1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
In my opinion, it's both the best YA series ever and the best fantasy series ever. Why? Harry Potter is the best of everything - the best characters, the best plots, the best writing.
The characters are people you can fall in love with, and not just the main heroes and the main villains. Even more minor characters are pretty extensively developed, like Snape, Pettigrew, Neville, even Dean or Seamus. They all have histories and quirks and unique personalities and very few authors are able to so vividly create such a huge cast of characters.
Similarly, the plot and the world are phenomenal, from the rules of the wizarding world to how backstories tie together and how book to book the overall Harry vs. Voldemort plot progresses. The intricacy has to be admired.
That's all not to mention how good Rowling is at writing on a more minute scale. She writes simply but descriptively, discussing enough without overdoing anything. And sure there are better writers out there, but her style does not take away from the impact of the books.
2. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Yes, I love A Farewell to Arms but no, it is not my favorite Hemingway.
Instead, I love his memoir of his time in Paris because of what it reveals about him as a person.
I love his virtues - his love for his wife Hadley, the passion he had for writing and the way he found beauty in life's simple pleasures from good American novels to good drinks to good memories with good friends.
I love his vices too, though - how he blames "the rich" for causing the destruction of his first marriage, how he gossips about friends and enemies alike, how he criticizes the writings of his peers. It just shows how human he is and like Rowling's creed with Harry Potter, knowing the bad about someone is just as essential to loving them as knowing the good. I embrace Hemingway for all he is.
And, of course, I do love his characteristic writing style. Evidently I'm not as good at stripped down writing as he is - I will probably always have an affinity for fluff - but that just means I admire his writing that much more. He can do what I can't. He's brilliant; that's all there is to it.
3. Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Okay, kind of obvious. But I swear I loved Holmes long before the BBC show or the RDJ movies. (In fact, I've only seen one episode of the former and the first movie of the latter.)
I don't mean to sound like an elitist, though. (Well... maybe a little.) My point is just that I love Doyle's Holmes for himself, not for any other interpretations of him.
I love him for being a miserable, brilliant asshole, for being such an off-putting human being but for possessing such an attractive mind. The contrast is totally enthralling and totally beautiful.
But mostly, Doyle's Holmes is about investigating, and yes Irene Adler can be viewed as a romantic interest (even though she's really not) and yes I do kinda ship Holmes/Watson (judge me) but those are extrapolations. First and foremost Doyle's Holmes is about disguise, following clues, deduction.
It's pure detective work.
No Benedicts or Robert Downey Jrs or Jeremy Bretts or even Hugh Lauries could ever capture that original Sherlock Holmes. He's one of a kind.
4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I'm still a teenager, ok? And Perks could totally be considered a modern YA classic.
A lot of that is just because Charlie is an awful lot of what I've felt myself. (I'm trying hard not to be too cliche but I don't think I can help myself with this book.) He's weird and he beats himself up about the pain his friends feel, questions why things happen and why people hurt, and I do that, too. I care a lot more about my friends than I've ever cared about myself, and like Charlie's friends helped him get better mine have as well.
Plus, generally, I think Perks is relatable to most high schoolers whether or not they have a gay friend who's dating the football quarterback and whether or not they're involved in Rocky Horror. You have crushes on people you shouldn't and your friends are involved in stuff you don't know you how to react to. People make you happy and people fuck you over. Unless you've forgotten what being 15 or 16 feels like, Perks is pretty universal.
And all that mush aside, it's pretty fantastically written too as I think most people would agree. It has classic and relatable one liners all over the place, including the "We accept the love we think we deserve" that has been obnoxiously taken over by teenage Tumblr users.
(...Okay fine, I might be one of those teenage Tumblr users, but still.)
Perks is one of those books I will never stop rereading.
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Another totally predictable book. Actually, I think the only non cliche on my list is A Moveable Feast, oops. But they're cliches because they're good, and Gatsby is undeniably one of the greatest books of the 20th century.
I mean, you can't help but love Jay, right? And the entire idea of disillusionment in the American Dream and all that English teacher bullshit that I 100% buy into. I love it all.
But, full disclosure, I love Daisy. My English teacher once said that you're a terrible feminist if you love Daisy and most of my friends hate her too, but I adore the girl. Yes, she's shallow and indecisive and weak and basically the most empty fictional character ever created, but I think that's the point.
I think the point is that her high class society has done that to her because what her social position demands conflicts with her inner desires. I think people should be more sympathetic to her character because she's just scared, and we all know what that's like. I will always defend Daisy Buchanan.
6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Originally this was a top 5 list, but I needed Jane on here 'cause she's one of the most badass bitches in literature.
And if you haven't read Jane Eyre you might be thinking 'WTF' because you always hear about Jane and Mr. Rochester and their love and it seems like the book is about their romance. At least, that's what I thought. But I was totally wrong.
Like the title suggests, Jane Eyre is about Jane Eyre. It's about one young woman's journey to become independent of her horrible and controlling aunt and cousins, and her struggle to not be dependent on any one person for either money or wealth. Yes, that includes Mr. Rochester, because Jane is no Bella Swan.
Instead, Jane is her own person with her own will. When in the end she accepts Mr. Rochester into her heart as her eternal love it's because she has already established who she is. She puts herself first - not at the expense of others but in order to be true to herself. I think that's damn important.
In my opinion, Jane one of the best role models literature has to offer.