“What’s your favorite book?” This is one of my least favorite questions to be asked because I don’t have an answer for it. I don’t have a favorite book. It is impossible to choose. I’ve read too many wonderful books in my life and to choose just one as a favorite isn’t something I can do. Nor is it easy to give a top 2, 3, 5 or 10 list.
There are too many factors that go into making those choices. Part of the trouble of picking a favorite comes because I find myself tailoring the list to the person asking. Saying a book is my favorite is essentially giving a recommendation, and I want the person asking to have a good book to read; a book that they will enjoy as much as I did.
Saying something is your favorite gives it power and defines you in some way. Books can come with certain connotations, with an assumed readership, and this can color how your answer is received. But like you should never judge a book by its cover, you should never judge a reader solely based on what they choose to read. There are many reasons to read, and books can affect people in different ways.
While it is incredibly hard to pick a favorite book, there are some that have influenced me more than others. These books have stuck with me over the years, I’ve re-read them many times, and always find something new in them.
Like many of my generation, Harry Potter was one of the first book series that made me into a reader. They will forever hold a special place in my heart and mind as the books that shaped me as I grew up. Returning to Hogwarts is like returning to childhood, returning to friends that taught me about life. It sounds cheesy, but returning to those books, the words and the journey, is something I’ll never tire of.
Chuck Palahniuk is an author that continues to influence me by challenging my beliefs and sensibilities. If Harry Potter shaped me through my childhood, it was Chuck Palahniuk that ushered me through my late teens and early twenties. Many people find his writings grotesque or too extreme, and I would tend to agree with them, but that is exactly why I like his books. His writing takes me out of my safe and predictable life and places me into a situation that I could never dream of.
Many of my friends were assigned to read Atlas Shrugged at a young age and I am very glad that I was not. I never would have appreciated it had I not chosen to read it myself. It is one of the most complex books I’ve ever read, sometimes maddeningly so, but I read it at a time when I was trying to define my identity as an adult and reading about Dagny’s struggle helped me through my own. While I might not agree with all of the philosophy espoused in the pages, I am happy that I encountered it. As with Chuck Palahniuk, the best way to find out what you believe is to be challenged by things that you do not.
The last book on my list is here because of its message. I would not claim that any of the books I’ve listed are the “best book ever written”, but this book is close to my heart because of what is at its core. I was once asked the question “If you had a super power that allowed you to make every person on the planet read one book, what would you make them read?” My answer: Fahrenheit 451. I chose this book because of all the books I’ve ever read it portrays the sanctity of books the best. I’ve been a reader my whole life, and I believe that the right book at the right time in your life can be life changing. I believe that books need to be protected and nothing conveys this message quite like Fahrenheit 451.
I have a tattoo on my arm that reads, “We’re all stories in the end. Make it a good one.” The books we read are part of the story we are living. To choose one as my favorite would be like picking a favorite part of myself, but you aren’t you because of one single part, and each book you read adds to the whole. To single out one book is impossible because each book sits atop the ones I read before it. So, I don’t have a favorite. They are all my favorite. They made me the person I am today.