The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I read this one fairly recently. If you missed the hype, the premise is that Hazel, a girl afflicted with a deadly kind of lung cancer, meets and falls in love with a recovered cancer patient, the most wonderful Augustus Waters. The two of them set off on a journey to Amsterdam to meet the author of Hazel's favorite novel and, in a way, to search for the truth in their own fates and existences as teenagers who never truly know if they will survive the week. Lots of beautiful quotes and sweet and bitter sadness.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Do I really need to explain this one? Injustice, racism, love, and redemption are explored through the eyes of a young Southern girl. One of the best American novels of all time, in my opinion.
The Golden Compass (or the Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman
The His Dark Materials trilogy are so much more than a story about girl, a boy, a villainess, and a talking polar bear. Categorized as children's books, they are filled with important ideas about the nature of good and evil, the nature of the soul and the end of innocence, as well as a lot of religious and philosophical ideas. A lot of people in the American South (where I live) bashed these books (though they only appeared on these people's radar when The Golden Compass was released as a movie) because of their ideas about religion, but honestly Pullman's books are much subtler than the blatant religion in, say, The Chronicles of Narnia.
Wild Seed by Octavia E Butler
A really good little-known fantasy novel by one of my favorite authors. The storyline is too complex to go into here, but the book has a lot to say about what it might really be like to be immortal and the relationship between Anyanwu and Doro (while not necessarily an entirely romantic one) is one of my favorites in all of fiction. Please read this book-- it deserves more hype!
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
A YA book which is both fun and thought-provoking, hilarious and sad. Loosely based on the author's real life, it tells the story of Junior: a teenage Native American boy (Spokane, I believe?) who leaves his rez home to attend a school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. The novel features cartoons throughout.
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
A feminist-type perspective on the Arthurian legends, with some fresh perspectives on Christianity and pagan religion from the time period when they clashed in Europe. Very thick, but definitely worth the read-- this is a fantasy classic, a feminist classic, an Arthurian classic, just a classic altogether. The main character is Morgana la Fay, who is here shown to be more misunderstood than truly malevolent.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This is going to be a movie soon-- I CAN'T WAIT! Pi is a magnificent story, but also features many ideas about religion, brotherhood, and a really interesting take on human perception-- don't we often believe what we want to believe and see what we want to see? I can't wait to see how this amazing book will be adapted into a film!
Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
Historical fiction about a young girl sent to live (and die) in the isolated Hawaiian leper colony of Moloka'i. It sounds depressing, but this is actually a remarkably uplifting and well-written book, as well as a thought-provoking one.
Uglies (& the Uglies Trilogy) by Scott Westerfeld
The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories by Angela Carter
Are almost all fairy tales inherently sexist? Well...yes, as much as I personally like fairy tales, they are. Angela Carter's writing is gorgeous in this thin book of retold fairy tales, many of which women are the heroines of and some which are just entertaining retellings. The title story, "The Bloody Chamber", deals with the Bluebeard tale and is my favorite of the collection.
I'd absolutely love to hear (er, read) what you guys think the books on my list, and be sure to link to a link to your Top Ten post so I can check yours out as well!