It's not always easy to find your next great read. That's why, as a book blogger who has read hundreds of books, I created a definitive list of my all-time favorite books for you to read next.
This list contains some classic books, some children's books, some modern fictional books, some books that support my mostly vegan lifestyle and some unique books with which I personally identified.
Below are my 17 favorite books of all time, in alphabetical order so as not to favor anyone in particular, with a blurb about why it made my "favorite" list. I hope you find at least one book you can read next!
1. The Audrey Hepburn Treasures
The Audrey Hepburn Treasures by Ellen Erwin is the most unique of all books about Audrey (and I think I have read them all), and possibly the most unique book I have ever read. If you are a fan of the classic Hollywood star, this is a must-have collector's item.
It's large and filled with colorful pictures and memorabilia -- like a scrapbook. It's also the first book from which I learned about the hardships Audrey Hepburn endured during World War II, which forever left their mark on her and contributed to her kind spirit and humanitarian efforts later in her life.
2. The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is a classic with a sense of dry humor from the Rory Gilmore book list. The multifaceted character that Sylvia Plath constructed, Esther Greenwood, is smart and talented, but she is entering a breakdown.
The Bell Jar dives into her psyche during a time when mental health was not a matter to be discussed. Esther's realistic charm hooked me, and The Bell Jar is one book I will read again. If you want to get into a classic character-driven book, this one wins for its readability, which makes it a great book for you to read next.
3. The Best-Loved Doll
Bet you never heard of The Best-Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill. This book was handed down to me and is proof that good books should be passed on to others. It's an oldie, filled with vintage black, white and pink drawings that captured my heart.
The story is about a young girl, Betsy, who is invited to a doll party and must decide which doll to bring, as there are prizes for the "best" dolls. The story is charming and the doll party seemed so fun to me as a young girl that I never forgot this special book. If you are looking for a unique girl's book, this is it.
4. Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast at Tiffany's the book, not just the movie, is a literary masterpiece by Truman Capote, and the Audible version, read by Michael C. Hall, is haunting, dazzling and all-encompassing -- it's one of the best audio books of all time.
Capote's words flow like music as he weaves the story of free-spirited Holly Golightly, a New York City socialite of the 1940s, who captures the hearts of men with her conflicting ways: quirky yet glamorous; free-spirited yet yearning to be saved. Her cat doesn't have a name and she neither wants to be caged nor alone, but is happiest at Tiffany's:
"What I found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany's. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets. If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name.”
If you like the movie, intimate character portraits and/or really well written literature, Breakfast at Tiffany's is a must-have book for you to read next.
For more, read my full review with book pairings for Breakfast and Tiffany's and/or my Holly Golightly Halloween costume ideas.
5. Cat's Cradle
Cat's Cradle is the lesser known of Kurt Vonnegut's best, but it makes its mark. This readable classic centers around 'ice-nine', a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. It's dark and ironic, and it comes with life lessons involving humanity and responsibility, as well as one of my favorite quotes:
“Live by the harmless untruths that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.”
If you like dystopian novels, you should read Cat's Cradle next.
6. Chloe Flavor: Saucy, Crispy, Spicy Vegan: A Cookbook
Chloe Coscarelli is the happiest vegan chef I know of, and this bold, bright and creative cookbook, Chloe Flavor, is the perfect reflection of her positive spirit. She makes vegan food really fun. She got her start as the winner of "Cupcake Wars" with the only vegan cupcake in the final competition. She is proof that veganism is a happy thing, and delicious too!
All vegan cookbooks should look like Chloe Flavor.
7. Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen: 150 Pizzas, Pastas, Pestos, Risottos, & Lots of Creamy Italian Classics
Chloe Coscarelli is the only author to make my favorite list twice! As a lover of Italian food, I savor the recipes in Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen. I especially love making her eggplant sauce (who knew eggplant could be a sauce?!) and lasagna, which is a therapeutic experience for me.
This cookbook also contains the winning recipe from "Cupcake Wars" which I referred to above. This is the must-have cookbook for vegans who love crowd-pleasing comfort food.
8. Classic Style: Hand It Down, Dress It Up, Wear It Out
Classic Style by Kate Schelter was the right book at the right time for me. I was overspending on trends I wasn't really wearing or enjoying and finding myself gravitating towards a classic, preppy, American look at the same time. But, I still didn't quite know exactly who I was in terms of style at the time.
This book pushed me in the right direction to begin my years-long quest to create a cohesive classic wardrobe. It's filled with beautiful watercolors and now serves as the framework for my style choices.
If you are looking to define your own wardrobe in a way that is both timeless and uniquely "you," this is the book for you.
