SavidgeReads had a terrific idea. What if you had a Reader’s Table in your home and could give away copies of 20 of your favourite books. Think about it sort of like the Hot Fiction table at Indigo…only you’ve chosen the titles (and they wouldn’t necessarily have to be all fiction, either). I’ve cheated and done two reader’s table, one with books for everyone and then one specifically comprised of YA books because I read so many of them, and they deserved to have their own table.
What books would you put on yours? My personal criteria was to select books I would unhesitatingly recommend others read. These are books that have stayed with me, for a variety of reasons, long after I turned the last page.
If you do a Reader’s Table, I’d love to have a link to it…
GENERAL READER’S TABLE
(updated April 2020)
The Lost Garden – Helen Humphreys
This is a beautiful little story about two people who meet during war time. I visited The Lost Gardens of Heligan because of this novel…and the writing is gorgeous.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain Reid
This book offers plenty of wtf moments. It’s trippy in every sense of the word and it’s one of those books you want everyone to read because you want to talk about it. Reid’s novel Foe is also very good.
Descent – Tim Johnston
Perfect mix of page-turner (heart-pounding page-turner, tbh) and family drama, this book is sooooo good on every level.
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
Tartt has written three novels and I have read them all. Any of them could be on my reader’s table, but I chose this one because it’s her last and won the Pulitzer. This is a novel to sink your teeth into. It’s long and Tartt loves language. I just admire the heck out of her and this novel was worth the commitment it took to read it. Her other books include The Little Friend and her debut The Secret History, which I promised my son I would re-read with him this year.
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
I just couldn’t stop thinking about this book after I’d turned the final page. I just couldn’t have a reader’s table without this book on it. I know Little Fires Everywhere is getting lots of love these days because of Reese Witherspoon’s Hulu series, but (although I liked that book a lot, too) I think Ng’s first novel is superior. It will break your heart.
My Sunshine Away – M.O. Walsh
Part mystery, part coming-of-age, My Sunshine Away was un-put-down-able. I loved everything about it: the unreliable narrator, the nostalgia, the writing. Everything.
My Absolute Darling – Gabriel Tallent
Absolutely not for the faint of heart, My Absolute Darling is the riveting story of Turtle’s relationship with nature, her father and the world…and I couldn’t stop thinking about her story for many weeks after I finished this book.
A Velocity of Being – M. Popova & C. Bedrick
The most beautiful collection of love letters (both written and created artistically) to the act of reading and the written word in general. This book was a sheer delight. I saw myself on every page.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Patchett is consistently awesome and this story of siblings and their relationship to each other and the house they grew up in is beautiful.
Our Daily Bread by Lauren B. Davis
Our Daily Bread is a novel is full of unforgettable characters – people who are so heart-breakingly fragile and brave and real that you just won’t be able to stop thinking about them. Ever.
The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
A gem of a story that is both dark and light, funny and terribly sad. David loses his mother as the age of 12 and goes on a journey into the world of fairy tales in order to escape the loss. Whether or not this is a metaphorical journey will be up to the reader to decide – it won’t matter, though. The Book of Lost Things is perfect in all the ways that count.
Velocity – Kristin McCloy
I bought Kristin McCloy’s debut novel Velocity at The Strand in New York City the summer I was 24 or 25. I have read it practically every year since. It’s the story of Ellie who returns to her childhood home after the death of her mother. She meets Jesse, the quintessential bad boy, and their affair is propelled by her grief. I love the way McCloy writes and this story still speaks to me in ways I find difficult to articulate.
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel A Little Princess is one of my favourite childhood novels. The heart-wrenching story of Sara Crewe, left at Miss Minchin’s School for Young Ladies, is tragic and magical. I’ve read this book a few times as an adult and it never fails to make me cry, particularly during the part when starving Sara gives her hot buns to a little girl who is clearly more hungry than she is. This book belongs on every young girl’s bookshelf. It’s on my daughter’s. Why is this here and not down in YA? At the time of writing YA wasn’t a category and I read this as a kid…and I have re-read it several times as an adult and I still love it.
Educated – Tara Westover
You’ll never underestimate the power of education again after reading this riveting memoir. It’s really quite amazing.
Our Town – Thornton Wlider
I’ve loved Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town for 30 years and I even wrote my Honours English thesis on Wilder because of this play. The residents of Grover’s Corners lead a simple life, but even they don’t truly appreciate life’s value until it’s too late. Wilder’s masterpiece still resonates in a world which places far less value on the things which are truly important: family, community, love, faith.
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Both of my children agree with me that Atonement is pretty much a perfect novel. It’s devastating, beautiful, confounding and will stay with you forever. You might find the first 50 pages a bit of a slog but McEwan is ALWAYS worth the effort and this book is just….
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
A re-read the summer of 2019 reminded me of the joys of spending time with Francie. Although there are some problematic references, this book is still a beautiful time capsule of a distant era, and I loved it all over again.
Billy Dead – Lisa Reardon
This book will probably not appeal to the majority of readers: it’s dark, graphic, violent and I loved it. I don’t even question what that says about me. One of the most powerful and compelling books I have ever read.
Instruments of the Night – Thomas H. Cook
Pick a book by Thomas H. Cook, any book. It’s a guaranteed winner.
Sadie – Courtney Summers
A podcast and a young woman’s hunt for her sister’s killer make up Canadian YA writer Courtney Summers’ novel and it is chilling and compelling. I am a huge fan of Summers’ work and this novel is a winner in every category.
The Marrow Thieves– Cherie Dimaline
Part dystopian novel, part family drama, part condemnation of residential schools, this book garnered lots of buzz and is worthy of the praise. I loved it.
The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness
This is a story that grabs you by the throat and shakes the living daylights out of you for 479 pages. The subject matter is often dark. The character of the preacher, Aaron, is one of the creepiest psychopaths I’ve encountered in literature in a long, long time. And this is a book I want to hand to people and say “read this now!”
Long Way Down – Jason Reynolds
A verse novel about the aftermath of a shooting, this is a timely and devastating read.
A Short History of the Girl Next Door– Jared Reck
There was nothing I didn’t love about this novel about a boy in love with his best friend. I literally pressed it into the hands of my students and dared them not to cry.
I Will Always Write Back – C. Alifirenka & M. Ganda
I had a lot of pen pals growing up and so this book really spoke to me. What starts as a school project end in two people who live a world away from each other (geographically, but in lots of other ways, too) becoming life-long friends. It’s just beautiful.
They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera
Ever wonder how your life would change if you knew that sometime in the next 24 hours you were going to die? That’s the scenario for the two characters in Silvera’s novel. It’s SO good.
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
Not my experience in any shape or form, but so compelling and eye-opening. I just think this is a must-read book for everyone, no matter your age.
How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff
There’s a war and an American girl is stranded with her cousins without any adults. The characters in this novel are so real, I just fell in love with them, and their fight to survive.
The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
This will always and forever be on any list I compile because this book is a masterpiece.