Stories for my Suitcase: 20 of My Favorite Books

“Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”

I am passionate about several things.  My family. Travel. Food. Writing. And Books.

To be be clear, I am a palpable page girl.  They say it’s not important “how you read”, but “what you read”.  So.Not.True.  While I switch over to my electronic reader for vacation, simply to save on weight and protect those precious words from wrinkling in the humidity and ocean spray, there is nothing better than turning pages and using an old boarding pass as a bookmark.


I read faithfully every night, and this includes while I travel. There is nothing more relaxing than curling up in a hammock, or on a white sand beach and immersing myself in the pages of a well written story.  The more I explore the corners of the earth, and the more I immerse myself into new cultures, intertwining myself into the lives of new faces and the streets of beautiful destinations, the deeper my passion roots itself.  In order to see past the peripheral vision of our own lives, we must experience the lives of others.  Like travel, a book offers a window into the hopes, dreams, heartbreak and reality of places far away.  With each page we grow, learn and discover.

So allow me to share with you some of my most favorite books:

  1.  Gone with the WindMargaret Mitchell.  The movie does not count as knowing this story, you MUST read the book and revel in the vast differences.  This Christmas, my brother gave me a second edition copy with writing in it, a birthday dedication from 1939.  It is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.  The characters are as legendary as the lines.  I will forever love the scoundrel Rhett Butler, and admire the selfish, immoral, Southern Belle, Scarlett O’Hara.  It is a literary masterpiece, and a beloved classic for good reason.2016-02-07-14.07.32.jpg.jpeg
  2.  A Thousand Splendid SunsKhaled Hosseini.  One of the most amazing books I have ever read, and absolutely in my top 3 of all time.  A haunting page turner that will make you angry, sad and compelled to keep reading about the power of love and friendship.
  3. The Book of NegroesLawrence Hill.  He has yet to write anything close to the power of this book, so much so, it is frustrating to read his latest novels.  But this one, is one that will stay without you long after you read it.  It is so powerful, it will draw you in, and you will be sad to turn the last page.
  4.  The Book ThiefMarkus Zusak.  I am a sucker for a book about books, especially set in the time of German occupation.  Do not let the fact that it is a young adult book deter you, and trust me when I say that this is not just “another holocaust story”.  This is so worth the read, and will touch you to the core.
  5. A House in the SkyAmanda Lindhout.  This memoir is so beautifully written.  Amanda grew up just hours from where I live, and her ability to write with such hope, love and forgiveness about a time of absolute horror and despair is inspirational.  I have seen her speak twice, and am in awe of what she has taken from her experience, and accomplished in her life.  I dig this out from time to time when I need a moment of clarity and a reminder of my goals.img_20160128_152840.jpg
  6. Suite FrançaiseIrène Némirovsky.  While the story is beautiful, it is a tale behind a tale.  Irène Némirovsky was a successful Jewish author living in Paris, who was arrested in 1942, and perished in Auschwitz.  This manuscript was found by her daughter, in a suitcase nearly 60 years after her death.
  7. UnbrokenLaura Hillenbrand.  Based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, misfit child turned Olympic hopeful turned WWII air force pilot, POW.  His tales of survival go beyond anything you can possibly imagine, and when you think it couldn’t possibly get any worse, it does just that.  It is a tale of heartbreak, hope and moving forward into forgiveness. I wish I could have met the man.
  8. The Glass CastleJeannette Walls.  This memoir is laugh out loud funny, I nearly buckled reading about her homemade braces.  It’s sheer genius, you simply can’t make this stuff up, and you can’t help but read with your jaw hanging open and giving thanks for your childhood, which will seem alarmingly normal.
  9. The Invention of WingsSue Monk Kidd.  A powerful tale about slavery in the deep south, this will tear at your heart strings.  Kidd was inspired by the words of Professor Julius Lester, and kept these words propped on her desk: “History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make anothers pain in the heart our own.”
  10. A Fine BalanceRohinton Mistry.  Don’t let the thickness of the book deter you.  It’s a story of caste violence and poverty in India during “The Emergency” period of 1975-77, and the ultimate journey through relationships that are formed when survival is at stake.
  11. The Art of Racing in the RainGarth Stein.  A unique tale told from the point of Enzo, the philosophical dog, giving perspective on love, hope, family and loyalty in real life situations.
  12. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Annie Barrows, Ann Shaffer.  Another book about writing, also set in the Second World War….but it is original in the way that it is quite often described as “delightful”.  You can’t help but fall in love with the characters, and enjoy a completely different take on a WWII story.
  13. The Power of OneBryce Courtenay.  This book is so well written.  A story of self preservation and survival, the main character comes of age during some of the most difficult times seen by our planet.  The message of personal growth and strength despite his surroundings will stay with you forever.  Finally, a sports book, about so much more than just the sport.
  14. Cutting for StoneAbraham Verghese.  Every writer dreams of a debuting a novel of this caliber.  I love stories of foreign culture, and this complex tale is the epitome of why you need to learn about the difficulties faced by those in far away lands.
  15. Memoirs of a GeishaArthur Golden.  I remember being outraged at a book club by a woman who felt this was akin to “Pretty Woman” and nothing more than a tale of prostitution (GASP!) The writing style is one you will love or hate as it is quite poetic, but this fictional based memoir is a beautiful depiction of women in an exotic world, and is a glimpse into a now vanished life that I find captivating.
  16. Water for ElephantsSara Gruen.  This book is a gritty fairytale, with heroes and villains, love, hate and a menagerie of animals including an elephant that will capture your heart.  It’s an epic love story in what feels like a completely organic and original setting.
  17. The DovekeepersAlice Hoffman.  Set in ancient Israel, this book is the perfect mix of passion and suspense as it traces four women on their path to the Masada massacre, the final siege by the Romans in 73 C.E.  It is a powerfully emotional history lesson.
  18. All The Light We Cannot SeeAnthony Doerr.  Alright, even I will admit to my slight obsession with books from the German occupation era.  But you will fall in love with this Pullitzer prize winning novel that crosses lines and appeals to the senses.
  19. The Red TentAnita Diamant.  While based on Dinah, a minor character in the book of Genesis as Jacob’s daughter, this novel is not a biblical read.  It is a beautiful tale of the perseverance of a girl into a woman, and the betrayals, grief and love that comes with it.
  20. Brain on Fire Susannah Cahalan.  This book is not my typical emotionally draining, love infested novel, but the true story of her “Month of Madness” brought on by a rare disorder is fascinating.  She is forthcoming that she does not actually remember most of the events, and has had to piece it together.  It is her journey to bring light and hope to those struggling, and she does it very well and honestly.