9. The Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl is the must read book that was never meant to be a published book. Somehow, this book feels like it was Anne Frank's purpose, and how honored we all are to learn from the devastation of World War II through the eyes of a young girl who is wise beyond her years. While my teenage diary contained tales of boys and gossip, Anne Frank was penning truth about humanity:
“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
If you are human, you truly must read this book next. And if you read it already, you should read it again. It's also on the Rory Gilmore book list.
10. East of Eden
John Steinbeck's East of Eden was the biggest Summer reading challenge of my Senior year of high school at 600+ pages, but once I dug in, I was compelled to finish it, and it became one of the most influential books I have read.
A modern retelling of the story of Genesis, it oozes with Biblical themes of good and evil. John Steinbeck's epic novel tells the tale of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons, whose lives reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the rivalry of Cain and Abel. It can be summed up in one of my favorite fictional quotes:
“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”John Steinbeck
11. Lilac Girls
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is not just another World War II book. I have read many, and this is the one that has stayed with me. It's clear that Martha Hall Kelly painstakingly researched the lives of women known as "Ravensbruck Rabbits," captive in a concentration camp, and she honors them beautifully, along with American heroine Caroline Ferraday, who breathes life and hope into a grim tale.
I won't give away how the "Rabbits" get their name, as I believe it should be learned by the reader for maximum impact. Upon learning about the "Rabbits" myself, I was shocked that Lilac Girls was based on a true story -- one of which I had never heard. I realized then that there must be countless World War II stories that had yet to be told or heard, and I knew then that I had to keep reading as many books as possible to do my part in hearing the stories of others.
If you like learning about World War II and/or female heroines and /or the hope of Spring books, you should put Lilac Girls at the top of your list of books to read next. If you are doing an Around the World reading challenge, this is also a great book for Germany.
12. The Lovely Bones
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is a page-turner that depicts the rape and murder of a young girl with a focus on the aftermath and growth that follow in the years that follow. This book is set near Philadelphia, where I live, and it's a story of a family dealing with tragedy as well as a hunt for the killer.
Upon learning that Alice Sebold herself survived a college rape, I understood how she was able to so realistically and poetically capture evil and the struggle to cope with an evil act. If you like thrillers and family dramas, The Lovely Bones is the perfect piece of modern fiction for you to read next, and it's also on the Rory Gilmore book list.
13. My Brilliant Friend
Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend is the kind of book you can never forget. It was gifted to me prior to my Italian honeymoon as a must-read about life in Naples, Italy, and I was surprised at how deeply the complex characters affected me throughout My Brilliant Friend and the three books that follow it in the series. Elena Ferrante, a pen name for an anonymous author, portrays the lives of two complex females, Elena and Lila, from poverty in the 1950s throughout the course of their lives in this series, as their friendship pushes and pulls while they come of age.
It's impossible not to become completely immersed in their lives, as well as Naples and their family and friends. Major themes include education, class and violence. I read once that, while reading My Brilliant Friend, you will realize that you never want to read anything not written by Elena Ferrante, and I couldn't agree more. If you like epic novels about an entire community of people, My Brilliant Friend is a must-have book for you to read next.
14. The Polar Express
Chris Van Allsburg's The Polar Express was the book I checked out of my elementary school's library most often. Chris Van Allsburg perfectly captures the Christmas holiday with themes of magical wonder and the meaning of believing for both children and adults. The illustrations depict realistic depth unlike those in other children's books. This book has never failed to mean something nostalgic to me. It's a holiday must-read for all.
15. Pride and Prejudice
What can be said about Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen that hasn't been said already? It's arguably the mother of all romance novels, it's a great book for Spring, it's on the Rory Gilmore book list and it's Jane Austen's most popular novel for a reason. If you cherish classics and haven't read Pride and Prejudice yet, you simply must cross it off your list.
16. The Vegan Way: 21 Days to a Happier, Healthier Plant-Based Lifestyle That Will Transform Your Home, Your Diet, and You
The Vegan Way by Jackie Day hits the mark for me as everything I believe a book about veganism should be -- it's bright, positive and easy to follow. Kudos to Jackie Day for getting it right! If you are curious about veganism but don't want to be overwhelmed or confronted with argumentative prose, check out The Vegan Way.
17. When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir about dying that reaches just that much deeper into your soul than other non-fiction books. Paul Kalanithi has a profound, philosophical way of telling his story of being diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 36.
As a doctor, the crossed line of becoming the patient adds another layer of depth in his learning of what life means in the face of death. If you like to empathize and learn from memoirs When Breath Becomes Air should top your list of books to read next.
Those are my 17 favorite books of all time for you to read next. They are uniquely "mine," but I hope you were able to add at least one to your list.
Pin this list to Pinterest because you can refer back to it at a later time and/or to see if any books are added to the list at a later time: