I gotta add two books, Colleen. Only these two weren't runaway bestsellers. Both were recommended to me by other readers. And I've recommended them to lots of others, who in turn have recommended them and have told me they've become favorites of theirs.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger is a book from an 11 year old boy's perspective, sort of a coming of age novel, where he, his father and future bestselling author sister, set off to find his big brother, who is on the run after committing a murder. I loved this book. (And though it doesn't have a happily ever after ending in the sense we're used to, it did not depress me in the way that The Lovely Bones did.)
I also loved (and have reread at least ten times and bought at least 14 of them because I keep loaning them out and never get them back) Under the Beetle's Cellar by Mary Willis Walker.
This book always makes me wonder how some books are passed on by word of mouth and become house hold names that everyone has read and others are passed on word of mouth and never seem to gain fame. The only thing I can figure out is that the right person (read: Oprah) never read it. It was first given to me by a reader I trusted who got it from someone she trusted and--as I said--I've passed it on to my family (and anyone else who would listen) and, I guarantee, they've all passed it on to at least one other person. Why is this title not as recognizable as those you've mentioned?
I want to know when anyone figures this out.