I could go on and on with this list….but for now, these are books that deserve to make it onto every serious reader’s list.  If you have favorites you are passionate about, please share some of your reads with me!  I’m always on the lookout for new stories for my suitcase.



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19 thoughts on “Stories for my Suitcase: 20 of My Favorite Books

  1. I don’t read as much as I would like but you list is inspiring me. I love the movie Gone with the Wind and have wanted to read the book.

    My favorite book is Eat Pray Love. It just really spoke to me. Have you read it?

      1. Amy,
        I LOVE every single book you have on this list. They are all amazing books and A Fine Balance is possibly my favourite book ever.
        Do you have an updated list ? Seeing as I have the same taste in books as you.
        Feel free to email any suggestions as I find it hard to find excellent books.

    1. I am enjoying your blog; I too am addicted to both travel and books. I love your list! I loved the Book Thief and made all my kids read it so it is now a family favorite. I also love Cutting for Stone, A Thousand Splendid Suns,The Invention of Wings and the Glass Castle. And I have never met anyone else who liked A Fine Balance! I like the others too (that I’ve read)…and so now I am adding Gone With The Wind to my list of books to read. I never even considered it before!

      I could recommend several books that you’ve probably already read (I mean where is Jane Eyre?!), but I’ll recommend one perhaps you haven’t read. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I loved it!

  2. I LOVE this list and I am printing it out as I am always looking for what to read next! I found suite francaise an amazingly written book and, in a very different way, I also enjoyed a thousand splendid suns. I totally agree with gone with the wind too: I always enjoyed the movie but there’s no comparison – there is so much in it you never want to put it down!

  3. What wonderful books. I love any book that inspires me to go somewhere like I’m sure many of these did for you. Can’t wait to add some of these to my list!

  4. I heart every book on your list!! I’d love to hear a second top 20 from you!

    Different genres ( and a little strange at times lol), but I’d recommend Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.

    Happy reading all.

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