My 40 Must Reads

Earlier this month, I mentioned my anxiety about turning the big four-oh, which is a mere five days away. The list I made, of books to read in my 40th year, was fun to create and has helped me shift to a more positive view of the next decade of my life.

After lining up important books I want to read in my 40th year, it occurred to me that it’s just as important to honor the books that have made me who I am over my first four decades.

questions for any book club discussion


My list spans from my childhood all the way up to this month. These are books that have influenced me in some major way, and I highly recommend all of them. So here they are in no particular order:


40 Must Reads From My First 40 Years


Watership Down  – Richard Adams

To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street – Dr Seuss

NakedDavid Sedaris

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

All Around the Town – Mary Higgins Clark

Circle of Friends – Maeve Binchy

The Gold CellSharon Olds

Until I Find You – John Irving

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides

Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Blunt

The Joy of Appreciative Living – Jacqueline Kelm

The Four Agreements – Miguel Ruiz

The Happiness ProjectGretchen Rubin

This is How – Augusten Burroughs

The Reader – Bernard Schlink

The Stand – Stephen King

Interview With the Vampire – Anne Rice

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

A Time to Kill – John Grisham

The Scarlet Letter – Nathanial Hawthorne

The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman

There is No Good Card For This – Emily McDowell

State of Wonder – Ann Patchett

Where the Heart Is – Billie Letts

There’s a Monster at the End of This Book – Grover

Good Morning – Brooke Noel

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed Jon Ronson

Love Walked In – Marisa de los Santos

Poetry of Rumi

The Value of Believing in Yourself – Spencer Johnson, MD

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

The Book of Essie – Meghan MacLean Weir

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Are You There God, it’s me Margaret – Judy Blume

Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me – Sherman Alexie

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

The Dogs of Babel – Carolyn Parkhurst


This list wasn’t as easy to make as I expected. I was super picky about which titles made it. It isn’t only about being a “favorite” book or even an incredibly good book, though a few of each are on here. All forty of these books have stayed with me long after I read them, in some cases years or even decades. If I’ve ever read a book more than once for my own enjoyment, it’s on this list.

Many of these books shaped who I am in a pivotal way. Some crossed my path at an important time in my life to help me process or reflect on traumatic experiences, some simply healed my broken heart.

I made an effort to only include an author once on this list, so it’s safe to say that most of these authors have written other books I’ve enjoyed as well.

I hope you like my list, and I’d love to hear which books have made you who you are!



  1. Doree Weller

    August 20, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    Lots of great books on this list!

  2. Anonymous

    August 21, 2018 at 3:02 am

    Great list – and I’m living proof that there is life beyond the big four-ohh!. I’m close to clocking up three decades on from that magic age, and life couldn’t be better.
    My book list is a bit boring compared to yours, but some of the books I have read many times are:
    The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
    Tess of the d’Urbevilles – Thomas Hardy
    Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
    Other favourites are:
    Cry of the Curlew – Peter Watt
    The Four Fires – Bryce Courtenay
    The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – Katarina Bivald
    Cave in the Snow – Vicki Mackenzie
    Living With Max – Chloe Maxwell
    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
    True Spirit – Jessica Watson
    Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
    Tuesdays With Morrie – Mitch Albom
    Twilight – Stephanie Meyer
    Quiver Full of Arrows – Jeffrey Archer
    Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt
    I won’t even start on the thousands of academic books I read over my thirty-plus years of teaching. I lived for the summer holidays when I could read a novel! Now that I’m retired, I can read whatever I like – and I’m loving it.

  3. Ramona Mead

    August 21, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    That’s a great list. I almost had Twilight on mine too! Most of your others, I haven’t read. My husband keeps telling me I should read The Woman in White, maybe this year!

  4. Ramona Mead

    August 21, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    Thanks, friend! I’ve been watching your favorite book posts lately 🙂

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