Top Five Books

About two weeks ago, a blog reader left a comment requesting a blog post highlighting my favorite books from the list that I have on my Books page. (My Books page includes links to all of the PBF Book Club reviews and brief reviews of books I’ve read outside of the book club.)

As someone who is always looking for book recommendations, I thought this was such a fun idea and figured I’d highlight my top five favorite books from the books I’ve previously mentioned on PBF today! I also plan to go back and update this post as I continue to read should any new books blow me away and deserve a spot on this list and will include a link to this post on my Books page.

sarah's key

This emotional book is one of my all-time favorites. Sarah’s Key earns a place on this list not only for the author’s tremendous writing and storytelling, but also for the education the book provides to readers about the round up at the Vélodrome d’Hiver, a truly horrific event in history.

the kite runner

The Kite Runner was one heck of an intense and graphic book. It is powerful, gripping and emotional. Highly recommended!


If you’ve been reading PBF for a while then you know how much I loved this book. If you liked the Hunger Games and enjoy dystopian novels, I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s a page turner!

Open Agassi

As someone who generally prefers reading fiction, I was surprised at how much Andre Agassi’s autobiography roped me in. My dad is a huge tennis fan, so I grew up watching Agassi and knew a little bit about his background and some of the other tennis pros mentioned in his book. Agassi’s story doesn’t sugarcoat things and includes real emotion. It was interesting to read about the experiences of a professional athlete who didn’t enjoy playing his sport. (I still think about the “control what you can control” conversation he had with his trainer, Gil.)

Violets of March

The Violets of March wasn’t a whoopsy romance novel like I anticipated. It was a mysterious book about love, loss and finding yourself again when unexpected events interrupt the path you’ve always envisioned for yourself. It is a quick read!

Question of the Day

  • What book do you find yourself recommending to people over and over again?

I always recommend Sarah’s Key to those who say they enjoy historical fiction. I recommend Divergent to anyone in the whole wide world.


  1. says

    I loved Divergent too! And Kite Runner is up there on my list as well. For awhile, the book I was recommending to people was Water for Elephants (much better than the movie, in my opinion). Same goes for The Help and The Time Traveler’s Wife. One last recommendation (because the books take place in NJ and I’ve read them all multiple times): the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty.

    Thanks for the recs! I’ll be placing a few on hold at the library 🙂


  2. Anne Marie says

    I have to agree with you on the kite runner!, I read divergent too but since it was a young adult book sometimes I wish the writing was better but it was an overall good book! since you gave your top 5 I’m just going to include some of the books I enjoy! (they are in no order!)
    1. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand (challenging read but well worth it!)
    2. Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane (page turner! I flew through this book 🙂
    3. The girl with the dragon tattoo
    4. Reason to Breathe- Rebecca Donvan
    5. The Host – Stephanie Meyer (nothing like twilight!)

    Also if you like the author of the kite runner then I think you would like A thousand splendid suns which is also written by him!


  3. says

    I recommend Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen to everyone (although at this point, most have read it). I also recommend Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand to anyone who likes history–or even who doesn’t, since it’s just a fabulous memoir. I also push for Plainsong and Eventide (the original and the sequel) by Kent Haruf.

    Just a few of my favorites 🙂


  4. says

    I loved all of these books too (except Open, I haven’t read that). I’d have to add Pride and Prejudice, I absolutely love that book and Jane Austen’s sense of humor that comes through many clever and witty things that Elizabeth says. I also love Power of One, I actually haven’t read it since 8th grade, but I always remember it as one of the most powerful books I’ve read.


  5. Karey says

    Loved divergent and the kite runner too! My all time favorite book is My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. If you haven’t read it, you must!


  6. Nikki says

    Something Borrowed and Something Blue by Emily Giffin are two of my favorites books. I’ve read all of her books and really enjoyed them. I also really liked Sundays at Tiffany’s by James Patterson. Divergent, Water for Elephants, and The Time Traveler’s Wife were pretty good too.


    • says

      I love Something Borrowed and Something Blue! I have her newest one–Where We Belong–at home from the library right now. I’m about 100 pages in and LOVING it for some light weekend reading.

