Let me just get this out of the way: I’m that type of weirdo who loves going through their Goodreads shelves because it’s a calming experience / it makes me feel really good looking at how neat and ordered my shelves are. Please tell me this is something you also do?? Please?
Anyway, I have a shelf on Goodreads entitled my “Ultimate Best” shelf, which only my favourite, favourite, favourite novels get put on. It’s a shelf dedicated to the best books — in my opinion — of all time. Not just books I liked (which would be my “Books I Will Never Forget” shelf, but books that have changed me somehow, books that I’ll reread over and over again.
For a long time, this shelf hadn’t been touched since 2014 — meaning, I hadn’t read any book that I felt was worthy enough to go on this esteemed bookshelf. But this year, I’ve added six books to this shelf. SIX! That’s a ridiculous amount, considering the shelf hasn’t been added to in four years!
So I thought I’d show off my shelf and discuss all of my favourite books ever, so you can also get to know me a bit better!
(Also massive shoutout to Emma @ Emma Reads Too Much whose awesome lists were basically the inspiration behind this post and who I low-key emulated with the format😘)
The Raging Quiet
I read this book back in high school and it’s stayed with me since. It’s about a young woman, named Marnie, in the 1600s who, after her husband passes away, befriends the local “madman” — a young man, named Raver, who is actually Deaf, but has no way of communicating that to the villagers of their town. Marnie and Raver communicate with one another through hand gestures and a strong friendship, and budding romance, develops between them. But then Marnie is accused of witchcraft and must compete in trials to prove that she’s innocent.
Even though it’s been years since I last read this novel, it’s had such a profound impact on me and I still think about it every few months. Marnie is an incredibly strong character, and I absolutely adore Raver. This book just makes me so happy, which is strange because it’s actually pretty dark.
The Catcher in the Rye
I know, I know. This is like the book to read on white masculine fragility and I’ll be honest, it took me a long time to like this book because … it’s kinda boring?
So why do I like this then?
Well, after attempting for months to read this book for a uni class, one day I just sat down and forced myself to read it because it’s considered a classic. I don’t know when it happened, I don’t know how it happened, all I know is suddenly I loved this book. Like, I had tears pouring out of my eyes when Holden is robbed by a prostitute and her pimp. And I don’t know why!! I don’t know what it is about this book that made me love it so much, but somehow it’s found a way onto my Ultimate Best bookshelf.
They Came on Viking Ships
This is another book I had to read for high school that has somehow stuck with me over the years. When I think about it, it’s a pretty plain historical middle grade novel, but it’s one of the first books that really got me into reading and launched my life-long love of stories.
It’s about a young girl named Hekya who is captured, along with her dog Riki Snafari, by Vikings and put into slavery, serving her new mistress, the female warrior Freya. Hekya proves her worth time and time again to the Vikings and ends up making a life for herself.
I think one of the main reasons I loved this book was because of the romance between Hekya and a Viking Skald (singer) named Snorri. According to my thirteen-year-old brain, their relationship was peek romance.
Pisces Hooks Taurus
This is one of the books that I added to my Ultimate Best bookshelf this year because it is so. Damn. Cute!!! I’m internally screaming right now just thinking about how gorgeous this novel is. Anyta Sunday has fast come one of my favourite queer romance writers ever — every book she writes is adorable and sweet, but important too as it often features characters discovering their sexuality in their adult years, which I love.
My favourite series of her’s is Signs of Love which features a different couple each book, and their astrological signs. Pisces Hooks Taurus is the fourth book in the series and my heart stops whenever I think about it. Zane, the Pisces, is the sweetest character that has ever existed, I just want to wrap him up in a blanket and hug him forever. And you’ll feel the same if you read this book.
Leo Loves Aries
No list of my favourite books would be complete without Leo Loves Aries, the first book in the Signs of Love series. I read this book for the first time last year and have since read it three more times — twice this year!
Theo, the Leo, is the biggest shit in the entire world, but oh my god, I adore that boy. He is so freaking oblivious, you kinda want to smack him upside of the head. But he gets under your skin and you love him, dumbass that he is. And don’t even get me started on how amazing Jamie, the Aries, is. I wish there was a man out there exactly like Jamie, because he’s perfect and sweet and lovely. Gah, I love this book so much! Come cry about the banter with me, please!
The Secret History
I only read The Secret History this year, but it’s probably been on my TBR for at least four or five years. I’ve heard so many good things about this book — mainly from one of my close friends who states this is her favourite book of all time — and I finally got off my ass — or on my ass — to read this book. Everything you’ve ever heard someone gush over about this book is true: it’s amazing.
It’s so atmospheric and dark, and the characters, despite being massive assholes and who straight up murdered someone, are empathetic. You can’t help but love them even though they are horrible people. This book is a wild ride from start to finish, and you never completely know what’s going on till the very end, but it’s so worth it. I also love the parallels of Ancient Greek myth to our characters in the 90s. It’s amazing.
Strange the Dreamer is another series that I only added to my Ultimate Best bookshelf because it is so stunning. I literally couldn’t stop myself from reading both of these novels, because the writing is unlike any other I’ve come across before. Laini Taylor is honestly one of the most beautiful writers I’ve ever read and I went out and bought all of her novels after I finished this series.
