Recently a student asked me the question that English teachers get asked a lot–I imagine they do anyway. “What is your favorite book?”
Oh no. This should be such an easy question, and the person asking the question figures he/she will get a really good book since clearly this English teacher reads voraciously and can offer up a good read. This thinking seems logical. This thinking seems smart. It’s an amazing short cut to a great book. But all I can think is oh no. Clearly I need a go-to that I can just casually throw out like it really is the best of the best and my favorite.
Instead of an easy answer though, I have to spend what feels like eternity in my mind sorting through the books I have read, putting them into categories, and deciding which rise to the top of all categories. What is the criteria for my favorite book? How do all of these books stack up to that judging?
Don’t get me wrong. I like this question. I like it for the torture it puts me through. It’s an impossible question. I can’t choose one. If I’m lucky, I can give a list of top ten.
You’re all really asking for my top ten list, right?
But even then, books are favorites for their overall goodness, for the time and place I read them, for the place I was in life. Books come in and out of my list of top ten, so it’s not even a permanent list. Once and for all, I’m going to try and answer this question with my top ten list. These are, however, not in any particular order. I’m just not up for that mental task right now. But the books all moved me for varying and personal reasons. They all gave me a “book hangover,” the intellectual and emotional equivalent of the bodily aches caused by too much booze.
So here they are. What is your favorite book?