      Time Traveler’s Wife was good. I’ve started Sundays at Tiffany’s a couple of times, but never finished it. I feel like I’ve heard the story before–was it a movie?


  7. says

    I can read “The Alchemist” over and over. Chances are, I can pick it up in any spot, read a sentence or two and get some enlightenment. 🙂 I loved “Sarah’s Key” as well. So powerful.


  8. Jennifer says

    I loved sarah’s key! So emotional and entertaining. My all time favorite book is Winter Garden, also historical fiction about WWII. It’s an incredible story with love, mystery, and suspense. A must read!


  9. Carrie says

    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    1984 by George Orwell

    Check out the above for two of the most classic dystopian novels. Great books.
    The Handmaid’s Tale is my 2nd favorite book of all time, following Gone With the Wind.


  10. says

    Thanks for the book recommendations! I honestly haven’t read any of these… don’t really have a book I’d recommend either. I usually just love fiction paranormal romance type books and am currently reading the last book in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy… which, I would recommend if you like those type of books. 😉


  11. Valerie says

    I’ve read all except Open and loved them all too. I really loved the book Expecting Adam, you should look into it for a possible book club vote. My guilty pleasure is the Luxe series books. Kind of young adult but I loved Hunger Games and Divergent…although this is not dystopian and more historical romance, but doesn’t feel stiff. The author also has another series called Bright Young Things and I’m so excited that the 3rd book in the series comes out this month! It takes place in Manhattan in the 1920s. I’m also looking forward to re-reading The Great Gatsby before the movie comes out. Love me some Leonardo Diacaprio!


  12. says

    I know I have said it before but I will say it again. I tell people about the Forest of Hands and Teeth series more than any other. I don’t generally get into things that are extremely popular (like vampires lol) so I didn’t think I would like this book about unconcecrated (the undead) but the author managed to turn it into this beautiful romantic “what they once were” type of book. Also I LOVE Before I Fall. You will start out hating the girls in it as a warning (popular girls) but by the end of things it is deep and will change you as a person.


  13. says

    My Fav’s:
    1) The Stephanie Plum Series (okay, it’s a huge series, not *one* book, I know) by Janet Evanovich – ALL TIME FAVORITE! Funny with good balance of action and romance. Everything in one!
    2) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    3) Hunger Games
    4) The Help
    5) Divergent


  14. says

    One that I go back and read about once a year is ‘The Beach’ by Alex Garland. The movie with Leonard DiCaprio was ok but, like most movies made into films, it just didn’t quite capture the writing well enough. For me, the book was captivating from start to finish and is the only one where when I finished it, I went out and bought several copies and mailed them to friends as a random present.


  15. says

    “The Kite Runner” is such a good book! I haven’t read it in a few years, so maybe I’ll revisit it when I’m home for the holidays. This is going to sound so cliche, but I’ve read “Pride and Prejudice” more times than I can remember; I love Jane Austen, and the novel easily makes my top five all-time favorite books. And I’ve also read “The Hunger Games” several times. Since it’s an adolescent lit./young adult book, it’s an extremely easy read–it’s like watching TV!


  16. says

    As sick and twisted as this might seem, I keep coming back to “The Bell Jar” when I’m sad or lost. I probably relate to Esther Greenwood during those times, and figure that it’s all coming-of-age stuff that will eventually pass.


  17. Austen says

    Three I recommend regularly:
    1. ‘Flinch’ by Julian Smith- brutally challenges our fears and what is keeping us from our passions
    2. ‘As A Decade Fades’ by Joshua Fields Millburn- a fictional modern story that highlights the raw of human emotion. Just fantastic!
    3. ‘The Soul Of A Butterfly’ by Muhammad Ali and his daughter, Hana Yasmeen Ali- a beautiful and inspiring piece of the man behind the athlete/celebrity. I can’t recommend this book enough!


