I have this theory that there are two different types of “favorite books.” There are, first, the books you’ve read over and over and over because they’re truly entertaining and enjoyable to read. They’re also most likely very readable (meaning fast, fairly easy reads, as opposed to something dense and complex like Charles Dickens). You have whole scenes memorized in these. You think about the characters as if they’re your friends.
(You’re all thinking about Harry Potter, right? It’s cool. So am I.)
For me, this list includes (besides Harry) all the Jessica Darling books (but especially Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings), the first three Princess Diaries books, Harry Potter (duh), The Hobbit, and Pride and Prejudice.
Honorable mentions include The Book Thief, The Help, Beautiful Ruins, Once a Runner, Lonesome Dove, The Night Circus, and Water for Elephants.
But here’s the thing. Those are all honorable mentions because I’ve only read them once (so far), but would love to re-read them.
Except for The Book Thief and Lonesome Dove. Those might have to go on List #2.
List #2 includes the books that you’ve only read once, maybe twice, but still absolutely think of as your favorites.
I would put East of Eden, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Poisonwood Bible, and The Little Prince on this list.
The difference between list #1 and list #2 is the emotional investment it takes you read them.
I noticed this the last time I read To Kill a Mockingbird, in college. I saw it at the library and grabbed it…and then forgot I had it until two days before the due date. I frantically tore through it in a day and a half. And then I was an emotional wreck for the rest of the day. When I read those types of books, I get into them. When you rush through it, it’s a lot of emotions to handle all at once.
This is why I haven’t re-read East of Eden, which I will eagerly proclaim is my NUMBER ONE FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME, STEINBECK FOREVER. I mean, one of the tattoos I may or may not get one day is the word “timshel” on my wrist or ankle.
But I haven’t read it since high school because I feel like I need the time to let myself sink into it and to prepare myself for all the feels, as the kids say. (That and because my copy has been swallowed by my parent’s house. Specifically, I think, my brothers’ old room.)
With the first list, the emotional commitment is there, but it’s light (you could make some extremely valid arguments about Harry Potter, though…). I read Sloppy Firsts, I get swept up in all the drama between Jessica and Marcus and the Clueless Crew, I finish it, I move on with my life. I read The Poisonwood Bible and not only does it take me a lot longer, I dwell on it when I’m not reading it. I keeping thinking about it after I finish. I wonder about what happens to the characters after “the end.” I get visibly emotional while reading it and those emotions stay with me after I put it down. I can’t tell you as much about the plot and characters in any detail because I only read it the one time.
Once was enough.
The books from List #1 are great! Your list might include other favorites from high school or chick lit or recent bestsellers. They might be Nicholas Sparks novels or spy thrillers or beach reads. Who cares? They’re escapist. They’re reading for sake of reading. They’re awesome! (Unless they’re Twilight. Please respect your intellect more than that.)
The books from List #2 are powerful. They hit you somewhere that Lizzie and Mr. Darcy (as exceptional as they are) don’t quite reach. They’re the ones that provoke thought and contemplation and, well, emotions. These are the books that help you grow. They’re tougher to get through but they are so worth it. (Once.)