Many of these I read as a child; a lot of our favorites from that time stay with us. But a few more contemporary works have snuck in there. I can’t resist a good fantasy.
In no particular order:
1. Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
An orphan boy named Cat Chant finds out he is a powerful enchanter who has nine lives that were transformed into a book of matches. The betrayal of the sister he saw as a mother figure, a girl who used his lives in order to selfishly give herself more power really interested me.
2. Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
Funny historical fiction. A medieval lord’s daughter, who subverts the trope of beautiful Ladies who are quite well behaved, is really rude and plays pranks and plays with the pig boy. I was enchanted.
3. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Another girl who gets in trouble because she likes to read and use her imagination. The moments that stayed with me were when Anne’s adoptive parents were put out that she wasn’t a boy that would help out with farm work, and when Anne accidentally got drunk with one of her friends.
4. Remember Me by Christopher Pike
A ghost tries to solve her own murder. I like Christopher Pike. He starts a story with a horror trope and it usually jumps the shark in the middle (see: The Grave). But this book, oddly enough, was linear and explored ideas about the afterlife and what it means to live and die.
5. Bronwyn’s Bane by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
This played on my weaknesses. An annoyed princess with a curse to speak only lies grows up pissed off and has to go on an adventure. Just awesome. …I think I should go reread it.
6. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
An original fairytale. ‘Nuf said.
7. Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Fantasy inspired by Russian folklore with a very clever antagonist flip. Is he good or bad or good? The system of magic is also quite different than what I’ve seen before.
8. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
I’m really over retellings of the common fairytales like Cinderella and Snow White, but a sci-fi cyborg Cinderella with one leg set in a future Asian country? Hard to resist.
9. Valiant by Holly Black
Probably my favorite book by Holly Black, and I know I’m not alone. The world is gritty and the fey live in the city and trade their magic as drugs for street kids. The main girl is kick-ass, but has depth that a lot of “strong female characters” don’t have these days. We also get a little Beauty and the Beast retelling thrown in.
10. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
A spoiled rich boy’s plane crashes in the wilderness. With no hope of rescue, a dead pilot, and only a hatchet, he survives.
I should note that all of Diana Wynne Jones’ books would be on this list, but I figured it might not be as interesting that way.