Monday, September 5, 2016

My Favorite Book, Part 1.

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.


  1. Rod, you sure know how to pick 'em! Steinbeck is one of my favorites too. I became acquainted with his works while I was in the Army, stationed at Ft. Ord, before it became Cal State Monterey Bay. I became well acquainted with the Monterey Peninsula and the Salinas Valley. His Cannery Row and east of Eden are among my favorites, I think I've read them all except WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT. Your comments have reminded me to correct that omission. Thanks!


    1. Thanks, Dan. Steinbeck's books are responsible for my visiting the Monterey area a couple of times. Last time, I stopped at a very good museum dedicated to him and his writing.

  2. I agree. Steinbeck is also favorite of mine. Grapes of Wrath my very favorite of his books. Of Mice and Men sticks with me as well, while others, although enjoyed at the time, the characters and settings have faded. Author, Pearl Buck is another old favorite of mine.