Thursday, February 22, 2007

Favorite Book?

It's such an innocent question. What is your favorite book? But for those of us who collect books not just to read, it is a loaded question begging clarification.

My favorite book to read over and over? (A Christmas Carol by Dickens, which I read every winter.)
My favorite book that I have ever read but will probably not ever read again? (The Red Tent by Diamant)
My favorite book for illustrations or language or use of characterization? (De Historia Et Veritate Unicornis for illustrations, Possession by Byatt for language, and The Alienist by Carr for characters.)
My favorite book to have on my shelf? (My thesis book, actually, how egotistical is that?)
My favorite book to recommend to others? (Bird by Bird by Lamott)
My favorite book to reference? (The American Heritage College Dictionary)
My favorite book to study? (collected works of Shakespeare or Milton)
My favorite book to learn my craft from? (Birb by Bird by Lamott)
My favorite book to read for inspiration? (anything by SARK)
My favorite non-fiction book? (Devil in the White City by Larson)
My favorite genre book? (The Beekeeper's Apprentice by King)
My favorite book as a child? (The Black Stallion by Farley)
My favorite book to force on others? (The Glasswrights' Apprentice by Klasky)
My favorite book series? (The Amelia Peabody series by Peters)

In the end, when someone asks me this question with no chance for clarification, I choose the one book that, if the house were burning down, I would grab to take with me. The book I cannot leave behind, no matter what else.

Seventeenth Century Prose and Poetry, 2nd edition, editors Witherspoon & Warnke.

It not only contains some of my favorite writers ( Donne, Milton, Aubrey, Pepys, and the ever obnoxiously named Anthony a Wood), but it was a textbook from a period in my life that is one of my fondest. It was one of my favorite classes in graduate school, the first year TC and I were together, and I was full of future possibilities. My notes are all over the pages of the works we studied, and for the first time I went into reading poetry with a sense of knowing and understanding. It is also one of my favorite periods of history and literature.

It's a hard question for me to answer without knowing the reason for the asking, but a fun question to consider, because I enjoy thinking back on all the books I've read in my life. And I could keep going, too, on the list of favorites. Going and going and going and going . . .

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