Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Playing Favorites

This past weekend I was obliged to ponder the question “What is your favorite book?” and, I have to admit, it took me awhile to come up with an answer. How do I pick just one? I’m a Libra for goodness’ sake! Just writing this post made me want to go back in time and change my answer five times. It’s like Sophie’s Choice without the Nazis. [Disclaimer: I never finished Sophie’s Choice. I should probably stop referencing it until I do.]

A few books came to mind immediately, notably Jane Eyre and Rebecca. But, having recently revisited Jane Eyre for the new movie version, I don’t think I could say it’s my absolute favorite, even though I loved it growing up (and it’s still a great book). For one, it’s amazing how my impression of Rochester has changed over time—much like revisiting Star Wars and wondering how I could ever have been attracted to Luke Skywalker; Han Solo is clearly where it’s at. Rebecca was another favorite of my teen years and would definitely vie for a top position on any favorites list. But how much of that is Du Maurier and how much is Hitchcock? Hard to say.

How much do I want this bag? A lot.

I finally settled on A Widow for One Year by John Irving when I realized that for me it was a great combination of literary style, narrative, and personal connection. It certainly wouldn’t be the Irving of choice for many—I suspect that would be A Prayer for Owen Meany—but I remember that when I read A Widow for One Year, I felt that I finally got Irving. He was an author I had enjoyed for years (is it the bears?), but it wasn’t until this book that I truly connected with his writing.

I wonder, if I re-read it now, would I feel the same way? Should one re-read favorites? Can one have a favorite that one doesn’t ever read again? I know that I should probably never re-read The Joy Luck Club (which I read soon after my mother’s death), but can I pick up Watership Down again?

How about you? Do you re-read? Do you have a ready answer to the question “What is your favorite book?”


Anonymous said...

My default favorite book has been The Remains of the Day since high school, and while I have read many great books since then, I think I just leave it in that slot (like Groundhog Day as my default favorite movie) because I don't like change and I don't have to evaluate HOW MUCH MORE I may love a particular book.

John Marcher said...

That's a hard choice, to be sure. If had to pick just one, I would still have to cheat and go with Updike's Rabbit tetralogy. Runners-up would include Sister Carrie, War and Peace, The Ambassadors, McTeague, Lolita, The House of Mirth, and The Crossing.

Sylvie said...

@John Marcher -- Ahhh, the runners-up temptation. I succumbed myself in answering the question. I’d say the Rabbit books were cheating, but I believe when I did the Facebook “15 Book” meme I included not only all of Sherlock Holmes, but also the 22-volume Tintin comic series, and my entire collection of Agatha Christie as single entries.

@spectralbovine -- good choices both.

John Marcher said...

I should add "The Remains of the Day" was the only book I've ever read that made me cry.

How the film left out the most heartbreaking moment was beyond my comprehension.

rboston said...

TOO HARD! Possibly though, a children's picture book, Lisa and the Grompit by Patricia Coombs because I still love it.

I do not re-read much, maybe 1-2 books in the last 10 years, usually to see how something I read as a teen resonates with me now.

Stasia said...

I always say my favorite book is Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. But, in all honesty, I haven't read it in years. Hmm. Maybe I should go back and see if it still stands up.

Nanita said...

To Kill a Mockingbird. No contest.