Readers—and writers—are often asked to name their favorite book. The question leaves most of us, it seems, struggling for an answer. Here’s why.
A friend sent me an article a while back in which a writer was asked to write about her favorite book. She concluded that there have been several books that were her favorites at various times of life.
That sounds right to me. And I would add that most of those favorites remain favorites. There are books I read decades ago that I go back to and enjoy all over again. There are others that stick in my memory that I haven’t re-read, but plan to someday. And there are books I enjoyed at the time, but not enough to be my “favorite.”
Back in my high school years, perhaps as early as junior high, I engaged in what we would now call “binge reading” the short novels of John Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men. Cannery Row. Tortilla Flat. The Red Pony. The Pearl. I read those, and others, back then and I have read them over and over since.
Later, I likewise enjoyed his longer books—East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath, The Winter of Our Discontent, Travels with Charley…. I have read those and others more than once, and will likely read them again.
Steinbeck is, perhaps, the first writer I read whose way of writing I noticed. Beyond the stories, beyond the characters, I enjoyed the words he chose and the way he assembled those words into phrases and sentences that, despite what they said, were engaging all on their own and a joy to read.
They were then, and they still are.
Given all that, I guess my favorite book is Tortilla Flat. Or The Red Pony. Or something else by John Steinbeck.
Or maybe something else altogether. It all depends.