I read a lot. I've read all the Harry Potter books. This last book, however, made me realize that J.K. Rowling is....well, she is just not a very good writer. I know they are children's books, but for engaging, well written, and imaginative, try #1 on my list.
I've focused on books that I think have been overlooked by many, so there are few best-sellers here. Best-sellers are easy to find. These aren't, but they are worth looking for:
1) "Tithe" by Holly Black. Oh, how I love this book. Imaginative, compelling, and well written. She has also written "Valiant" and "Ironside", set in the same world, and of course the "Spiderwick Chronicles", which has been made into a movie coming out soon.
2) "Night Watch" by Sergei Lukyanenko. What's the difference between good and evil, freedom and responsibility? Also recently translated are Day Watch and Twilight Watch. If you are so inclined, do NOT bother with the awful American movie remake -- see the original Russian one.
3) "Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson. I don't know why Hollywood is so gaga over Philip K. Dick. Maybe it's because they don't actually read? In book after book, Gibson takes the online culture, and extends it in some amazing way. Bonus trivia: Gibson coined the term "Cyberspace".
3) "Complications" by Atul Gawande. An honest appraisal of the medical residency program and how it affects patient care, both positively and negatively.
4) "Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephensen. I won't even attempt to explain this book, but it's Cyberpunk and over 1000 pages, and about, er, gold and cryptography.
5) "The Eight" by Katherine Neville. Okay, Rowling-esque warning: this book blows the socks off of the "Da Vinci Code", but it's written....well, it was her first novel and it shows. Still, it has an amazing plot.
6) "Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog" by Vicki Hearne. Actually, I'll recommend anything by Vicki Hearne, she has an amazing affinity for animals and is an engaging writer. Jon Katz is more popular, but honest-to-god, he's had dogs for, what, 10 years and published six books already? How much can he possibly have to say? Try Hearne instead.
7) "For the Love of a Dog", by Patrica McConnell. Or anything by Pat, and if you get the chance to hear her speak, drop everything and just go.
8) "Education of a Wandering Man" by Louie L'Amour. His autobiography, and what an interesting life.
9) "Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea" by Charles Seife. Who would have thought a book about nothing could be so interesting? Did you know at various times zero has been worshiped, banned, considered demonic, and used to fend off Satan?
10) "The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood" by Sy Montgomery. Another engaging, empathetic writer. My dog Splash chewed up my copy when I was on the last chapter, so I had to go to the bookstore and read the last few pages there.
11) "The Coming Plague" by Laurie Garrett. Forget how it sounds, this book tells the story of amazing researchers at the CDC, who work in hazardous conditions for low pay, and protect us all. Plus, emerging infectious diseases rock!
12) "A Dog's Life", by Peter Mayle. Okay, almost a best-seller, but who can forget the line "The House of 1,000 bottles, most of them empty." Anyway, we approve of books about dogs.
13) "A Winter's Tale", by Mark Helprin. I missed this one when it came out, and I just recently discovered it. I haven't finished it yet, but it's already on my 13 list, and that is saying something.
I've purposely left dog training books off this list. That's a topic for another day. Happy Thursday!