Monday, November 22, 2010

What One Book . . .

At a book signing not long ago, a store employee posed the following question:

If you could pick one book to read over and over again for the rest of your life, what would it be?

She said it was her tricky way of finding out people's favorite books.

I disagreed. For me, at least, the answer to that question didn't necessarily point to my favorite book. Because of the way it's phrased, the question alone eliminates several contenders.

Here's why:

Some of my all-time favorite books aren't quick, fun, happy reads. They aren't something I'd necessarily want to have at my fingertips, every day for the rest of my life even though they blew me away or I love them dearly for whatever reason.

Some of them are hard reads. Or slow reads. Some are filled with musical language or voice or character as big as plot. Some make me weep. Others make me think. Hard.

So if I could have just one book to read every day for the rest of my life, it almost certainly wouldn't be one of those favorites, as brilliant and amazing as they are.

A few titles on the list of favorites that would not make the list of books to read forever include:
  • The Poisonwood Bible
  • The Great Divorce
  • Dombey and Son
  • East of Eden
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • The Source
Books I adore that I also might be able to stand rereading for years on end (although I'd get sick of anything eventually, I'm sure):
  • Rilla of Ingleside
  • The Blue Castle
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Hero and the Crown
  • Ender's Game and/or Ender's Shadow
  • Harry Potter (the entire series, or forget it)
Then again, if I could have just one book, I might opt for something wildly informational so I could learn something. (Does an encyclopedia, with all its volumes, count as one book?)

What books would be on your I-love-it-but-can't-read-it-every-day list?

And which books make it onto your awesome-and-fun-but-not-too-deep-so-I-can-read-it-almost-forever list?

Or am I the only weird one who has two lists?


Kristina P. said...

I don't even have one list!

Lara Neves said...

I never thought about it this way, but you are right. So many of the books I love are because of the difficult themes and because of what I learned about myself as a person while reading them...

That said, I do think I could handle Pride and Prejudice or even To Kill a Mockingbird. But goodness, how many times can you read one book?

Heffalump said...

I think I'm too much of a light reader. Meaning I generally don't read a lot of really deep, make you think books.
As for books I can read over and over, I really like most anyting by Robin McKinley (except Dragonhaven for some reason. I couldn't even finish that one and I'm not sure why). The Blue Sword and Hero and the Crown are among my favorites, but I love most of her books. I'm sure there are many others I should add to the list of books I can read over and over. Charlotte Armstrong mysteries are easy reads for me as well.
I have to say here, that I have never actually read any Jane Austen (other than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which may not totally count). I have them on my kindle, and I really need to just sit down and read them.

I suppose Tolkien would be on my love it but can't read it every day list. I love his books, but I have to have my brain on and really pay attention. I can't just breeze through it.
The Book Thief would also be on that list. It was beautifully written but so sad and I like happy.
And to round it out...Shakespeare. Again...the thinking about what I am reading thing.

TisforTonya said...

I'm always afraid someone will think me a horrible heathen if I don't pick my scriptures as my one book for the rest of my life.

of course... in all truth and fairness... it probably WOULD be the book I'd choose... know that if we were down to choosing one book for the rest of my life it would be time to focus :)

Melanie Jacobson said...

I'd say To Kill a Mockingbird, for sure. Although I might be with you on the Ender books, too.

Jessica G. said...

One of my all-time favorites is "Til We Have Faces," a retelling of the Cupid myth. It's a little heavy; not something I want to re-read all the time. So if I get stranded on a desert island with only one book, give me anything by Jim Butcher and I'm good. But I'm also a dork.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I also love Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I've read it several times (and have both paperback and Kindle editions), and it's high up on my list of favorite books. But I love reading new books so much it would be horrible if I could only read one book over and over for the rest of my life. I'm not even sure which one I'd pick!

Unknown said...

"The Great Divorce" is an all-time fave of mine. And like T, I have to admit that I'd kinda be lost without my scriptures. I know, that makes me Queen Geek.

In lighter moments, I have to admit that the first time I read anything by Dave Barry, my life was changed forever. I knew this was the kind of writer I wanted to be, and I've never looked back!

Raejean said...

I have so many books I want to read that it is rare to reread a book.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I totally get this. Totally.

I have a list of books I read every year: Ender's Game, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett, etc...

Then there are the books I simply ADORE but only carve out space to read every few years, including pretty much anything by C.S. Lewis (other than Narnia), your book Band of Sisters, The Fionavar Trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay, etc...I could go on for pages, I'm such a re-reader.

Lori said...

I have read and reread High Tide in Tuscon by Barbara Kingsolver, but sometimes just a good laugh with David Sedaris is good too! Tough question, but I always love to see what folks are reading!

Carina said...

Love in the Time of Cholera. I can't re-read it all the time, but it's my very favorite. I generally dislike re-reading books. There are so many new books to be read that re-reading a book seems to be a waste.

That being said, I've probably read the Wheel of Time/Robert Jordan/Sanderson books half a dozen times each. Ender's Game, Alvin Maker, CS Lewis, Anne books, they've all been re-read.

My book store employee trick was to ask people the last book that they read and loved, and the last book they tried to read and hated, so that I could recommend a new book.

Susan Anderson said...

Of course, the Book of Mormon is the obvious answer, though I would want the rest of my quad, too.

But if we're talking pure pleasure reading, I'd probably go for something long and lovely...The Shell Seekers, maybe, by Rosamunde Pilcher?

Or maybe Lord of the Rings, just because you could never get easily bored by that one!


Anonymous said...

Great content & Great a site…

my website is

Also welcome you!

Melissa Cunningham said...

What? I don't see the B of M here! LOL Aren't you trying to impress us? I loved your choices though. I wouldn't even take that bet. I need a shelf full for the rest of my life. Not just one!

Annette Lyon said...

Melissa, Scriptures don't count for these hypothetical scenarios. My quad is part of my survival gear, naturally. It's not a novel. :D

Sarah M Eden said...

I would superglue together (that way it counts as one book) the complete works of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. I could read those two ladies over and over.


Amazon's famous Prime Day events are huge for so many reasons, and for bookworms, it's even better: books aren't high-ticket ite...