  18. Mary Lee says

    Thanks for the recommendations!! I’ve read the first three on your list and loved them all. I’m excited for a couple more to put on the list. Some of my favorite fiction include: Water For Elephants, The Help, Cutting For Stone, State Of Wonder & The Art Of Fielding. I don’t read as much non-fiction/me
    moirs but, some that stand out are: The Glass Castle, Tina Fey’s Bossypants, & for lighter reads I find Chelsea Handler’s books laugh-out loud funny.


  19. Caitlyn says

    I absolutely love The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Its a book about Indian parents raising their children in America and the son struggling with his identity. He is caught between his parents desire to keep him close to his Indian roots and his desire to be truly American. It is a powerfrul book that I’ve read several times.


  20. says

    I recommend Sarah’s Key a lot, as well. I also tell me people to read anything by Jodi Picoult. Lately, I’ve been recommending Gone Girl and the Stephanie Plum novels. One is super twisted, and the others are super hilarious!


  21. says

    Slaughterhouse 5 is an easy book to recommend, because I can’t imagine anyone not loving it. It’s so cleverly and expertly written… it’s about the horrors of war and yet this book is so funny. Vonnegut plays with words like no other. I think everyone can get into it and it’s actually very short. He packs a lot into a little!


  22. says

    I loved reading this post and all the comments to get new book ideas! I love to read and have so many favorites but a few that stick out in my mind recently are: all the Harry Potter books, Cutting for Stone and American Wife. I also just read Life of Pi so I can go see the movie…it was great too!


  23. Jessie says

    These are great suggestions, some I have read, some to add to my book list! Thank you Julie and to everyone else who has commented. My all time favorite book is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers!! Anything else by her is superb as well. Happy reading!


  24. says

    Fun post! Well.. the Hunger Games is a bit hit with me.. but does that count? Hahaha. I really love Tuesdays with Morrie and the Kite Runner. The Glass Castle is also really good. I”m just about to start reading “A Stolen Life,” Jacee Dugard’s memoir, so that should be interesting too!


  25. Jessie says

    Totally agree about Sarah’s Key and The Kite Runner! Thanks for the other reco’s. Lately, I have been recommending Gone Girl to everyone and anyone. I wanted to read it so quickly because I wanted to know how it ended, but didn’t want it to end at the same time. Amazing!

    Also, A Visit From the Goon Squad was an amazing book! Any book that has a chapter in PowerPoint slides….so inventive!


  26. Steph says

    I was going to recommend A Thousand Splendid Suns and Atlas Shrugged as well, but I see people already beat me to the punch! The first is even better than Kite Runner, I think, possibly because it’s a story about three generations of women and it just resonates more, and Atlas Shrugged made me see and think about the world completely differently than I had before… as much crap as Ayn Rand gets for being extreme, Atlas Shrugged is beautifully written and the ideas behind it really make you think about what kind of world we live in and want to live in.


  27. Ginny says

    This is so exciting! I love getting book recommendations (I’m such a nerd,) and I’ve only read the Kite Runner before–which I found that even though it’s fantastically written and incredibly powerful, was a book that sort of left me disheartened for days. But the other four I haven’t read! So I’m extremely excited to check these out and read this. I always find myself recommending the Great Gatsby, and Say Goodnight, Gracie. Both wonderful books! I can’t wait to read the Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy too, they’re supposed to be incredible.


  28. kate says

    i agree with most of the picks above. but two more that really make you think are The Shack by William Young and One Second After by William R. Forstchen.


  29. km says

    It’s not often that I laugh out loud reading a book, or read a book more than once for that matter, but Under the Net by Iris Murdoch made me do both! It’s such a great story.


  30. Jennifer says

    The book I have read, reread and recommend all the time is “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” by Laurie R. King. It’s about a teenage girl who (litterally) trips over a retired Sherlock Holmes and goes on to become his appretice. Part historical fiction, part coming of age novel, part mystery. All good! (Plus, it is part of a growing series–so the fun doesn’t end!)


  31. Courtney says

    I LOVE The Passage, by Justin Cronin, and I always recommend it to people. It’s just so epic. The sequel just came out and I’m about a third of the way through. So far I’m really enjoying it and I’ll probably start recommending it too.


