While most of the books I usually read are part of a series, there are some lovely stand-alones that I have read in my time. Some of them have been entertaining and others have been life-changing, but the bottom line is that they have made it into the top 10. Don’t get me wrong, this list is bound to change over time but at this moment, these are my favorite stand-alones. I feel like I usually gravitate towards trilogies and series because most fantasy epics are usually longer than one book. That and also the fact that I am subconsciously afraid of liking the book and then having no continuation to the story ever.
The books that I will list will be in no particular order as they are all way too different to actually rate. But each and every book on this list certainly made an impression on me. Some of them I’ve read years ago and still think about to this day. I think that says enough about their quality.
1.The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I actually read this book after I saw the movie. My ex and I watched it together and both of us ended up loving it, despite the fact that we usually did not like the same movies. So I bought the book and fell in love with this story even more. The book tells the story of Liesel Meminger, who is a young girl, living in Germany during World War II. After the death of her brother, she is sent to live with foster parents – Hans and Rosa Hubermann, where she sees and experiences the horrors of the Nazi regime.
Hans and Rosa decide to hide a young Jewish man, named Max, in their house. While he’s there, he teaches Liesel to read and opens her eyes to the true power of the written word. In turn, she starts to steal books that the Nazi soldiers will soon destroy, while also writing down what she goes through. And if that isn’t cool enough, her adventures in the book are narrated by Death.
“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”
2.The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
So you should be familiar with the story already. But I’ll let you know what it’s about just in case you’ve been living under a rock. The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, who is your average hobbit. He doesn’t want any trouble or adventure. He just wants to chill in his hole and enjoy the peace. But he is tricked by Gandalf to host a party for a group of dwarves, who wish to reclaim the treasure that once belonged to them, but was stolen by the dragon Smaug
. Gandalf shows the dwarves that there is a way into the mountain where the treasure is guarded by Smaug and proposes that Bilbo joins them as he is an experienced “burglar”. That is not true, but Bilbo does end up joining the dwarf band and discovers adventures, wisdom, bravery, loyalty and friendship. He sees the world and all kinds of creatures – elves from Rivendell and Gollum in the goblin tunnels of the Misty Mountains. Can you guess what he finds there?? You really should be able to guess at this point…
“Where did you go to, if I may ask?’ said Thorin to Gandalf as they rode along.
To look ahead,’ said he.
And what brought you back in the nick of time?’
Looking behind,’ said he.”
3. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
This book is something completely different. I will not tell you much about what’s inside the book. but instead, I will tell you a little bit about how it was written. The Diary of a Young Girl is a book, comprised of the writings of Anne Frank, while she spent two years of her young life, hiding from the Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands.
Anne Frank had received a diary for her 13th birthday in 1942, soon afterward she, her sister and their parents went into hiding in the sealed- off upper rooms of the annex at the back of her father’s company building in Amsterdam. This is a moving piece of literature and one that should be read by everyone. I read this in high school for the first time and it rapidly became one of the most memorable experiences in my life.
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because ,in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
4. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
This book also has a film adaptation that I love. Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel tells the story of Henry DeTamble (the one that was born 1963). He is a librarian who suffers from a genetic disorder that forces him to travel in time involuntarily. Then he meets Clare in 1991 for the first time. Even though that is true, Clare has actually known him for most of her life.
The story then follows their love, along with Henry’s desire to figure out his condition. We also see how Henry met Clare in her childhood, only it wasn’t the same Henry, but an older version of him, who was drawn to her because of how important she was in his life. It is an epic love story, but also so much more than just romance. Amazing book!
“Very few people meet their soulmates at age six. So you gotta pass the time somehow. And Ingrid was very – patient. Overly patient. Willing to put up with odd behavior, in the hope that someday I would shape up and marry her martyred ass. And when somebody is that patient, you have to feel grateful, and then you want to hurt them. Does that make any sense?”
5. Under The Dome by Stephen King
This is a science-fiction novel, set in a small town in Main that one day gets mysteriously cut out from the rest of the world by an invisible barrier that seemingly dropped from the sky. It is an intricately- crafted story with many characters and multiple POVs. I will not go further into the plot of the novel because I feel like it’s best to discover King’s world as you read, but I will tell you that it’s a huge book and it’s so interesting. I was intrigued by the mystery of the dome as well as the realistic characters, such as Junior and Barbie. Go and read it!
“When the dawn was still long hours away, bad thoughts took on flesh and began to walk. In the middle of the night thoughts became zombies.”
