Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Favorite Books

I’m frequently asked by readers, or by anyone really, what I would consider my favorite books, and I have to admit I’ve never been good at favorites. When asked who my best friend is I always have a list, my favorite color changes with my mood, and as for favorite books, movies or songs, well, I’ve never been able to have just one. There’s no doubt I’ve read thousands of books in my lifetime, and yet I am not sure I’ll ever feel well-read. There are thousands more I need to be reading, should be reading, and want to be reading, so to pick a favorite is impossible. That favorite might be waiting for me, it might be the book I just finished, the book that helped mold me as a young adult, or the one that got me through a rough patch in life.

When pushed for an answer I tend to think of those classics I read as a child, the books that featured heroines who loved books and loved to write. I often wonder if that’s a common theme among women in publishing (and by that I mean writers too). Did we all fall in love with the heroine who wanted to be a writer, like Jo from Little Women or Anne of Anne of Green Gables? What about Laura Ingalls Wilder? Of course I also loved Meg and A Wrinkle in Time. And if push came to shove I guess I would say that these classics, and books written by Edith Wharton, are probably among my favorites, but then, the minute I try to narrow it down like that I suddenly think of all the other great books I have read and held on to over the years.

Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles is a book that deeply affected me. Would I call it a favorite? I don’t know, but I do know I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. And what about authors like Elizabeth Berg, JR Ward, or Robert B. Parker? All have been favorites of mine for one reason or another. And then there’s The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird, and did I mention Thomas Harris or Good in Bed? And I haven’t even mentioned nonfiction yet.

I could go on, but I think you see where I’m going with this. I love books and a lot of different types of books. In fact, I need to get this posted before I feel guilty about all the books I love and forgot to mention. I only hope that if forced to choose only one book to bring on a desert island, I can pack my Kindle (and a generator). I think it would make island life so much easier.



Sarah Ahiers said...

i hear ya. I remember i took a facebook quiz where it asked me to list 15 books that stayed with me - didn't have to be a favorites. I was quite pleased with my list, until i saw my sister's and was DEVASTATED that i left off a good half a dozen books i love. Sigh.

Krista Heiser said...

I just added Enemy Women to my wishlist. Never heard of it until today.

Marsha Sigman said...

It is impossible to pick just one favorite book! Or even one author for that matter. I like to compare books to chocolate....some have nuts...some have coconut....some have caramel...all delicious and different in their own way.

And now I'm hungry.

Tara McClendon said...

I agree. The more I read, the more favorites I accumulate.

Anita Saxena said...

It's so hard to pick. Especially when you like to read different genres. For example, I actually like Gone With the Wind (I actually read the whole thing) and non fiction like Guns, Germs, and Steel, but then I also like YA like the Twilight Series or A Great and Terrible Beauty. You can't choose between them. Not possible.

Mira said...

Interesting topic - favorite books.

For me, nothing will ever match the books I read in childhood. They helped me make it through, and they have a place in my soul that later books can't even reach.

And yes, I definitely resonate with what you said, Jessica, about strong girl heroines, who either wanted to be writers, or were just intelligent and trying to find a place where they fit (like Meg.)

I have favorites as an adult, of course - books that helped me grow, or made me feel wonderful, or touched me deeply. And, of course, there are the books that teach me to write just by reading them.

I can tell a true favorite when I want to re-read it over and over. And each time, I enjoy it just as much, and get something new from it.

Oh - one more thing. I don't think it's necessary to be able to narrow a list of favorites down to just one at the top. I think it's very cool that you don't have one 'best friend' but several. Why does one have to be THE best? That's a very Western culture concept. Maybe it's even better to have a whole bunch of 'bests.' That way you get....well, more than one. You get a bunch.

Scott said...

So many books, so little time . . . or space in a comment section.

Absolute Faves . . .

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

My list could continue. These are the books that I read over and over and over again. There are many others as well.

Kate Douglas said...

What bugs me is that I recall a series I read as a kid, but I don't know the titles! The stories were about voodoo and magic and a strange shop that a young boy went into and ended up on a Caribbean island embroiled in all kinds of adventures. I couldn't have been more than eleven or twelve (and I'm almost sixty, so these were popular almost fifty years ago) and yet I know these books are what guided me toward writing the way I write now. I would love to find them again and reread them from an adult perspective, but I can still remember reading the stories with a sense of wonder.

Vivi Anna said...

