We all have that one favorite movie that we can always sit down and watch on any given day, or perhaps we have that one favorite song that we’ll never forget the lyrics to. I know for a fact that I can always jam out to any Disney classic (Lion King’s Hakuna Matata or Mulan’s Be a Man anyone?), or the hopeless romantic in me can always watch Titanic or Braveheart.
But for me, one of my favorite past times is reading. I’m a book lover, and I’m a sucker for reading a good book on cold rainy days while sipping some tea. I’ve always envisioned having a house that has a huge bookshelf with a little nook where I can snuggle in and read for a while (like the picture on the left). So yes, I am probably the biggest nerd ever, but I am absolutely okay with that ~
After years of reading different books of different genres, I’ve realized that I always go back to 5 specific books year after year from how much it resonated with me, how much I reflected on it, and the deep messages I took away from it.
So here it is, my top 5 favorite books of all time:
(and don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything for ya)
- Girl in Translation – Jean Kwok
This is by far one of my favorite books of all time. I wrote a previous post about this book 3 years ago (geez, time flies!!), and it still remains as one of my favorites. The story revolves a young Chinese girl named Kimberly Chang, who immigrates to the United States from Hong Kong with her mother. After moving to Brooklyn, Kimberly finds herself leading a double life: an incredible straight A student during the day, and a sweatshop worker at night. She finds herself having to keep her personal life a secret from her classmates and friends. From learning a completely new language, experiencing a different culture, growing up in extreme poverty, and having to help her mother by working in a sweatshop as a minor and translating things for her mother at a young age (including helping her mother with things such as taxes), Kimberly learns early on how to juggle a double life. It’s an incredible read that shows Kimberly’s character development from a young girl to an adolescent, the injustices that occur in her every day life, and her grit and persistence against all the hardships that she is faced with at school and in the sweatshop. This book resonated with me so much because I could relate to Kimberly’s persistence to do well in school and achieve her dreams despite so many setbacks thrown at her. This is a perfect book for anyone who is in need of a little motivation and a reminder to be grateful for everything you have and not take anything for granted.
One of my favorite quotes from the book (which has been a part of my bio section on my main page for a while now): “At the time when it seemed that everything I’d ever wanted was finally within reach, I made a decision that changed the trajectory of the rest of my life.”
2. The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho
Let me start off by saying that all of Coelho’s books are absolutely brilliant. From The Alchemist to The Valkyries, every book I’ve read by Coelho always has a deep and spiritual message that I always take away with me. The Witch of Portobello revolves around a woman named Athena born in Transylvania to a Romani mother from a gypsy tribe. Her mother abandons her since her father was a foreigner, and she is later adopted by a Lebanese couple. The book’s principle question that comes up over and over again is “How do we find the courage to be true to ourselves – even if we are unsure of who we are?”
The entire book is about the life of Athena, told by different people who met her. The book is written as a series of transcripts of interviews done with these people. Some of the themes that the book touches on is the interpretation of love, searching one’s true self, and nonconformity to societal expectations.
Favorite quote from the book: “Do you know what I’ve learned? That although ecstasy is the ability to stand outside yourself, dance is a way of rising up into space, of discovering new dimensions while still remaining in touch with your body. When you dance, the spiritual world and the real world manage to coexist quite happily. I think classical ballet dancers dance on pointe because they’re simultaneously touching the earth and reaching up to the skies.”
3. The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein
This book is perfect for every animal lover out there. The book is about a man named Denny Swift, a race car driver. The interesting thing about this novel is that it is told entirely from the perspective of his dog named Enzo. Enzo spends most of his days observing the world around him, and spending time with his owner Denny. He describes Denny’s first dates with his wife, their eventual wedding, and what it was like seeing their first child brought home for the first time. Enzo eventually becomes a key-role in Denny’s child-custody battle with his in-laws.
This book had me laughing out loud at certain points, to flying through the pages when the plot got intense, to almost shedding a tear during the heart-wrenching moments. It’s a book that makes you realize that we should live in the now and not worry about the past nor the future.
Favorite quote: “To live everyday as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life […] To seperate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to […] That is how I will live my life.
4. Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom
Mitch Albom is famously known for his book The Five People You Meet in Heaven. However, Tuesdays with Morrie has a special place in my heart. It has been the only book ever to actually make me cry, but it was an incredible story with so many beautiful life lessons. The book is a memoir of Mitch Albom and his college sociology professor named Morrie Schwartz. The book follows Albom and his fourteen consecutive Tuesday visits to see Morrie. Albom writes about Morrie’s lectures and life experiences, as well as several flashbacks to sixteen years prior when Albom originally attended Morrie’s class.
It’s an amazing book with so many life lessons, and it made me smile knowing that Mitch Albom had the incredible opportunity to meet, and be taught, by an absolutely beautiful soul.
Favorite quote: “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
5. The Harry Potter Series
Now, I know you may be thinking something along the lines of “Harry Potter?? The wizard kid? Are you kidding me?”. But trust me when I tell you that the books are so much better than the movies. That always seems to be the case anyways. There are so many different themes in the Harry Potter series such as love, the loss of a loved one, staying true to oneself, learning about forgiveness and compassion, and the list goes on. The books can also appeal to anyone of any age. I’ll admit that the Harry Potter series was a part of my childhood growing up. If you guys saw the movies and loved it, I promise you that you’ll appreciate the books even more. (Don’t let the size of the books intimidate you!)
Favorite quote: “But you know, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”
#2. “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
I hope you guys enjoyed the list! I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. If you have any book suggestions for me, let me know as well!