Strange the Dreamer is about a young man named Lazlo who is a war orphan. He spends his days in the Library of Zosma, working as a junior librarian and secretly working on a project he’s dedicated his life to: learning all he possibly can about the mysterious city of Weep, whose real name disappeared from the world almost twenty years earlier. Then Lazlo gets the chance to travel to Weep to help the city, and there he discovers a young woman with blue skin, who is forced to hide away because the citizens of the city would kill her if they new she was alive.
Muse of Nightmares is the sequel to Strange the Dreamer and it is, without a doubt, the best sequel I’ve ever read. It introduces a few new characters who are beyond incredible, and I can’t wait to see where this series goes. I know Strange the Dreamer is finished, but I feel like, with the hints that we got in this book, there’s a potential to expand this world into other novels — and I really hope that happens!
Please don’t call me a nerd, I actually really enjoyed Hamlet. I studied it during high school and university and both times I really loved this play.
I think the characters are the ones that really do it for me. Personally, Hamlet reads as such a chaotic bisexual who doesn’t know when to shut up (um … me), and his friends are just fellow useless gays. Like, the most useless.
But beyond that, I absolutely love the plot of this play: it’s probably the original trope of ‘uncle murders brother to become king and must now deal with the heir’, a.k.a. one of my favourite tropes as shown in Captive Prince and The Lion King. Not t mention, the writing and the monologues are just incredible. I get chills just thinking about Hamlet.
I don’t know how many people are aware of this graphic novel but it’s probably the best one I’ve ever read in my life. Alan Moore is an incredible writer and this graphic novel is his best work.
From Hell is about who Moore believes was Jack the Ripper, and it’s one of the most unique takes I’ve ever read about. Without spoiling it too much, “Jack” is hired by someone who is very powerful who wants someone murdered, but “Jack” takes matters into his own hands. Also, that final chapter destroys me every single time. I reread this behemoth just for that last chapter alone. Fun story: the first time I read this book, I finished it at two in the morning and I woke my sister up to talk about it. She did not appreciate it and refuses to ever read it just for that reason alone.
Be warned that this graphic novel is very graphic in terms of explicit violence and gore shown on the page. It’s also massive, it looks like a textbook which is what drew me to it in the first place.
Yes, another Shakespeare play. Leave me alone. Macbeth is literally my favourite Shakespearean play of all time because it features all my favourite things I want in the media I consume: death, violence, descent into darkness, guilt, good people doing bad things due to their ambition, strong female characters. Yeah, it has everything.
But the main reason I love this play is because of Lady Macbeth who is such a freaking badass. I refuse to acknowledge the part where her guilt eats her up inside, that never happened in my head. She’s still a badass who kills people in her way. I want her on my team always and forever.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
I read this book in high school after my English teacher recommended it to me and it made me a lifelong Oscar Wilde fan. Like, super obsessed — I even have a couple of biographies about this genius man.
But The Picture of Dorian Gray is literally my favourite novel of his (fun fact: it’s his only novel, the rest are plays and short stories!) and it’s so dark and weird, and there’s so much queer subtext, even sixteen-year-old me could pick up on it.
The movies are just trash, don’t even bother watching them, but Stephen Fry was in a fantastic movie about Oscar Wilde’s life, also starring Jude Law, called Wilde.
The Song of Achilles
This book literally tore out my heart and stomped on it in front of me, while I was crying in the corner like an actual baby. If you also want to cry buckets and buckets, then read this book.
The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the Trojan War from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’ lover. If you’ve read or know about the Trojan War, then you know how the epic ends for both Patroclus and Achilles, which is why it is so heartbreaking. But I still love this book. because Madeline Miller does what no other author has the guts to do: make Patroclus and Achilles explicit lovers. We all know that Patroclus and Achilles were lovers and brothers-in-arms but you’d be hard-pressed to find a scholar or author who will admit that — aside from Plato who definitely believed they were together (and even though that Patroclus was the top and Achilles the bottom because of their ages).
Anyway, this book made me hate myself but it will forever have a spot on my Ultimate Best bookshelf.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
I only read this book this year, but it was incredible. I cried both happy tears and sad tears — it’s such an emotional read. It’s also one of the best representations I’ve read of bisexuality, along with a couple of other books that are coming up on this list. But Evelyn Hugo is the bisexual queen, and we should all bow down to her.
What I love most about this book is that it is not what you think it’s about: the title is purposely misleading and I love it when we straight-bait the heteros. Please do this more, authors!
But basically The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a stunning novel that I’ve haven’t been able to get out of my head since I read it.
This is another novel that I read in high school after my English teacher recommended it to me — can you tell I was the teacher’s pet? — and it’s still one of my favourite novels to this day.
Jane Eyre is quite slow at the beginning of the novel, but please don’t let this put you off. It’s a deeply atmospheric, dark book that you can’t stop reading. Like, I read it in about three days when I was sixteen? Can you believe? And the romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester is unlike any other that I’ve come across. It’s super fucked up, but Jane leaves him and finds who she is on her own, outside of a man, and I love that because I’ve never read that in a classics novel before — actually, I’ve barely read that in a modern novel tbh. Charlotte Bronte really was ahead of her time.
