1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell—over a thousand pages of gold, this sweeping story took a week of my life captive and it was completely worth it. Fact: I read this a few years ago when I lived in New York City and I'd never seen the movie, nor was I familiar with the story. The ending caught me completely off guard.
2. The Bronze Horseman Trilogy by Paullina Simons—a contender for the #1 spot, this epic love story wrung every emotion possible out of me. I never wanted to leave Tatiana and Alexander, and since I only recently read this, they haven't left me yet. Don't think twice, don't even bother with the blurb—just buy this book.
3. The Dark Duet Series by CJ Roberts—what can I say about Captive in the Dark, Seduced in the Dark and Epilogue? Perhaps: this series is not for everyone. It is an exploration of the dark corners of your mind and only for those brave enough to go there. Over a year later, it sticks to me like glue, but I don't mind one bit.
5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy—a woman in a loveless marriage struggles with her attraction to another man and ultimately gives in to an ill-fated love affair. Can you handle it? If it sounds familiar, this is one of the books that inspired The Cityscape Series. I found this epic novel on a book exchange shelf when living in Costa Rica in 2007.
6. Remember Me by Christopher Pike—I read this as a child and never, ever forgot it. I've thought of it many times over the years and even re-read it when I started my own writing career. When Shari Cooper is pushed off the balcony at a party, she is stuck between here and the afterlife, trying to solve the mystery behind her death. Poetic and beautiful, it will have you pondering your own views on life after death.
7. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James—as I said above, this trilogy allowed me to explore so much more than just the riveting relationship between young Ana Steele and the incomparable Christian Grey. EL James pushed boundaries and as a result, broke down walls for many of us behind her. It changed the course of my life, and for that I owe this series and its creator a great deal.
8. Tully by Paullina Simons—gritty and real, this was my first taste of the romance genre when I was younger, and as many will tell you, that's something that always sticks with you. The characters' layers, Tully especially, are masterfully developed, making it a truly emotional read of heartbreak, success, disappointment, love, and everything in between.
10. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King—slightly out of place on this list, I admit... but this manual, I believe, changed me as a writer. I hope there will be many more of these experiences to come, but this was the first one that opened to my eyes to the growth I'm capable of. Recommended for any author, aspiring or otherwise.
There are undoubtedly many more that deserve recognition, including some of my indie favorites (hmm, maybe that should be its own list). What books would make it onto your top 10 list? Let me know in the comments!