When suitcase space is at a premium (or storage space on your devices), choosing which books can go the distance is mission critical. You know those books you keep coming back to over and over and never get sick of? This is that list. There are some classics that everyone knows -- the Harry Potter series, for instance. I'm skipping the obvious ones in favor of some of my real favorites. Whether I'm waiting for a plane, train, or automobile, these are the books I always reach for.
1. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
In this coming of age novel, two cousin boy geniuses named Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay conquer the comic book industry during the backdrop of New York City before, during and after World War II. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001, this book has everything: heart, humor, adventure, and humanity. If any book can be described as an "epic novel," it's this. I could re-read it a thousand times and always find something new to appreciate.
2. You'll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein
Jessi Klein is the head writer on Inside Amy Schumer and also voices one of the animated characters in Nick Kroll's Big Mouth show on Netflix. Her book is a candid, awkward, hilarious take on what it's like to be a "twenty-first century woman" (or, more accurately, what it's like to be an adult with no idea what you're supposed to be doing). With chapters on her adventures in growing up awkward (as a self-described "tom-man") to going to therapy for the first time to feeling like a PRINZESS at the Emmy's, diving into Klein's book feels like settling into a coffee date with a close friend.
3. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
I feel lucky that I was assigned to read this book during a college English class (and actually read it for homework rather than reading the SparkNotes) because this book has LAYERS. Having an esteemed professor explain to me the symbolism baked into this tale of two generations of two families making their mark in the Salinas Valley made all the difference. As Wikipedia describes it, "The book explores themes of depravity, beneficence, love, and the struggle for acceptance, greatness, and the capacity for self-destruction and especially of guilt and freedom." So, you know, a light read.
4. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Maybe a lighter read than East of Eden, I always go back to Gone Girl for the character development. The movie version just doesn't do this book justice. Flynn's Nick and Amy personalities are so rewarding, both before and after the plot twist, and I feel a little self-conscious for how strongly I related to Amy Dunne (not going to spoil this plot if you're the last person on Earth to not have read this page-turner).
5. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
I don't even know how to begin explaining this novel. So instead I'm going to be lazy and just tell you how Amazon's synopsis teases this book: "Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years" There's a plot twist, there's allegory, there's beautiful writing, and at the center, there's a weird, gritty, wonderful bohemian love story.
6. Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
Unlike Gone Girl, I can absolutely recommend the screen adaptation of Big Little Lies- with the caveat that you must read the book first. Where the show leans on its acting and is slightly darker, the book incorporates humor and compassion for the characters in a way that makes it easy to root for the main protagonists. I could watch Nicole Kidman play Celeste all day long (and I have -- I think I've seen the first season 10 times). And I've probably read the book 10 more times.
7. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
Another novel courtesy of my college English course (it was a really great class you guys), I strongly recommend reading this novel in conjunction with Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. You'll pick up on little symbolism clues that Cunningham weaves in to mirror Mrs. Dalloway (along with my all-time favorite opening line, "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."). Cunningham depicts the narrative of Woolf's last days before her suicide as a counterpoint to the fictional stories of Samuel, a famous poet whose life has been shadowed by his talented and troubled mother, along with his lifelong friend Clarissa (a modern-day Mrs. Dalloway!), who strives to forge a balanced and rewarding life. There's a big reveal part way through, because if you take nothing away from this blog post, it's that I love nothing more than a big reveal/plot twist.
8. Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
I could re-read any of David Sedaris' books, and readers of this blog know I'm already obsessed with At Home with Amy Sedaris. As a traveler, one of my favorite Sedaris stories is his adventures in trying to learn French in Paris. It's weird and funny and relatable and quirky, and at the same time will always make me want to keep traveling and trying new things, if only for the story.
9. The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson
I looooove this book. LOVE. I have a maybe-morbid fascination with psychopathy and this book feeds my obsession with understanding the way humans work. Ronson, a journalist, gets caught up in the madness industry when a source asks him to investigate a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists. From there, Ronson begins to discover the breadth, depth, and history of the world of psychology -- and understand that "relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their maddest edges."
Outlander is a pick courtesy of Rebecca Herrigel, who says:
"I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that my mother turned me onto this book (and TV show): I have to give credit where credit is due. I tend to explain the series as the lady version of Game of Thrones: there is romance, war, family drama, winter. Claire, the intelligent, snarky World War II nurse protagonist, finds herself thrown back in time (how? why? You have to read the book!) to the highlands of Scotland in the late 1700's. There's a lot to explain, but there is plenty of intrigue. In particular, her relationship with a handsome, red-haired Highlander named Jamie Fraser is complicated by her marriage to her husband in 1944. The book draws you in with its crazy adventures, historical fiction aspects, and bountiful amounts of sex and intrigue; it won't spit you out until you're done with all seven (eight?) in the series. Bonus: if you're not into reading (why are you reading this blog post?) and have a subscription (or your parents do....) to Starz then you should also check out the Outlander series. It's currently in its third season, and it does the books justice. Needless to say, Jamie Fraser will make anyone want to fall through the stones and travel back in time. Read it."
So there you have it! What are your favorite books? Leave your recommendations below!