The Mortal Instruments is my favourite series ever. I started reading these books when I was 14 after I had been seeing the first two books everywhere. Honestly. Only the first two books were out back then and every time I would go into a bookstore, I would see those weird fluro green and blue covers, and one day I just cracked it and bought the books. Thankfully, I adored the books and then had to wait years and years for the final book in the series.
City of Bones is a great series starter, but it definitely feels like a fanfic or was inspired by fanfic. Doesn’t matter, it’s still a trashy fave. City of Bones ups the stakes and I really just wanted to cuddle Jace more than anything. City of Glass is an incredible book: Clary is so powerful in this novel and I love that her and Jace finally get together. Not to mention, Alec and Magnus!!
City of Fallen Angels is a difficult novel to get through because it can be a bit slow, but ultimately I really enjoyed it because it sets the stage for the remaining two books. City of Lost Souls is so much fun but I feel like I shouldn’t like it? Like, Jace is brainwashed and Clary gets traumatised but it’s still a fave. City of Heavenly Fire is honestly incredible because they go to a Hell dimension and all my faves are there and we learn so much, and now I’m crying.
In Other Lands
I said before that The Seven Husband of Evelyn Hugo is one of the best representations of bisexuality I’ve read, and In Other Lands is just as amazing. I wish I had read a book like this when I was younger, because I relate so much to little Elliot, the main character.
This book is not only adorable, but the issues that Elliot goes through are so relatable — and I’m not talking about having to stop a magical war. I’m talking about him trying to figure out his sexuality, trying to make friends, feeling as though he doesn’t fit in. Gosh, I love this kid so so so much.
I also love the other characters in this novel, Luke and Serene. Serene is a warrior elf who comes from a matriarchal society which is amazing, and Luke is a human warrior who has a massive crush on Elliot. They’re all so adorable and I want a million more books about them.
On the Jellicoe Road
I first read this novel in high school and it’s not a book I would have picked up on my own. The only reason I did was because I was because I had been reading Melina Marchetta’s novels — Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca — and I wanted to read all of her books. (At this time, she had only published three novels.)
The first 100 pages of the book is pretty slow and confusing, but it’s so freaking worth it to persevere. It’s such an entertaining novel on so many points: the complicated plot that is juggling like four different stories, the characters who are family to me because I love them so much, and the writing which is so lyrical and just amazing.
I’ve read this book four times — twice this year — and can 100% see myself rereading it over and over again.
If you didn’t guess that Captive Prince would be on this list, you obviously don’t know me. I’ve been reading this series for close to ten years, ever since it was a series on LiveJournal and the author — who went be “Freece” back then, named after France and Greece, the two countries that inspired these books — updated the book maybe once a month, sometimes longer. It was a traumatic time to be honest, because one time she went almost a whole year without updating and it was the chapter before Laurent and Damen have sex for the first time. Yeah, that was a horrible wait.
Anyway, Captive Prince follows Damen, the crown prince of Akielos, who is usurped by his half-brother and sent as a slave to an enemy nation named Vere. There, he becomes the personal slave to the crown prince, Laurent, who hates Damen, because he killed Laurent’s older brother. But Laurent doesn’t know what Damen looks like (or does he? 👀) so Damen has to keep his identity a secret, but they have no choice but to help one another prevent a war between their countries.
Prince’s Gambit is the second in the series which is freaking incredible. Honestly, it’s beyond fantastic. The romance is so tense and amazing. I love those two men so much and watching them fall in love is everything. But the plot is explosive in this book, as Damen and Laurent travel to the border to stop Laurent’s uncle who is trying to ignite war. The political machinations are so incredible, I was on the edge of my seat.
Kings Rising is the best conclusion to a series ever. Damen and Laurent were both amazing and I cried like a damn baby throughout the whole book. Now that Laurent and Damen are facing each other as kings for the first time, Laurent closes himself off from Damen again, which turns Damen into such a dramatic bitch — I love him. Also, Damen is one of the first characters that I saw a positive representation of bisexuality, which is why I adore this boy.
Pride and Prejudice
And in a move that surprised absolutely no one, Pride and Prejudice is my number one ultimate best favourite novel of all time — that’s a mouthful.
I love Pride and Prejudice so much, I don’t even know how to explain it. I’ve been watching the BBC series since I was a child, and reading the book since I was in high school. Elizabeth is me and I am her: we’re both judgemental book nerds who hang out too much with their sister, and like to start fights with men. But I also adore Darcy, because he’s so socially awkward — and I love him.
All the characters are iconic, from Jane to Mrs. Bennet, to Mr. Bingley to Mr. Collins. I love all of these hilarious characters. And that’s another thing: people think that because this novel is a classics book that it’s super serious, but it’s actually a satire on Regency society and is so freaking funny. This book will forever be my number one favourite book.
And that’s my Ultimate Best book shelf!
Have you read any of the books on this shelf? If there a favourite amongst these books? let me know!