Your Favorite Book
Okay. We’ve all shared our favorite words. And what a great bunch of words you came up with! Now it’s time to move on to our favorite books. Let’s exclude the Bible from consideration. Otherwise, I suspect most of you will choose it, and we won’t learn about your other favorites. So tell us about the book that inspired you, entertained you, helped you, or educated you. It can be a novel, a biography, historical fiction… any book you’d like to share with the rest of us.
I’ll go first. My favorite book is West With the Night by Beryl Markham. Ms. Markham was a contemporary of Isak Denisen (aka Karen Blixen, the Meryl Streep character in Out of Africa.)
Beryl Markham was born into a well-to-do English family that moved to Kenya when she was a small child. Her writing style is captivating, and the stories she tells about growing up in Kenya in the early part of the twentieth century are amazing.
The title of the book comes from her adventure of becoming the first person to fly non-stop east to west over the Atlantic Ocean from England to North America.
Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite book? And why?
Favorite book, eh. That’s a thinker. There are so many that I love. I should probably say something deep and meaningful like the complete works of Shakespeare (which I do love…) but it would probably come down to a tie between “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier or “Watership Down” by Richard Adams. Or maybe a three-way with Barbara Hambly’s “Ishmael.” They sound silly, but if you’ve read them, you know better. A “favorite book” for me is one that I’ll go back and read again and again. I know I’ve read “Rebecca” at least 18 times since I discovered it in 1996; I’ve probably read “Ishmael” 30 or 40 times (first read in 1984 or so?). And “Watership Down…” I’m reading it right now, for at least the 13th time. Believe me, I do love “Les Miserables” and “Pride & Prejudice” too, but they’re written in “classic” style, so it’s easier to read ‘em three or four times and then just watch the movies. 🙂
I didn’t notice the second part of your question–why. So let me add this.
I love “Rebecca” because I could so easily identify with the anonymous protagonist/narrator. She was young, full of self-doubt, in a world full of sophisticated people she didn’t understand, and she was always feeling stupid and inferior when she compared herself to anyone else–especially whenever someone compared to her husband’s first wife, the late “Rebecca.” I spent probably my first 40+ years with a vast inferiority complex, so I could easily sympathize with the girl.
“Watership Down” is a favorite because it’s set in the animal kingdom–if you want to get really simplistic, you could summarize the entire book as “bunnies find a home.” But these are not “bunnies;” they are wild rabbits, and they’ve got their own culture and set of morals and they live in a land where everyone is trying to kill them. Especially people. The courage it took for a group of them to split apart from their own “warren” and travel to a land faraway, the richness of their culture, with all the stories of their own rabbit mythology…it’s just such a wonderful job of world building. I can’t describe it better than that, so I won’t try, but read the first chapter yourself, and if you can put it down, you’re a better gal than I am, Gunga Din.
“Ishmael” is kind of a cheat because it’s a Star Trek book. My husband and I had barely been married a year when he was sent to Korea. I had no interest in Star Trek, but Wes did, and so I was determined to be a Trek expert by the time he came home. I watched all the shows, and read all the books I could find. One of them was “Ishmael.” It’s a fairly simple plot: Spock gets wind of something evil the Klingons are up to, so he sneaks over to their ship–which promptly warps out of orbit and apparently out of existence. The crew of the Enterprise thinks he’s dead. Meanwhile Spock, who has discovered the Klingon’s evil plan has to do with changing Earth’s history, goes back in time to Earth–to North America and Washington Territory just after the Civil War. He lands badly injured and with total amnesia, and is picked up by a guy viewed by most of Seattle as a bad guy. The “bad guy” isn’t as bad as they think, since he takes in the injured alien, teaches him to hide his “alien-ness,” and helps him blend into the local culture. The first time I read the book I fell in love with the author’s writing style. She made you feel every drop of rain on every leaf. I wanted to write like that. I didn’t even know the great joke hidden in the book, not even after reading it several times. When Wes came home–and Wes knew a lot of other TV shows I didn’t–he started laughing as he read the book, and said “Don’t you get it?” I won’t spoil the secret, but the author had done something special with a couple of other television shows. A person who had never seen them wouldn’t notice the trick or be puzzled; a person who did know it might grin, but they’d still keep reading. Anyway, every time I read that one I find another “Easter Egg” in it–and the book itself is still a beautiful story of a non-human becoming human, if only for a little while.
Sorry this was so long, but you did ask “why?” Betcha won’t do that again! 🙂
Mel, Thank you for this incredible comment! I haven’t read any of these books. (But I saw the movie “Rebecca” 🙂 You’ve substantially increased my book list.
This is a hard one because , like most, at different times in my life and in different situations, I have so many. Most of mine are not deep and provocative. When I was assigned to read Orwell’s “1984”, i couldn’t quit thinking about it and was awakened from my sheltered life.
when i worked 60 hours a week and mostly read work related books,;for pleasure I read fast paced best sellers for ( James Patterson and John Grisham). Being from Mississippi i read “Rising Tide” and was fascinated. “Lanterns on the Levee” described my Mississippi Delta where I grew up, as did 3 generations of my family. that’s not what was asked, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Vicki, Thank you for your post about your favorite books. I need to take a look at the Mississippi-related books you mention. I haven’t read them.
