1. Friend of My Youth by Alice Munro. I love her ambivalent, practical writing style, mostly about everyday people living lives of quiet desperation. I am left pondering her stories days, weeks, months and years later.
2. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishuguro. This is a bleak novel about a future wherein clones are used to prolong the lives of "real" people. It's heartbreakingly told from the point of view of a clone girl, raised in an orphanage and groomed to be a carer.
3. Decca, The Letters of Jessica Mitford. This is a wonderful book. She was an interesting woman with a fascinating life. Right or wrong, Decca had tremendous courage. I love to read other people's letters too.
4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I have read this about 3 times in my life. It's great reading. It's the story of Francine, growing up poor in Brooklyn with her mother, alcoholic father and brother. Her struggles include going without, love versus shame for her father and his inability to care for his family because of his alcoholism, and the cruelty of life in the city before World War II. The story will carry you away.
5. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. Great book, funny, outrageously contradictory. A real page-turner nearly impossible to set aside.
6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey. Read this years ago and really liked it. Story about a man faking mental illness to escape jail time. The character studies included make for worthwhile reading.
7. Atonement, Ian McEwan. Page-turner, loved it. Sad ending about compelling characters, and a devious hateful little girl turned author.
8. Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood. Bleak dystopian novel about the future that you could imagine happening. Don't forget to take your bliss-plus pill.
9. Carmine the Crow, Heidi Holter. This is a children's book about a generous, helpful, but old and tired crow. It's just a beautiful story.
10. The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls. I loved this book, just could not put it down. This is a memoir by the gossip columnist, Jeanette Walls. This is a must-read for people who think their parents did a horrible job. In fact, she makes life for Francie Nolan of TGIB sound idyllic. Again, her father is an alcoholic, her mother just wants to paint, and their luck turns for the better, then the worse, then worst of all and doesn't improve until after she strikes out on her own. Good book if you need more proof that your family doesn't always want what is best for its members.