My 10 Top Reads of All Time

These are some of my favorite books, mostly novels, some classics, some contemporary. They’re in no particular order. Let me know what yours are!
1. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
If there’s a Great American Novel, then surely this must be it. One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read, especially the ending. The story details the hard journey westward by the Okies escaping the dust bowl, and is ultimately a reflection of the indomitable American spirit.
2. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Another powerful American classic by another American Nobel winner, Beloved is the name of a baby killed by her mother, an escaped slave, when she is captured because she considered death better than growing up in slavery. This story stayed with me for a long time after I finished the book.

3. The Goat’s Party by Mario Vargas Llosa
My favorite book by this Peruvian Nobel winner. It’s a fictionalization of the last days of the brutal Dominican dictator Trujillo and tells the story of his assassins and their plot. It’s a brilliant piece of historical reconstruction and a fascinating read.
4. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This is my all time favorite romance. How could a book that details one man’s undying love for a woman over half a century not be? It takes place in 19th century Cartagena, Colombia, and the Nobel winner Garcia masterfully evokes both the romance of the era, setting and the story. 
5. Queen of the South by Arturo Perez Reverte
The current hit TV show on USA Network is very loosely based on this thriller. The book is far better. I sped right through this tale of a Mexican woman who not only survives but thrives in the male-dominated dangerous world of international drug trafficking. Gripping and compelling.

6. Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle by Ingrid Betancourt
I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but Latin American politics and crime are big interests of mine. This memoir, which details the former Colombian presidential candidate’s abduction by guerrillas and life as a hostage, details an incredible story about human nature and the triumph of the human spirit — and it’s extremely well written.
7. Robbery Under Arms by Rolf Boldrewood
This is an Australian classic first published in 1881. I was spellbound by this frontier tale of Captain Starlight and the Marston boys: bushrangers, cattle rustlers but generally sympathetic scallywags as they evade the law through goldfields and bush country.
8. A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd
This was a hilarious book, a total send up of the stodgy British foreign service. The protagonist is a rather hapless junior embassy official in a fictional African country, and he finds himself constantly wading into trouble. I had to run out to the parking lot to listen to this book on my lunch hour, I was addicted to it!

9. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
My favorite Hemingway. What can I say? It’s got all my top elements: heroes involved in a political conflict, a foreign setting, adventure and romance.
10. Vanity Fair by Willliam Thackeray
A whopper at 800 pages, but totally worth it. I loved this surprisingly readable story of Becky Sharp, who uses her wiles and wit to climb the social ladder in the early 19th century London. A satirical comedy that pokes fun at social mores and snobs.