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BookEnds’ Favorite Things, Part 2

When Kim came up with the suggestion to do an entry on our five all-time favorite books, I knew it was going to be a struggle for me. I’ve never in my life been able to come up with favorites. Everything, every favorite I have, depends entirely on my mood. From my favorite snack to my favorite friend, it all depends what I need that day, and that goes no differently for my favorite book. Sometimes I want to settle in with a nice, slow classic, one with characters I’ve known for years, and other times I want something to zip through and keep me at the edge of my seat or remind me why love is so wonderful.

But, in an effort to give Kim’s request my all I’ve come up with a list of those books that have stuck with me over the years and/or those I’ve read over and over. I’ve excluded any I’ve ever represented or edited for obvious reasons. So here they are in no particular order, a list of only five of my favorite books, a little about why I love them and how each book might play into what I’m looking for as an agent:

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I really love almost anything Edith Wharton writes. As someone who has lived in both New York City and Newport, RI, I’m fascinated by what these places must have been like at the turn of the century. Most importantly, though, Edith Wharton writes about women I can truly relate to and writes in a way that makes me feel the same pain and joys as they do. As an agent, I think I’m always looking for books that make me feel the same way The House of Mirth makes me feel, a little like my heart has been ripped out of my chest. A book that makes me feel so much I have to just sit and rest after that last page is turned.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Who doesn’t love this book? I’ve read it over and over and as a child I knew I wanted to be Jo. I was a tomboy who loved nothing more than telling stories. I love the strength of all the Little Women, and when I describe looking for books with strong female protagonists I think of these characters and how each of them had their own strengths, and of course their own weaknesses.

Small Vices by Robert B. Parker. I always tease my husband that Spenser is the one man I’d leave him for. I love the pacing of these books and the snappy dialogue. Unfortunately, snappy dialogue alone doesn’t sell a book anymore, but if I could find a mystery/suspense series with a new and exciting hook and the dialogue of Spenser I know I’d have a winner.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin. As a business owner and a literary agent I find this book to be chock-full of amazing information and guidance. It’s an interesting and entertaining read and really helps me think outside the box. And it’s prescriptive nonfiction—my favorite kind.

The Foster’s Market Cookbook by Sarah Foster. Okay, this says nothing about what I represent since I don’t handle cookbooks, but everything about the type of food I like to eat (and about my favorite hobby). From her Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille to the Chocolate Whopper cookies you can’t fail with this book.


Category: Blog


  1. I love just about everything written by Edith Wharton — I reread her short story, ROMAN FEVER, recently. I love the ending “twist” of that story — better than anything you’d see on The OC.

    Since you are having DAY 2 on this subject, that’s a good excuse for me to list some more of my favorites. 😛

    THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, by Larry McMurtry (I’m determined to get to his bookstore in Archer City — he reopened it!)

    THE BELL JAR, by Sylvia Plath

    MADAME BOVARY, by Gustav Flaubert

  2. I had no idea Larry McMurtry wrote that! So interesting.

    I’ve never read a word of Edith Wharton and I have a feeling I’d just love her. What’s more, I once had a little mania for The X Files and really should have seen the movie House of Mirth for Gillian’s sake, but never did. Did you see the movie, Jessica?

    And since we’re adding today, I do so love THE TURN OF THE SCREW. Talk about a screwy dame!! So fun, so scary.

    Can you tell how much I love this topic??

  3. Jessica, if you like cookbooks you can read and cook from, try Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat. It’s my favorite all-time cookbook.

  4. This topic has me thinking and realizing there is so much I need to read and haven’t. I also am having a heard time keeping my list short.

    I’m going to refer back to this though and read some of your favorites.

  5. Oh, favorites! From childhood: The Anne of Green Gables books, Little Women, the Little House books. Now: when I really need to get away from the world, I turn to Christoper Moore’s Lamb:The Gospel According to Christ’s Childhood Friend Biff. Or, in a completely different vein, anything from Fannie Flagg – though I’m especially partial to her latest, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven.

    And of course, a big DITTO to whoever mentioned the Harry Potter books!

  6. Oh, dang, this blog has become totally addictive for me. I’ll have to start BookEnds Anonymous to make my next deadline 😀

    I’m definitely going to read Edith Wharton….and LITTLE WOMEN. Good lord, have I truly never read that book?!

    Some of my faves:

    MY NAME IS ASHER LEV, by Chaim Potok. Such a wonderful coming of age story about a young man struggling to define himself as an artist and fearing he will alienate himself from his family and faith.

    When I need a laugh and a little romance, anything by Stephanie Bond.

    THE SECRET GARDEN. Can’t wait to read that to my daughter.

