a backseat, and I really appreciate that.

#7: 1984
by George Orwell

I also discussed this book in my stand-alone book discussions post #1 (Click HERE to check that out). I absolutely love the concept behind the world in this book. While the entire world isn't quite as fleshed out as Brave New World (because 1984 is a little more character-based and we only really see the world surrounding that one character) I think that the concept behind the world is amazing and terrifying. A world where you can't even think freely, let alone speak or write freely is just terrifying, and I can see how it terrified people who read it before 1984. And the ending is so great but so terrible at the same time. Like I said, Brave New World and 1984 are mostly tied, but I had to put one above the other, so I went with 1984.

#6: This Is Your Brain on Music
by Daniel Levitin

If I were to name the one book that has had the most impact on my actual life/future, I'd have to say this one. I read it my freshman year of college for a class called "The Psychology of Music." The class is still my favorite class that I've ever taken. Ever. (It helps that my advisor/music theory prof./favorite prof. ever was teaching it). I need to go back and re-read this because I procrastinated and had to read this book in a very short time period. Regardless, I absolutely loved it. Levitin likes to focus on the mind/thoughts and music rather than the neuroscience aspects, and I really agree. This entire book was just a wonderful look at psychology and music and I absolutely love it. 

#5: The Fault In Our Stars
by John Green

We have officially gotten to the books that I love, love, love. From this point onward, all of these books are super special to me. Also, as you might notice, this is a signed copy. I came across it in Target and thought it was a joke. NOPE. I hate that I can't get the red cloud off (it's not a sticker- it's part of the jacket) but my desire for a signed copy won out. We all know all about this beautiful book. You're probably just surprised it's not #1 or #2. While I do really love this book, there are 4 books that I love even more. You'll also notice that I don't have any other John Green books on this list. I've only read 2, and I did NOT like the other one. I won't tell you what it is (forgot to include it in my stand-alone book reviews. OOPS!) but it will be included in my next stand-alone book reviews post. Anyway, this book is great and I sobbed all the way through it. Also, I read both this and The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the first time in the same day last August. Bad decision. All the feels.

#4: All-American Girl
by Meg Cabot

I'm honestly not sure how well-known this book is. For the longest time during my childhood, this was my favorite book. You can probably tell how many times I've read it just because of how beat up the book is. It was brand new when I got it. I haven't always been so nice to my books. Anyway, I remember getting this at a book fair. My memory says that it was in 4th grade, but it doesn't seem to fit timeline-wise, because I feel like I read it before that. Maybe I got it in 2nd or 3rd grade? I dunno. It took me a while before I actually read it, but once I did, I fell in love. I recognize now that it's not actually an amazing book, but I've read it so many times and loved it for so long that I just can't help but continue to love it. This book is a heavier dose of nostalgia than even Harry Potter, because I read it before I read Harry Potter. And yes, this book technically has a sequel, but it's terrible and I pretend it doesn't exist.

#3: Unsaid Things... Our Story
by McFly

This may be obvious since it's at my #3 spot, but I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK. I've mentioned this several times on here, but McFly is my favorite band. And I don't mean it in a way where I'm just a casual fan and I just like their music. I love all four of these guys and I absolutely love reading the story of the band from their POV. I'll be the first one to say that this book isn't for everyone. This isn't one of those deep autobiographies that can be enjoyed even if you don't know much about the person. It's not an incredibly written piece of literature. It's for the fans. It gives fans an inside look into the entire history of the band. For me, it's the emotional connection I have to the band that causes me to love this book so much. I laughed, I cried, and I laughed some more. It's great. 

So, we're now getting down to the nitty-gritty. Going into this list, I already knew which books would be in the top 2 spots, so that should be an indication of how much I absolutely, completely love these two books. 

#2: Thirteen Reason Why
by Jay Asher

I remember seeing this book in Barnes & Noble right after it was released in 2009 and thinking that it was a really cool concept. But I hadn't ever heard of it, and didn't want to pay full-price for a brand-new hardcover. Fast-forward about a year, when I found it for $7 at Half-Price Books. I recognized it and remembered how awesome the concept had sounded, so I decided to get it. One of the best decisions I've ever made. Like I said, I thought this concept was really interesting, and I think it was really well executed (unlike Jay Asher's other book on this list, The Future of Us). This book is just so emotional, and I love the back and forth between Hannah's story and Clay's story. Overall, it's just an amazing, tear-jerking book. I love it. So much.

#1: And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie

I don't even know what all to say about this book. It's just... so perfect. There's a reason that this is the best-selling mystery book ever. This is the most intricately and brilliantly concocted mystery... ever. When I got to the final reveal, I was awe-struck and amazed. I've read this book countless times, and even though I know what happens I still love it every time. I don't know what else to say... it's incredibly written, an incredibly clever mystery, and just an amazing book. I love it so much.

Books That Will Hopefully Make My Next List!

So, as I said, I plan on updating my list every 6 months or so. The following books are the stand-alones that I definitely, positively, plan to read within the next 6 months. And since I really want to read these books, I also hope that I like them enough for them to make it onto my list!

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline

Forget "within the next six months." I plan on reading this immediately upon finishing my reading challenge at the end of July. I've been wanting to read this for forever and finally ordered it off Amazon. Just having it sitting on my shelves has upped my desire to read it. I'm so excited. It sounds exactly like something I'll enjoy. I just hope I'm not over-hyping myself for it.

The Book Thief
by Marcus Zusak

I've heard so many amazing things about this book. This is TheLittleBookOwl's favorite book, and nearly every booktuber has read it and loved it. I feel like I'm pretty behind because I haven't read this book. I've had it sitting on my shelf since March-ish, so I feel like I need to get on this soon.

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan

I've wanted to read this book for quite a while, and have had it sitting on my shelf for about the same length of time as The Book Thief. It just sounds like the most perfect book for a book lover. I mean, it's about a bookstore! It doesn't get much more interesting than that!

by Madeleine Roux

I have a very specific plan for this book. I want to have a Halloween/ horror theme for the books I'm reading in October, so I'm going to read this then, along with a few other creepy books. I got this one last month, and had been eyeing it for quite a while before getting it, so I'm really ready to get into it!

by V.E. Schwab

The concept behind this book is just super interesting. Several booktubers that I watch absolutely love this book, and I trust their opinions. Therefore, I'm really hoping that I love this as much as they love it. Anti-heroes are just super cool.

So, there you go, those were my top 15 stand-alones, and the stand-alones that I hope make the list next time around! Have you read these books? How do you feel about them? What books are your favorite stand-alones?

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