When I’m deciding how many stars a book I’ve read deserves, I use the five books listed below as my base. These are the five books that have impacted me the most in my 25 years of reading and the stories I consider to be five out five stars.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White -- A true children’s classic, I’ve read this book more than 50 times. I even had a small rubber piglet named Wilbur that I carried around in my pocket for longer than I care to admit. It is the first book I remember picturing vividly in my head as I read. I would daydream about living on a farm and imagined that all the animals I encountered could talk to each other. That spark it ignited in my imagination is still present and I am constantly comparing the feeling I get from books I read now to the feeling that Charlotte’s Web gave me.
Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger -- I’ll be honest. This is literally the only book I read in it’s entirety in high school. The story of a young boy and a famous baseball player is told wholly with news clippings, telegrams, letters, and even ticket stubs. I was intrigued by the fact that the author wasn’t simply telling me what a character’s thought process was, what they looked like or how they acted. It felt as tho the characters themselves were telling me who they were through their letters, and events they went to and participated in. I was instantly drawn to the unique writing style that felt more personal than even some biographies that I’ve read. I haven’t found many stories told in this way since, but I am always looking.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen -- I can’t quite remember the specifics of why this book left such an impression on me. It ticked off a lot of things that I like in a story. I am a sucker for stories told from the point of view of a character who is getting older and reflecting on all his or her adventures in life. I love love stories between not only two people, but between people and their animals too. What I do remember is that for months after reading this book, I longed to be reading it again. Every book I picked up following this book didn’t get finished for a long time because it didn’t move me the way Water for Elephants did.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern -- This book had my imagination on fire in a similar way to how it was when I first read Charlotte’s Web, but also in a completely deeper and more striking way. The world in The Night Circus was magical in a way that felt real. It was dark, edgy, sensual and provocative. There were worlds within worlds that made me thoroughly believe that the world I am in, is not the only world there is. It had me looking at the most ordinary objects with a curiosity that I had not known since I’d read The Littles or Charlotte’s Web. It had me believing in magic so strongly that I am still convinced it exists.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr -- This was the book that made me realize how much I enjoy historical fiction. I love learning about a time in our history through the lens of a fictional story and I especially loved learning more about WWII. But what really hooked me was how Doerr described scenery, smells, sounds, and emotions in such a beautiful and innocent way even while the sad and devastating war plot was always lurking in the background. I forced myself multiple times to put it down and read it slower because I knew it would be one of those books that I would crave reading, long after I had finished.