    Since Jessica mentioned cookbooks (and I’m going to ignore the chocolate whopper cookie business) MAMA LEAH’s cookbook. The kind of this-will-kill-me-young-but-gimme, gimme, gimme-more food I grew up with.

    DIETING, A DRY DRUNK by Becky Jackson, the BEST answer to diet and weight loss I have ever, ever read…and why the heck is the woman unagented and publishing her own book (with a kinda yucky title) when she ought to be on Oprah and selling a million copies? Just asking.

    Okay, I’ve *got* to get back to work. Everyone, stop being so interesting 😀 Can we all have lunch in Dallas?

  7. Wendy it’s funny you should say that’s a yucky title — that title is exactly why I’m about to look her up on the internet! Thanks for the tip, and I have to read Little Women, too. So much to read!

  8. You’re right. This is addictive and I blame Kim.

    Absolutely LOVED the Little House books. I read them all at least two or three times. Any midwesterners out there familiar with Betsy, Tacy and Tib? Also a favorite of mine as a child, but I find that not many on the East know them. And Anne. Who doesn’t love Anne of Green Gables? Did you read the Emily books too? I think I liked those even better.

    The Secret Garden never did it for me, but A Little Princess… I read that over and over and over and sobbed every time.

    I was so obviously shaped by the many books I read as a child and interestingly enough–all of my favorite heroines were writers or storytellers.


  9. Unfortunately, snappy dialogue alone doesn’t sell a book anymore
    Sigh. Them were the good ole days.

    I love Wharton, Parker, and “Little Women,” but it would never occur to me to include a cookbook (or any nonfiction) in my list of top five ALL TIME faves.

    wendy warren: I read “Asher Lev” years and years ago and still remember its power. Hmm, maybe that’s one for the re-read pile.

    Some of my fave authors: Jane Austen, Ellis Peters, Joanna Trollope, Barbara Pym, Angela Thirkell, and Marian Keyes. Oh, and Tolkien, of course.

  10. I’m a bad person for never reading much Jane Austen, I know.

    And Jessica, just so you know, I blame Kim, too… and I’d LIKE to blame Jacky (ahem!) as well, if only she would get over here and tell us her favorites, too.

    I say, “…if only she would get over here and tell us her favorites, too.”

  11. Don’t know Betsy, Tacy & Tib (must look them up!), but that reminded me of another childhood favorite, The All-Of-A-Kind family. Oh, and Mrs. Mike! Both took me to completely different worlds, both will always be among my favorites.

  12. See? I’m back, and I said I HAVE TO WORK.

    Since we’re talking juvenile lit: I absolutely adored FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER (FRANKENWEILER?…hmm, have to look it up). Oh, my gosh, I wanted to move to New York and make my brother hide in museums with me. Alas, we lived in L.A. and he preferred to trap me in elevators.

    Since everyone is blaming Kim for this thread, I think I’ll check out a Dean Koontz. Is he really that fabulous?

  13. Aaaaa!! Betsy, Tacy & Tibs!

    For YEARS I have remembered these books, and wanted to buy copies — I read them ALL when I was about ten or eleven, after checking them out of the school library. As an adult, I couldn’t remember the author or characters’ names. I asked about them on reader lists, hoping someone would know what I was talking about. BETSY & JOE! BETSY’S WEDDING!! I remember! I’m ordering them now, for myself, for Christmas.


  14. I really think Dean Koontz is THAT good. And I’m not the only one. From a Publishers Weekly review a few years ago: “Of all bestselling authors, Koontz may be the most underestimated by the literary establishment. Book after book, year after year, this author climbs to the top of the charts. Why? His readers know: because he is a master storyteller and a daring writer, and because, in his novels, he gives readers bright hope in a dark world.”

    If you want edge-of-your-seat suspense, INTENSITY is the best. But his more recent ODD THOMAS books are more character driven and equally unputdownable.

  15. Had to add more — I also love A LITTLE PRINCESS, though THE LOST PRINCE is my very favorite of Burnett’s books…which leads to another childhood fav — LINNETS AND VALERIANS by Elizabeth Goudge. I’m practically the only one who’s ever heard of this book, and I read it over and over and over again as a child.

  16. You’re right, I’ve never heard of it. In fact the only book I remember reading when I was 9 was Helen Keller. And Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was pretty good. A little Wilder later on (also loved) but then nothing til Catcher in the Rye…what happened in the years between I want to know!

  17. Oh, I loved the Betsy/Tacy books. I had an autographed hardback of Betsy, Tacy & Tib, can you believe it? It was in terrible shape and eventually fell apart. Now that makes me really sad.

    And Mrs. Basil Frankweiler–another of my faves!

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