I'm a girl who doesn't have a favorite anything. I'm the kind of person who loves Italian food but can also get down with some orange chicken and an egg roll. I've watched The Holiday as much as the Die Hard series. I don't have a favorite color, but I lean toward blue and green (if you don't count black and gray). I love Manhattan (New York) as much as Laguna Beach (the city not the television show). So when you ask me for my top ten favorite books, my mind starts spinning. Do I categorize them? Should I make one list that's comprised of my favorite chick lit, another for memoirs, another for biographies and so on? Do I start with the books I read when I was a little girl because then I'd have to include Judy Blume's, Are you There God, It's me Margaret and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing that I still firmly believe are better than many books written today. In the end, I decided to close my eyes and go with my gut. I went to my bookshelf and nightstand and grabbed the ones that made me happy during a time in my life when I needed them. At the end of the day, that's the function of a book as far as I'm concerned.
Somehow, I ended up with 12 (in no particular order) plus one special mention. I doubt my descriptions will do these books justice so I can only hope that you are inspired to read them or to read them again. Sometimes the second time around is even better!
1. Straight Up and Dirty by Stephanie Klein I didn't hear about Straight Up and Dirty from Liz or one of my girlfriends that I often swap books with. Turns out, it was Matt (my "manfriend"), who said the colorful cover caught his eye and after reading the back, thought it sounded like me. (I'm sure it was probably the title more than the cover but anywhoo...) He was right- Straight Up and Dirty and I were/are/always will be a perfect fit. I've read it twice and given it as a gift more times than I can count. Stephanie Klein's writing is the perfect combination of witty, smart, self-deprecating and honest in this memoir about her life with the wrong guy and her journey to finding the right one.
2. The Big Love by Sarah Dunn Time Magazine called The Big Love "Unapologetic Chick Lit" and I couldn't agree more. Sarah Dunn's first novel grabs you from page one when Alison's boyfriend steps out for mustard and never returns. It's a beach read that also makes you think. Is there a better combination?
3. Something Borrowed & Something Blue by Emily Giffin Emily Giffin is inspirational because her debut novel Something Borrowed hit the NY Times best seller list and when you read it, it's obvious why it did. She has incredible talent because she writes about a girl who sleeps with her best friend's fiancé but still has the ability to make you feel for and even like her. Her follow up novel, Something Blue is the same story but told from the perspective of the friend who was cheated on in Something Borrowed. The one you thought was a shallow, heartless be-yotch but now you suddenly root for and understand. That, my friends, is talent.
4. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri This is my intellectual book. Not that the others aren't well written with big words. But this has that little sticker on the front that says "Winner of the Pulitzer Prize." If you haven't heard of this author or book, you've probably heard of the movie the Namesake. It was adapted from her novel of the same name (the movie did NOT do the book justice, but do they ever?). Interpreter of Maladies is a series of short stories and Jhumpa's debut novel. The way she writes about people "seeking love beyond the barriers of nations and generations" as described on the back of her book, makes you feel like you're right there in the room with her characters, smelling the food they're cooking, feeling the emotions they're feeling and hoping, as much as they are, that it will all work out.
5. Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch I just read this book and fell in love. It's all about those two little words so many of us ask ourselves, "What if?" If you've ever questioned your life, wondered what would've happened if you'd married your college sweetheart or if you hadn't, this book will make you look at and appreciate your life for what it really is.
6. Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer Just a few exciting things about this book... It was Liza's debut novel and the first novel for the publisher 5 Spot; it went on to be an international best seller and has been optioned to HBO for a series! Her writing is hilarious, (and so is she--Liz and I saw her speak along with Megan Crane whose book Frenemies is sitting on my nightstand calling out to me) and she's truly the master of snappy dialogue. Her story really hits home for anyone who's ever felt like they could not catch a break and who's ever been insecure or questioned his or her entire life. Face it girls and boys, that's all of us. And if it's not, you suck or you're lying!
7. Sammy's Hill & Sammy's House by Kristin Gore Kristin Gore, you may or may not know, is Al Gore's daughter who established herself as a writer on SNL. Her main character in both books, Sammy, is flawed and quirky (my favorite combo) and even has a pet gold fish (hate them, but gave it a pass because it's funny) and I love her! Both books are so much fun!
8. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld I love the way Curtis Sittenfeld writes. She paints you an incredibly detailed picture of what her main characters are seeing and feeling. I love this story about a 14 year old girl who feels completely out of place in her prep school. She never fits in over the four years she attends. We all have our junior high and high school traumatic experiences that have followed us through life. I know I empathized with this awkward adolescent (In fact, is there any other kind?). You should've seen me! I had glasses, braces and a perm that I poured a bottle of Infusium on every day. My hair was actually hard to the touch (I'll find & post a picture for you).
9. The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank I also loved The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing but The Wonder Spot is lesser known and reminds me a lot of Prep in the way it's written. Like Prep, it's about a girl who feels like she doesn't fit in- anywhere. Through a series of missteps, she searches for the life she wants to have. It's a wise and funny book-- fow show.
10. The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner It goes without saying that Good in Bed and In Her Shoes are fantastic. There's just something about the short story that I love and maybe that's why it's this book by Jennifer Weiner that I'm choosing to highlight. It just can't be easy to tell a compelling and interesting story in only a few pages. I like being left wanting more and personally feel that she could've developed several of these stories into novels! You should do it, Jennifer!
11. The Bachelorette Party by Karen McCullah Lutz First...a bit of interesting trivia about this author. She wrote the screenplay for 10 Things I Hate About You and Legally Blonde. This is another debut novel that centers around one night. A night we've all experienced... whether we've been the fool in the veil running around Vegas or one of the fools with a plastic penis around her neck chasing after the fool in the veil. This is a fun page turner that I read might be turned into a movie. From chick lit to chick flick!
12. Beginner's Greek by James Collins I loved this book because it was different than anything I'd read in a long time. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it was written by a man about a man who still believes in romance and fate. It's a story about a man who craves a happy ending and (SPOILER ALERT) he gets it too!
Honorable Mention: See Jane Write, A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick LIt by Sarah Mlynowski & Farrin Jacobs
Liz and I will be the first to tell you that we had no idea what we were doing when we wrote our book. Only after we finished I'll Have Who She's Having, did we start reading books on how to write books. We definitely went about it backwards but that's just who we are. We didn't follow a lot of the rules like outlining (shh!!). And we didn't even know our ending until close to the ending.
See Jane Write, A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit was a little treasure that we discovered on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and devoured while standing in the store. In true Liz/Lisa fashion, we used it as a guide to see if the novel we'd already written had even a chance of making it. See Jane Write, A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit is very straightforward and funny. It also meant a lot to us because it was written by Sarah Mlynowski (who we love) and Farrin Jacobs (a former chick lit editor who became a writer who we also now love). They obviously believe in the chick lit genre. They make no apologies for chick lit-- in fact they champion it. It's a great book that includes great tips from authors like Emily Giffin, Meg Cabot and Sophia Kinsella.
Be sure to tell us about your faves!