6.The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins
This is a psychological thriller novel, which took the world by storm. There is a film adaptation of this book, but I personally did not find it nearly as intriguing as the book. The novel was another story. I listened to it on audiobook and then read it afterward. It tells the story of Rachel Watson. She is an alcoholic with a failed marriage behind her and she has recently lost her job. So she spends her day, pretending to go to work, taking the same train, which passes by the house she used to share with her husband Tom. Now he lives there with the woman he left her for (Anna) and their newborn daughter.
She looks at the people next door who appear to be the perfect couple. She has even given them names, imagining their perfect relationship from afar. But one day she sees the woman (Megan) kissing another man and the next day, while drunk, she finds herself getting off the train in order to confront the woman. The next morning she remembers nothing but realizes that she is bloody and injured. Soon afterward, she finds out that the woman, she wanted to confront is actually missing. So what happened to her and who’s to blame? This novel has multiple POV’s and allows us to get to know the different characters. The ending is the best part though!
“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.”
7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
It’s a classic. What more do we need to say about this one? This Jane Austen classic tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth Bennet’s mother and sisters are quite excited that there is a new single gentleman who has rented a house nearby. He invites the Bennet family to a ball, where Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy and he is rude to her, telling her that she is not pretty enough to tempt him. Naturally, the two do not hit it off straight away.
It’s very interesting and also funny at times to read about how their relationship develops in a time where expectations for men and women were different. The representation of the mating rituals in the book is entertaining and provides an interesting perspective on courtships.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
8. Lean In: Women, Work and The Will To Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
This is a non-fiction book, written by the COO of Facebook. Here we learn about the importance of women applying themselves in the workplace and how to do so while still maintaining a life. Sandberg discusses the difficulties she faced, with the help of anecdotes. She talks about the compensation for women in comparison to it for their male colleagues.
And one of the arguments that I found most interesting was that according to Sandberg, women hold themselves back on account of their internal struggles. While this discussion has angered many feminists, I am actually inclined to agree with it, because I’ve felt myself do it. She argues that men are more confident in the workplace and that is why they find it easier to take charge and command more difficult projects, while women who are just as able, if not more, stall themselves due to a lack of confidence. I understand why some people find this to be insulting and I agree that motivation is a personal thing that perhaps shouldn’t be generalized. But this certainly helped me, so I’m inclined to agree (for myself and not all women). The book also goes into topics, such as parenting, likeability in the face of success, the dangers of mentors and the need for women to talk about their ambitions to other women.
“There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”
9. The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren
This is a children’s fantasy novel and also one of my absolute favorite book I read as a child. I think it’s probably the book that sparked my love for the fantasy genre. Here we read about two brothers from a Swedish town. The younger one – Karl Lejon, has been diagnosed with an illness and is expected to die. Seeing his fear, his older brother Jonathan tells him that his afterlife will be an amazing adventure, spent in a land, known as Nangijala.
One day, their house is engulfed by flames and Jonathan, aged just 13, puts his younger brother on his back and jumps out of the window to save him. Jonathan dies from that jump and Karl is left heartbroken and sick. One day he receives a sign, which helps him deal with his fear of death and soon after he wakes up in the Cherry Valleys of Nangijala. This is a tale of family, friendship, adventure, love, fear and fighting for what you believe in. I will not spoil what happens further in the book because it is honestly one of the best books you’ll ever read and you should discover it for yourself!
“But then Jonathan said it was something he must do, even if it was dangerous. ‘Why?’ I wondered. ‘Otherwise you’re not a human being but just a piece of dirt’ said Jonathan.”
10. Julie and Julia: My Year Of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell
This is a hilarious memoir. The book follows the life of Julie, who is nearing 30 and is sick and tired of her secretarial job, which is going nowhere. I love this book because it is a mix of Bridget Jones and a lot of complicated french cooking. Julie decides to invest her time in recreating all the recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And she plans to do so in exactly one year, without skipping a day. She decides to then blog about the experience and finds out that people actually really like reading about her challenge, finally helping her find a creative outlet.
I connected with the author and how she discovered cooking as not just a way to prepare food, but also a sensual experience. The representation of the process of food preparation is almost romanticized as we follow Julia through her struggles both in and out of the kitchen. It’s funny, it’s sad at times and it’s relatable. Yes, it’s probably not an essential read, but it was one that I thoroughly enjoyed!
“Two years ago, I was a twenty-nine-year-old secretary. Now I am a thirty-one-year-old writer. I get paid very well to sit around in my pajamas and type on my ridiculously fancy iMac, unless I’d rather take a nap. Feel free to hate me — I certainly would.”