What’s your favorite book? Ugh, I hate being asked that question. Not that it’s too personal or anything like that. I hate it because I can’t name just one book. And even then, it depends on my mood, where I am in my life at any given moment, and if I can remember a specific title off the top of my head.
I’ve read hundreds if not thousands of books over the years. I’ve explored the classics, science fiction, fantasy, poetry, magic-realism, speculative, surreal, mystery, and political. And so on. I also enjoy non-fiction like history and science. I’m not necessarily discriminating when it comes to reading. If I have the faintest interest in something, I’ll read it.
Now I do know people who only read specific genres and nothing else. While I personally find that limiting, I don’t hold it against these readers. They’re still reading and that’s what matters. But I feel like reading in only one or two genres is like getting your news from only one or two sources. You’ll end up with a limited view.
In my opinion, reading a little bit of everything exposes me to so many more ideas and experiences. It’s an education. Fiction can teach us about emotions, relationships, the repercussions of our decisions. It can give us hope, longing, and inspire our dreams. Fiction isn’t just about telling a story. It’s about creating an experience and exploring it. Non-fiction provides us with facts and truths. It’s the rational side of our education. Together, they can help make us more rounded individuals.
With this in mind, I’m sure you can understand the issue I face. Even trying to narrow it down by asking what’s my favorite book in each genre doesn’t help much. There are still so many fantastic books to choose from. Additionally, what I may have considered a favorite book when I was thirty years old isn’t necessarily still going to be a favorite when I hit sixty.
Then there’s the fact that some books require more than one reading. For example, Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, is a book I reread every decade. Why? Because I get a different perspective of it as I grow older…and arguably wiser. Same with The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ve probably read them all at least a dozen times over the years and for the same reason I reread Hesse’s book on Buddhism, because age gives me a different perspective on the nuances of the story.
So when I get asked to name some of my favorite books, I freeze and mumble and have to explain all this. I also add the disclaimer that there are going to be books I forget to mention…and will inevitably remember an hour later. “Oh crap, I forgot to mention that one. Oh, and there’s this other one I should have brought up…” And so it goes.
Perhaps one of these days I’ll compile a list of my favorites. It’ll be a long one and constantly revised, an evolving work in progress. Until then, if you’re interested, I list all the books I read on the Reading List page here on my blog. And if you feel so inclined, feel free to share some of your favorite titles with me. I’m always looking for new authors to discover.