Friday, July 5, 2019

Fifty Favorites: My Favorite Book Published Each Year of My Life

A quick recap: I'm turning 50 this month, and am celebrating with weekly giveaways and when-I-feel-like it lists.

This was an insane task to set myself, let me start with that. There were years I had over a dozen "most favorite" books and whittling it down took a combination of careful study of statistics ("Do I really need another fantasy novel?"), how well known books were ("Does Trevor Noah need me to publicize his book as much as Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock does hers?), and arbitrary decisions. There's also the reality that although I've been reading for most of my fifty years on earth, I've only been tracking for the past ten, so many of my earlier reads are lost in misty memory. The fact that the early years of my life show mostly kid books doesn't mean they are the only good books published back then; I'm just less likely to have read adult books from my pre-adult era.

In sum, this list is 100% subjective. These are not the best books published in each year. These are the books that I love the most of the ones I read of those published each year. Some I haven't read since more or less the year they came out, so I make no guarantees for literary quality, identity representation, or any other factors.

Also, I love you, so I made fifty links to Goodreads, but I also want to read this week, so I didn't add pictures. Anyway, my "Make America Kittens Again" Chrome add-on means the picture of the cover of TRUMPet of the Swan is of a kitty cat instead.

1969: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
1970: The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
1971: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
1972: Watership Down by Richard Adams
1973: The Princess Bride by William Goldman
1974: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
1975: The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
1976: Gnomes by Rien Poortvliet
1977: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
1978: Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin
1979: Malafrena by Ursula K. Le Guin
1980: Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel
1981: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
1982: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
1983: The River Why by David James Duncan
1984: Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
1985: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
1986: Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman
1987: The Commitments by Roddie Doyle
1988: Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
1989: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
1990: Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams
1991: He, She and It by Marge Piercy
1992: Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg
1993: Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say
1994: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
1995: The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
1996: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
1997: Deception on His Mind by Elizabeth George
1998: Holes by Louis Sachar
1999: Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
2000: Witness by Karen Hesse
2001: Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
2002: Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver
2003: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
2004: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
2005: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
2006: Thud! by Terry Pratchett
2007: The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs
2008: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
2009: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
2010: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2011: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
2012: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
2013: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
2014: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
2015: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
2016: The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
2017: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
2018: Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka 

(Bonus: my favorite 2019 book so far is Internment by Samira Ahmed.)

A few things I noticed: it's an extremely white and American list, almost evenly divided between men and woman authors. Ursula K. LeGuin and Barbara Kingsolver are the only ones who made the list more than once although several others were in the running for multiple entries, and not every beloved author made this list. (Which is why there are more to come!)

 This seems like a good representation of my favorite genres, especially once you add "mystery" and "historical mystery" together.

 Again, this seems accurate. I read mostly novels, but I'm very open to other formats as well.

Nowadays I read mostly YA, but it's fair to say that my very favorites of my teens, twenties and thirties were mostly adult books, and of course, my favorites as a kid were kids' books. A few later children's books are ones I've loved as a teacher (Holes!).


  1. Great list - and Happy Birthday!
    I've read a number of those books - will have to check out some of the others.

  2. What a fun list to make! And what a fun way to go back and look at your reading life!

  3. Great list. I love how you've compiled a list of books published across the last 50 years :)

    The Smell of Other People's Houses is a fantastic book! I've also read and enjoyed The Trumpet of the Swan, and there are some books on this list that I'm interested in reading for the first time!

  4. Wow! I thought your last top ten Tuesday list was impressive, but this is even more impressive. I definitely wouldn't be able to pick one book per year, though, I see some books I really loved on your list (The Color Purple, The Smell of Other People's Houses, Ramona Blue)

  5. Fabulous list. I've read 30/50, and I want to read many of the other 20 (There's that darn Scorpio Races that book really as good as people are saying? I keep getting this picture of a book about horses.) And I'm happy to see lots of my favorites...Mark Salzman (is he ever going to write anything else?), Anne Lamott, Allen Say, Cloud Atlas, Holes, Handmaid's Tale, Nickel and Dimed....

    Great list.

  6. Wow! This is so impressive that you could come up with this list!! I'm not sure if I've read a book from every year of my life. I'll have to look at that.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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