One of my favorite books is “The Baron in the Trees” by Italo Calvino. The story takes place in Liguria before the deforestation. It is the story of an eighteenth century nobleman, who at the age of twelve, upset with his sister for forcing him to eat snails, climbs into the trees and vows to never come down. There he becomes self-sufficient and gets to know each tree with its own sounds and scents. He never is lonely because from the trees he participates fully in the affairs of men below. He reads hundreds of books and corresponds with the most renowned men of his era, including Voltaire and Diderot. He becomes so famous that even Napoleon pays him a visit. Obviously this was possible in a time when trees had not been cut down to make room for houses or to build railroads.
Never heard of this before, but it sounds good! I’ll look it up–thanks! (Best thing about other people’s favorite books…we get to expand our horizons.)
Angela, Thanks for commenting on your favorite book. I’ve never read “The Baron in the Trees”, but it’s on my list now.
It would have been easier, Kay, if you’d asked for our hundred favorite books; but “vive le rules!”
Also, may I preface my choices by commenting on your own favorite book. Ernest Hemingway wrote about it to his publisher: “Did you read Beryl Markham’s book, West With The Night? …She has written so well, and marvellously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But this girl…can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers…it really is a bloody wonderful book.”
Back to the task at hand, here are a few of my many favorites.
“The Problem of Pain” by C.S. Lewis. It’s largely an apologetic on faith in God from a Christian perspective. One of the many questions it tackles is why does God allow suffering? In a nutshell Lewis answers this with “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë. Is it possible to have a heart abeating and not love this girl? She is an early portrayal (in English, anyway) of the strong woman character. You even come to feel a measure of affection for Mr. Rochester.
“Doctor Thorne” by Anthony Trollope. In checking the spelling of Thorne I learned that this book was also Anthony Trollope’s favorite. No further justification is necessary, but I will say that the romance between soon-to-be-impoverished Frank Gresham and basely-born Mary Thorne will pluck your heartstrings. Maybe that’s why I’ve listened to the audio drama hundreds–yes, literally–of times.
Dear PUGSmaster, Thanks for your reading list. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to talk to these authors?
My favorite book is the “Iliad” by Homer. A story of hubris, revenge, honor, shame, anger, and finally, forgiveness. One of the foundation blocks of Western literature and culture. I reread the “Iliad” regularly and there are scenes that break my heart every time.
Mike, thank you for this insightful comment on the great saga of the “Iliad”. I need to spend some more time re-reading this masterpiece.
Here my best three:
1- The praise of folly by Erasmus. Just brilliant
2- One hundred years of solitudine. Garcia Marques. Unique
3- Don Quixote. Cervantes. The best book in Spanish language
Claudio, Thank you for your list! I read Don Quixote years ago (but not in Spanish!) I need to check out the others.
Correction: Gabriel Garcia Marquez…with Z
My favorite books:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Prince of Tides
A Tale of Two Cities
The best book I have read: To Kill A Mockingbird
My favorite read: Catch-22
To answer this I thought of books I have read multiple times, figuring that means they must be my favorites. Here goes: Catch-22; Catcher in the Rye; Huckleberry Finn; To Kill a Mockingbird. In each of the fictional stories, there are characters who are alienated or suffering from some form of injustice. They are vulnerable. And there are the comic relief characters in most (well, maybe not Catcher) such as Major Major, The Duke and Dauphin, Dill Harris. Then there are righteous characters trying to undo injustice (Atticus being the most righteous of all) such as Huck helping Jim, Yousarian fighting against the system.
I love non-fictional accounts of great achievements: Lewis and Clark: Voyage to Discovery, The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge; Nothing Like it in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad; and The Right Stuff. These re-enforce the importance of people with vision and leadership, and the sacrifices that the common man made to make the vision reality. Very inspiring!
Oh, and I always love reading Goodnight Moon! Thank goodness for another generation to share it with!
David, Thank you for this great list. I have read, and loved, The Right Stuff. But I haven’t read any of the other non-fiction works you mention. I better get my library card toughened up — it’s gonna get a lot of exercise.
I love a good mystery and anything by Mary Higgins Clark, I can’t pick just one! I don’t know what it is about her style, but it always draws me in, and I can’t put it down until I have devoured the last page! She is the only author I have found that has that effect on me. Although I will say the last four years or so I can tell she has had others helping her write, but it is still very good reading! If you have never picked up a Mary Higgins Clark book, please pick up one of her earlier books like The Cradle Will Fall or Weep No More, My Lady!
Ann, Thank you for your comment. You’ve convinced me! I’ll be picking up one of Mary Higgins Clark’s books soon.
And thanks for the suggestions!
The Tales of Narnia by CS Lewis are some of my favorite books.They are beautifully written containing deep spiritual truths.
So many books…so little time. No particular favorite.