  32. says

    I read The Violets of March last year after it was one of your book club books. I absolutely loved it!! It kept me so interested and I finished it within a day 🙂 I also love The Help and recommend it to everyone who hasn’t already read it. The Kite Runner was wonderful, yet disturbing, like you said. We were required to read it the summer before my freshman year of college for our English classes – I’d like to go back and reread it now because though the graphic nature would still bother me, I’d definitely appreciate the story more.


  33. says

    I think Sarah’s Key should be required reading for every person in every civilized country in this world. It’s a piece of the Holocaust that often gets ignored. People have a snow globe view of France, but during World War II, it was a terrible place. It wasn’t glittering sand beaches and the Eiffel Tower at night.

    Another book I love is The Book Thief.


  34. says

    Gone Girl! It was probably my favorite book of 2012. It wouldn’t leave my mind for weeks after finishing it, until I became at peace with the ending and started to think of it as brilliant! I always tell everyone to read it.


  35. Alison says

    I just finished reading Divergent and I must say that I was rather disappointed! Honestly, I thought it was a poor knockoff of The Hunger Games series and kept waiting for the plot and characters to develop. Overall, it held my attention and I am glad I read it to satisfy my curiosity, but I am not going to read the following books in the series. Some of my favorite books are: Water for Elephants, Gone Girl (loved it!), The Help, and The Harry Potter Series (of course). A less known book I really enjoyed is Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire. It’s a light, fun read!


  36. Danielle Michiels says

    I have been meaning to read the Divergent! I loved the Hunger Games and the Maze Runner series. Here are some of my favorites:

    1. Three Weeks with my Brother (One of my favorite Nicholas Sparks books!)
    2. The Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flammel series
    3. Eragon (The whole series)
    4. Angels and Demons
    5. A Song of Ice and Fire series

    I am a sucker for series. I get so attached to characters that I am always craving another book to pick up and read more!


  37. says

    I very rarely re-read books, or re-watch dvds..I feel it’s a waste and don’t like that I know what is going to happen. Though I did re-read the Harry Potter series haha! oh and Twilight Saga 😉


  38. Amy says

    The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is an interesting read; a bit dark but I couldn’t put it down. It’s a mystery about dogs and family. Also Overture by Yael Goldstein really held my interest, possibly because I am a musician but I do think it is really well-written!


  39. says

    Ooh, I also loved The Kite Runner! I actually got the meet the author at a book signing and he was so nice and personable, which just makes me want to recommend the book to everyone even more now! I have not read Divergent but I will get my booty to the library and check it out this week! 🙂
    One of my all-time favorites is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Every time I read it, I cry at the end. {a good cry}


  40. Susan says

    Did you read the sequel to Divergent, Insurgent? I’m about half way through right now and just super dissapointed. Its not holding my attention at all like Divergent did. What did you think?


  41. says

    I LOVE divergent and I’m already excited about the movie coming out. In like 2 years. Also, I read Violets of March after your recommendation and just wanted to make sure you knew that author has a new book out! I haven’t read but it is sitting on my to-read pile.


  42. says

    Right now it’s The Secret Race. It was an excellent, fast and interesting read regarding doping in the sport of cycling. Now I’m reading Rich Roll’s book, he’s a bit craaaaaazy. I love biographies and autobiographies so I am eager to read Andre Agassi’s book too!


  43. Amber says

    I absolutely LOVE Divergent! I pretty much want to marry Four. 🙂
    Some other favorites: 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny, From Baghdad with Love, and The Rum Diary.


  44. Elizabeth says

    ‘A Discovery of Witches’ is incredible. I read it so fast the first time that I had to go back and re-read it! It is has history, mystery, and romance. Also, it is part of a trilogy, and the 2nd book – ‘Shadow of the Night’ – came out this summer, so good!!


  45. Rachel says

    I am so glad i found your blog! And then this post. I now have a nice list of books to read. My favourite book of all time is probably The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, and I am another fan of The Help, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series and The Hunger Games trilogy.


  46. Ashley says

    Been trying to find a good dystopian novel. Loved the hunger games! Definitely going to check Divergent out! Thanks for posting this!


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