Yeah, I have tons of favorites, and gain new faves every month that I read new books.

But I will always have a spot in my fave list for Stephen King. I grew up reading his books. It helped form me as a writer.

Rebecca Knight said...

Jo and Anne of Green Gables are definitely my heroes :). That is too funny--I'd never made the connection for some reason.

I also love epic Fantasy like Lord of the Rings. It's what made me fall in love with my genre, as well as Ray Bradbury making me love Science Fiction.

You're right, though. For those in publishing, I don't think we'll ever be satisfied until we have a list a mile long ;).

Scott Daniel said...

I always loved Hemingway, particularly The Old Man and the Sea.

Among contemporary authors, I really enjoy Harlan Coben and Robert B. Parker. I'm giving Nick Sparks a try right now...

Dee said...

I love every single one of the books you mentioned! Little Women, the Little House books, A Wrinkle in Time, Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth... we are kindred spirits. Would it be downright cliche of me to mention Jane Austen? I have trouble coming up with a "favorite books" list, too, but I am always certain that Jane Austen must be prominently featured on it.

Wes said...

Ditto. Impossible to pick a list, but one fav is THE BIG SKY by A. B. Guthrie, Jr. Poetry in frontier dialect.

Sheila Deeth said...

I can never answer it. I decided I just don't store information linearly, so favorite doesn't make sense.

Michelle Butler said...

The classic girl books always rise to the top of my list - Laura Inglalls Wilder, Anne of Great Gables, Louisa May Alcott. I loved all three so much that I've made "pilgrimages" to the author's houses. I'd also add Jane Eyre and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Inez said...

I have so many favorites, so they're hard to list. I usually go by author (e.g. Thomas "Train Wreck" Hardy, Charlotte "LOVE!DARKNESS!" Bronte, and JRR "My worlds so ROCK!" Tolkien).

Is it bad if I say I despise the Twilight Saga? I'm plodding through the first book, and I feel horrible. I really do.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I think it's easier to list authors rather than books. Some of my faves are Kate Atkinson (if I could write one sentence as perfectly as her, I'd die a happy writer), Ann Rule, Chelsea Handler, Susan Isaacs, Roald Dahl, Shirley Jackson, and Elizabeth Gilbert. I thank them and so many others for giving me the inspiration to pursue my writing dreams.

Anonymous said...

My favorites?

Those who have been in my bookshelf more than two years.

I buy ca 50 books per year and borrow from library around the same amount. If I really like what I've gotten from library, I buy the book (ca 20 titles per year).

However, I have relatively limited space on my bookshelf (currently ca 40 shelf meter) so I have a clean up once in a year. I take out every title, have a look on it and think:
- Can I remember this?
- Has it seriously affected me?
- Would I like to read it again today or some time in the future?
- Is there any other reason I'm affected to this?
- Is it worth of storing (and this is the hardest one!)?

Books that survey three consecutive inspection years, will stay with me. The system works relatively well: I throw out around 50 books per year. However, those who can do the math realize that I end up with 20-30 books permanently on my shelves per year - and that's why my need for bookshelves grows slowly but steadily!.

What do I have then? Everything from tattered (and chewed!) childrens picture books via the pulpiest scifi to Nobel winners, side-by-side to gay SM erotica. And let's not talk about the non-fiction...

Every time I move (and I've moved ca 20 times the past 30 years, twice from one country to other) I've sworn over my library and my habit to collect books. But I will never ever give it up.

Why? What is The Thing?

It's my life as seen via my books.

'nuff said.

/A Danish reader

Anonymous said...

I would also add Matilda to that list of heroines who love books. I think the love of books in a character is usually an indication of a larger love of adventure.

Jenny Q said...

Enemy Women is a great book! I read it for the first time a few months ago and then added it to my collection, I liked it so much.

I'm always adding books to my favorites list, which consists of books that I've enjoyed so much that I've read them many times, can quote passages from them, and can pick each of them up from time to time and flip to my favorite scenes for a little comfort reading.

Some of my favorites are classics like Wuthering Heights, Lonesome Dove and GWTW, and then I have some newer favorites, like Sunne in Splendour and Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman and the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

Katrina Stonoff said...

Heck, I have trouble even choosing a favorite from the books I've read this year.

Diny123 said...

I agree, to this day I pull out Shepard of the Hills on occasion, I just love the dialogue and scenery so eloquently written. Brings back memories for sure!