I was talking to a friend today about making a list of our top 10 favorite books.
The decision is so impossible it almost feels meaningless. I’ve read thousands of books in my lifetime. Once I sat down to list how as many titles as I could remember reading, and I hit 500 without breaking a sweat — just of titles I could remember off the top of my head. I have over 600 paper books just in my personal library.
And my favorite books have not always been the best books I’ve read, either. And the ones I like to reread the most are not even always my favorites! Sometimes I have sentimental attachments. Sometimes a book pushes every button I have while still having problems I could write a thesis on.
So I thought, here’s an interesting exercise: try to think of the first 10 (fiction) books that might land in the “favorite” category. The books that reached in and twisted my soul around. The books that spoke to me so personally that I felt they were written just for me. The books that I reread, over and over and over again, for no particular reason. Write down the first ten of those that come to mind.
10 Books That Touched Me
- The Princess Bride, by William Goldman The one paperback in my library I took with me across the country. I don’t know if it’s my favorite book, or even the one I’ve reread the most. I just know that it’s like warm blankets and white rice and hot cocoa. Comfort food.
- Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy, by Diana Wynne Jones I’m cheating a little by putting these in the same line item, but they’re in the same universe and remain connected in my mind. Everything I love about fantasy is wrapped up in these perfectly-written books, and I’m a little embarrassed to say how much I related to Nick.
- Bloodchild, by Octavia Butler The first Octavia Butler I read and still my favorite. Unbelievable how much some of the stories made me think.
- The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury I don’t actually remember much of this book, to be honest. What I do remember is almost crying at the beauty of the prose. Multiple times.
- 1984, by George Orwell It’s the ideas behind Orwell’s dystopia that push this one onto the list. 1984 is the sort of book that simultaneously terrified me and engaged me.
- The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, by William Shakespeare Okay, I’m definitely cheating by putting this all as one line item, especially as there are still some histories I haven’t read, but otherwise once I thought of Shakespeare he would’ve taken up the whole rest of the list. I’ve read, studied, and performed so many of his plays, and they’ve spoken to me in so many ways.
- V, by A.C. Crispin I wrote about my relationship with V here.
- The Story Girl, by L.M. Montgomery I owned most of L.M. Montgomery’s books as a kid, and this was my favorite. I can’t count the number of times I reread it.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams Spaceships that hang in the sky the same way bricks don’t! I’ve only encountered one other writer with Adams’ sheer mind-blowing creativity, and she isn’t published yet. ;)
- A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle I used to reread this book every two years like clockwork. I still remember explaining proudly to my second-grade teacher what the fourth and fifth dimensions were. And of course there were all the sequels . . . (Many Waters has made me quite snooty about my Noah’s Ark knowledge in the context of the recent movie release.)
It’s an interesting mix. Half male authors, half female authors. Staggeringly skewed toward books I first read as a child (8), with only one book I discovered in college (Deep Secret) and two books I discovered post-college (The Merlin Conspiracy and Bloodchild). Three fantasy, six science fiction, one contemporary (for its time), and Shakespeare. (Oddly, most of the books I thought of but didn’t feel “favorite” enough were contemporary, like The Joy Luck Club and The Twinkie Squad — there’s something about speculative fiction that hits my kinks much harder, that makes me think much more.) One media tie-in book (for a series I never saw). Seven adult books, and four books that would probably be considered young adult. Only one author of color on the list, which I think is indicative of the fact that I made little effort to diversify my reading when I was young, and most of these books are books I read young. (Oddly, I can name a plethora of authors of color I did read as a kid — in particular, I know I read quite a few books by Asian-American and African-American authors — but most of those books were contemporary, which we’ve established does not speak to me quite as loudly for some reason.)
Ender’s Game would have been on here if I’d been able to reread it since I found out about Card’s homophobia. It’s not that I hold it against the book; I just . . . don’t pick it up anymore.
How correct does this list feel, if I weren’t naming the first ten books that felt like favorites off the top of my head? Well, about half of them feel like books I’d kick and scream at if something else pushed them off the list, so I’m going to go with about half right. ;)
What about you? What are the first ten “favorite” books you can think of?