Invariably, whenever I tell folks that I’m a writer, I usually get three questions; who inspires you, who is your favorite author and what’s your favorite book. Questions that on their face may seem simple to answer; but once I sit down and think about it, no, they’re quite more involved and complex than I imagined. So, I think I’ll ponder the “what’s your favorite book” question for a while and see where I end up.
I would consider myself quite well read, although I’m not sure there’s a standard or accepted gauge one might use to qualify that statement. Of course, for me being well read doesn’t mean I’ve read thousands of deep tomes, each of which requires unbroken attention and devotion for months on end. No, I tend to read just about everything that comes my way. Everything. Many things, I am told by my kids, that are utterly boring. The same girls mind you, who insisted that I read to them either the complete “Junie B. Jones” series or the ever popular and enthralling tales about that “Big Red Dog.” Yes, I had probably every “Clifford” book published. And loved every one of them, obviously not for the literary value, but for the closeness of spending that magical time with my children.
Guilty pleasure; those crazy rag papers at the end of the grocery store check-out lanes. Again, no value other than the compete astonishment that there are people that believe the stories; and they make me chuckle like hell. But seriously, I have never thought of a book or a series that would be my favorite. My dwindling library is testament of my inability to land on a favorite genre, let alone a favorite author or a favorite book. (Dwindling only because it took up half my basement and some things just had to go...) So, it would appear on the face of it that the answer to the question could be situational; and I don’t mean that as a dodge. It all depends, at least for me, on the specific reason I’m reading; pleasure, enrichment, bonding with loved ones, escapism. Still, doesn’t quite get us anywhere close to the answer does it; sounds like deflection after all.
Checking the messy desk doesn’t lead us to the answer either. The books on my desk are merely a function of what was in my hands last; or maybe what was cluttering the coffee table downstairs and subsequently ended up here because they were taking up valuable space downstairs which would be better served by the over-sized cable tv remote. Currently taking up space on my blotter are; “The Road to Serfdom,” and “The Wealth of Nations.” Neither is a real nail biter, boring and I’ve read them many times since high school. I usually pull them out when I am doing research or looking for a reference. Yes, I like reading them.
I find that the books that I read, and re-read tend to be the older books that I’ve held on to since high school or college. Looking at those books that are the most dog-eared on my shelf probably give a lot of people heartburn; “The Iliad and the Odyssey;” “A Tale of Two Cities;” "Crime and Punishment;” stuff that used to make us bleary-eyed as juniors and seniors in High School. “Anna Karenina” appears in great shape; unfair comparison, as actually I am on my third book, having lost my first and destroyed my second. Same with “Dante’s Divine Comedy;” I got a leather-bound edition years ago for my birthday. So, I guess that looking at the condition of my books and their location around the house don’t tell me much either.
So, I’ll just have to take a stab at this. When I’m tired or when I’m irritated and I want to get lost in something familiar, I’ll pull out my “Bullfinch’s Mythology,” a rather large old book I got my senior year in High School. If it’s not Bullfinch, it will be my “Complete Works of Shakespeare,” I received the same year. Of all the books here in my office, from Rand to Nabokov, Shakespeare to Bridwell, it seems that these are the ones that pull me back; a familiar ground I can walk again and again, still discovering something new in a chapter or on a page that I’ve seen many times before. Old friends who have traveled through the journey of my life with me, tucked away in a box in the back of a closet, to be hunted for and rediscovered as if they were precious gems; or at times, the fix for an addiction, something I desperately needed to get my hands on once again.
Who can say really, what their favorite book is; not I it appears. Whether it was for pleasure, or to pass the time, to pass a class, get a grade; there are very few books I haven’t loved. Obviously, there were those that at first, I found challenging, even daunting. Usually those were the titles assigned for a grade, the pressure to get them completed and regurgitated for someone else’s recognition robbing me and others like me of the real pleasure of discovering it to begin with. No, the book you love is the one you keep going back to. I can put one down and pick it up after five months and still know where I left off. For me, that would be just about any one left in my library.