My favorite novel? Don’t ask.

August 24, 2011

I’ve talked (and talked and talked and talked) about my favorite businessy, non-fiction book.

Businessy. Meaning, a book I’m reading for a purpose. Businessy, not to be confused with non-businessy non-fiction books about the Secret Service or Hurricane Katrina or slow carb diets that I’m reading for no business purpose at all.

Well, unless I decide to start a business tomorrow to consult others on how to eat properly while evading the President’s body guards in the midst of a tropical depression.

For simplicity purposes here, novel = fiction OR non-fiction read for purely entertainment purposes. Cool? Cool.

I talk regularly about my favorite business books, but what about my favorite novels? I ran upstairs a few minutes ago to stand in front of the couple bookshelves that hold our non-businessy reads. The business stuff is down here in the office, while the fluffy stuff is tucked away upstairs in a corner of a spare bedroom.

I stood there, staring at the rows of hardcovers and paperbacks, at everything from Jane Green to Jane Austen, and realized something:

I don’t have a favorite novel.

I know. I know. There must be something wrong with me. Ship me back up and return me for a refund.

Everyone has a favorite novel. Everyone! I mean, don’t they? The realization that I didn’t threw me for a loop. It made me feel inferior and lacking in purpose and a bit crazy.

Well, actually, I always feel a bit crazy, but that’s beside the point.

I can’t deny it, there isn’t a single title that rises to the surface as The Favorite. However, there are certainly dozens of novels that have touched me in a certain way, even if they’re not considered the almighty favorite.

Some like Girl With A Pearl Earring and The Secret Life Of Bees stay with me for hours and days, even months and years after turning their final pages. But they’re not my favorite.

Then there are real-life reads like The Glass Castle that make me shudder to picture eating lard sandwiches while simultaneously reminding me that human beings can overcome obstacles far greater than I have ever had to experience. Or Eat Pray Love, the book that, every time I glance at its cover, gives me a jolt of courage to drop everything and move halfway across the world, simply because I can.

Hmm, nope. Still not The One.

Sometimes novels inspire me, reminding me of the power of someone who stands up for what they believe in regardless of the consequences, like in Midwives, or the struggles and joys and beauty in the transitions of life, like in Prep.

I completed One Day several weeks ago and it is still making me think about how I would define my life had I a one-day-per-year snapshot with which to do it. I love it for that, but I wouldn’t call it my favorite.

There are books that shifted my reading life and fueled the fire for my love of books like the Harry Potter series or anything by Roald Dahl.

Dahl reminds me of sitting in my bedroom as a child with the door closed, trying to keep cool in the summers by blasting the ceiling fan as I nestled into my chocolate brown bean bag chair and read all afternoon. But I wouldn’t say any of his books are my favorite.

What makes something a favorite then?

If it opens my mind to new pieces of our world and our history like Digital Fortress or American Wife or Little Bee or The Help? What if it taught me about relationships like Bel Canto or the inner workings of the minds of others like The Devil In The White City or The Art Of Racing In The Rain?

Does it make it my favorite if I credit it for adding bits and pieces to my faith like The Five People You Meet In Heaven or The Shack or 90 Minutes In Heaven?

And where do classics fit in like The Catcher In The Rye or Where The Red Fern Grows or Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry? Do I love them because they are classics or are they classics because they are so widely loved?

Surely my favorite would not only be a book that I enjoyed reading from a purely entertainment point of view, but one that also made me think. Right? A book that altered the way I see myself or those around me, or maybe even my part in this world. But what do I do if the book made me think but I didn’t enjoy it at all? Wishful Drinking and The Last American Man and Traveling With Pomegranates all fall into that category. Surely they wouldn’t be my favorite.

Perhaps my favorite novel is still out there, waiting to be discovered. Or maybe I focus so much on squeezing every ounce of useful juice out of the businessy books I read that by the time I get to something I’m reading for fun I’m too far gone to get enough out of it to even allow it to impact me like I expect my future favorite would.

(Run-on sentence alert. Take cover.)

Who knows. What I do know? I do know that I love a lot of books. I love a lot of novels for a lot of different reasons. I love a lot of entertainment non-fiction for a whole host of other different reasons.

Looking at their covers make me smile, flashes a few remnants of their story lines across my eyes, and reminds me how they affected my view of the world in some teeny tiny way.

And that? That’s all a book geek can ask for.

All links are Amazon affiliates. I love Amazon. You love Amazon. You love books. I love books. All is well. Over and out.

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