This changes from time to time if I discover a truly remarkable book, but as of right now, these are my top 5 books.
I pick these books based on a 4-point criteria. The principles I consider are plot; characters; style; relatibility/what they mean to me & what I take away from them at the end.
Unfortunately, I have a very hard time ranking these from 1-5, so I'm not going to. Just know these are the top 5, in alphabetical order.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Plot - This story is amazing & even the smallest things end up being important. The story also doesn't drag along.
Characters - The characters in this book are very original, yet the main character Shadow is still easy to relate to. All the characters are very developed, no matter how small a part they play.
Style - I don't even know how to describe Gaiman's style, just that it would include every synonym for "amazing" I know. I would even look some new ones up. I think people would just have to read it to understand.
What it means to me & What I took away - I liked the way this book approached faith, without encroaching on any one person's beliefs. So I was still able to keep my devout belief in God, and in a strange way, actually made it stronger. Also, his style helped me with my own writing. Secondly, I think I gained a much broader idea of faith.
Devilish by Maureen Johnson
Plot - This story is great & moves along quickly. A modern "selling your soul" story, which tackles how to beat the deal someone you know enters into with a devil.
Characters - Johnson writes the best characters in my opinion, always unique but so real you probably know someone just like them. And the depth of the characters is amazing, makes them whole.
Style - Maureen Johnson is my favorite writer, so I had to include her in my top 5. Her style is witty, funny, and thought-provoking. I like to look at her style, in this book especially, as an example of amazing writing.
What it means to me & what I got from it - I think this is a great coming of age book, that shows the strength that friendship can reach. This is another book that helped with my own writing, as I said.
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Plot - This is a story that never gets old, and is played out time and time again in real life. A person doing all he can to win back his true love that he lost to someone else? No one can say that hasn't happened to them or someone they know. But despite how often this story is played out, Fitzgerald manages to have something original and in my opinion, he's perfected that story.
Characters - These characters are real, original, and deep. And honestly, I fell in love with Gatsby. The rest were just like people I actually know.
Style - This book is a masterpiece. Fitzgerald has a style all his own that is on a whole other level above any other author I've ever read. And the objective stance of the narrator is fabulous, considering how involved he gets.
What it means/What I got - This book truly touched me deep down in a soul-wretching way. The ending really hurt me in a way no other book has been able to. That alone is enough to get this book into my top 5, everything else is what makes it my #1. The icing on the cake is that this book has readability. I feel like each time I unconver this book I find a new layer of meaning in it, and that I will never be able to get to the center of it.
Stravaganza: City of Masks by Mary Hoffman
Plot - I have always loved this books, it's one of the first books I ever fell in love with, and the plot is one of the reasons for it. I really like the idea of being transported to another world, but in a different way than most books have done it. And giving a cancer patient the chance to live a full life free of his pain is really touching.
Characters - The main character, Lucien/Luciano is the first character I ever fell in love with. I love his depth & sincerity. And Arianna is fantastic & relatible, as are all the rest.
Style - This was the first book I read from different view points. I think this is such a cool idea that really helps move the story along and give it new sides.
What it means/what I got - This book was the first book, and one of the very very few books to ever make me cry. It was able to reach into me and touch my heart. In fact, though I don't cry anymore, I still come very close everytime I read the end of this book. Also, I took that fabulous idea of different view points and applied it to my own writing, and I honestly believe that it has made a world of difference in my books.
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
Plot - What a cute imaginative story! This is a great story to share with anyone, especially children.
Characters - These are the most unique characters of any book I've ever read. Alice is very innocent, and the Red Queen overbearing, and the White Knight is helpful and imaginative. This book has a wide cast where every character is very different from any other.
Style - I think the most notable thing about the writing style in this book is the crossing of rivers. Every time Alice crossed a river to bring her into a new square Lewis put in a zigzag of astricks. It was the simplest way to show a change, and also looked like a river, in a way that the reader also jumps over the river.
What it meant/what I got - I had to include this book in my top 5 because it's the book that made me fall in love with reading. I re-read this book at least once a year and it never gets old. This book will always hold a special place in my heart. In fact, I was reading from my great-grandmother's leather-bound pocket edition, which was mint condition when I got it...and I read it so many times when I was younger that the cover fell off and the pages began to yellow and come out. I have a new copy now, but I refuse to get rid of my original.