I was amused to read an article on Book Riot about favourite books, particularly the suggestion that people have a true favourite, whilst having another one they say is their favourite in order to impress! Whilst I have always cared what people thought about me, oddly the one thing I’ve never done is to lie about my taste in reading.
I don’t think I’ve ever been asked about my favourite book; my opinion on the best book I’ve ever read for sure, but I think favourite as a category is very different – and very broad. That self-same article mentions a whole range of other questions to help in finding one’s favourites (do note the plural!).
A book to
… cheer you up when you’re sad
… reread every year
… help you escape your problems
… recommend to others
… inspire and motivate you
… make you feel like you’re not alone
I have comfort reads which cover most of the categories above. I’ve read the thrillers of Dick Francis since teenager-hood; they’ve been read and re-read, in some cases, a huge multiple of times. When I’ve been ill, they’ve provided perfect escape fodder. Also in this category fall the works of Marian Keyes – the Walsh family tales especially. She helped me through a particularly tough period in my life when I ended up suffering from insomnia which, as the world’s greatest sleeper, was decidedly traumatic. More recently, damaging my back and having to stay moving despite sleep deprivation and exhaustion was made possible by Stephen Fry’s reading of the Harry Potter series on Audible. I’m not a massive fan of Audible, but these really work; of course, J K Rowling’s Harry Potter tales also fit into the comfort read category in both kindle and paper formats.
I tend not to make sweeping recommendations to others, as I know how varied a person’s taste in reading material can be. I used to be massively enthusiastic about those books which I loved, but quickly came to realise that not everyone shared my taste. Remarkably, after 40 years, I’ve discovered that I share a taste in reading with a friend from school (hello Sarah!) which has been a great joy to discover and has added to my already overloaded To Be Read list! That said, one book I’ve recommended fairly widely is Connie Willis’s “To Say Nothing of the Dog”. Why? Well, despite being categorised as science fiction, it’s not an obvious offering of the genre, it was a massive hit with my book club where there are a wide range oftastes, and it’s downright funny.
Books to inspire and motivate also come in a hugely varied number of shapes and sizes. I’m a Life Coach, so I tend to read fairly widely in this area, but even so, I’m all to aware that one man’s motivational tract is another’s downright annoying and smug piece of work 🙂
Books – all kinds of books – are like people, they’re not one-size-fits-all. When someone asks me for a recommendation, I like to find out what they normally read, what they’ve enjoyed in the past, and then tailor my suggestion to fit. Even then, it won’t always work, but I think people appreciate that you’ve made the effort to please them, rather than simply impose your own taste upon them.
I know my bookcases don’t tell much about me as a reader. I’ve moved and downsized too much and, these days, my fiction is usually Kindle-bound. If someone was to tailor their recommendation to the books I’ve name-checked in this post, they’d probably end up wide of the mark, for the best books I’ve read are rarely re-reads. The best books I’ve ever read tend to be literary fiction. They tend not to be cosy, instead they’ve been powerful, impactful and thought-provoking. But best and favourite don’t always sit comfortably together … do they? And, as readers, we do need both.
Are your favourite books and your best reads the same?
© Debra Carey, 2019