10. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
If you were a historical fiction reader in the early 2000s, you'd be hard-pressed to avoid Tudor-mania, led by The Other Boleyn Girl. As a 15-year-old, I loved the intrigue, drama, politics, and, well, softcore porn contained in this book. I didn't know about Mary Boleyn before. Last time I read it (in my early 20s), I was wondering why Anne Boleyn was such a shrew, why the dialogue was getting on my nerves so much, and why it was so soap opera.
9. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A lot of people seem to think this book is a sweet, wholesome story for little girls. And then Beth dies. Then Jo rejects Laurie (still puzzled by that one) and Laurie goes off and becomes a louche in Europe for a few years. Then Amy (Amy!) marries Laurie and Jo marries some German professor twenty years too old for her. Leaving off the romantic entanglements, all through the story, Jo is furious, impulsive, a tomboy, and a writer. I wanted to be Jo. Heck, I still want to be Jo.
My aunt and uncle gave this book to me when I was 10, for Christmas (yay inscriptions!) and I devoured it. Francie Nolan was a character I related to: quiet, observant, a little odd compared to her peers, and a budding writer. It's the first book I read and re-read over and over again and I even remember trying to write multiple stories that were basically direct rip-offs.
7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The same aunt and uncle gave this book to me when I turned 11 (so, like, three weeks after they gave me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) and though the size was daunting and the sophistication of the story went over my head at 11, I loved the epic scope, the historical details, how well fact and fiction were blended in, and Scarlett O'Hara is not a character one forgets about. I re-read it every few years and every time, I find something new to appreciate. To think that it took Margaret Mitchell a decade to write the book.
6. Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
I've read far too much historical romance. If I was to choose a favorite, it would be this one because it's stayed with me the longest. I can recall vague details of other romances I still own, but Not Quite a Husband--all the details and characters flood back. I love Sherry Thomas' books (I've read everything she's written). This book takes several romance tropes and throws them on their heads. It's a late Victorian setting, but only part of the story takes place in England; the rest takes place in what we call Pakistan. Briony is a doctor (yes, a female doctor); Leo is a mathematician. Briony is the one with the deep issues. The characters have a hurtful past that needs to be dealt with in order for them to move forward.
5. Soulless by Gail CarrigerAs you can see, the bulk of my faves are hist. fic. Soulless takes place in the Victorian era, but it's steampunk, supernatural, and fantasy--the type of book that a lot of my writing friends might read, but a book that's atypical for me. And I loved it. Alexia is a badass.
4. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Read the books after I saw the movie--and seeing the movie was all Orlando Bloom's fault. It took me a few attempts to get through the beginning, but once I did, I was able to go along on the quest with all the characters and truly see and hear Middle-earth because of the incredible level of detail in the books. I didn't know books could be like that.
3. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
This book made me cry. It's rare that a book does that, but Hotel is such an emotional, beautifully-written book and Henry and Keiko are so sweet...and then the residents of Japantown are burning all their Japanese belongings--photos, dolls, kimonos--just before they get rounded up and taken to the internment camps and...I blubbered. Being half-Japanese, it was easy to put myself in Keiko's shoes. And what's discovered in the title hotel (a true story) is both sad and fascinating.
2. Persuasion by Jane Austen
Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel. I think it was the third Austen I read; I decided at some point to stop reading only Regency romance inspired by Austen and actually read Austen. And wow, was I rewarded with this one. All the anguish, regret, and emotion build up to the end beautifully and it's so moving.
1. Atonement by Ian McEwan
Yeah, Krystal, you got me. I blogged about how this is my favorite book ever. Historical setting? Check. Awesome, haunting characters? Check. Prose I would kill to write? Check. Tragic love story? Check. Budding writer girl? Check. Little bit of darkness? Heaps of checks. Huge twist that changes the way you look at the rest of the book? Resounding check.
And I think I'm going to tag Michelle Tran and Karla Gomez.