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The Unanswerable Question

As a serious reader (okay, okay, someone who reads a lot of young adult romances and the occasional classic), I get asked a lot what my favorite book is.

And I freeze.

I do not have a favorite book. I just cannot pick one book out as the best book I’ve ever read.

I thought maybe I could say that I have favorite books in various genres, but then I realized even that was impossible. If you asked what my favorite memoir was, how could I possibly choose between It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong or Rocket Boys by Homer Hickman? I cannot.

Favorite classic, you ask? I cannot say I love Jane Eyre more than A Tale of Two Cities.

Favorite recent young adult book, then. Ooh, The Hunger Games versus The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks versus The Book Thief? Can’t do it, sorry.

How about a fantasy novel? Ella Enchanted or Beauty. Do not make me choose, people.

Newbery winner: The View from Saturday? A Single Shard? The Giver?!

What about Science Fiction? Ender’s Game, maybe? Little Brother?

Books I’ve loved forever and ever and will read to my children. Cheaper by the Dozen is almost unbeatable in my book. The Phantom Tollbooth is very clever.

Asking me to choose is a nightmare. Ask me for my favorite book recommendation and I’ll probably just end up giving you a long list of things I love.

How can anyone really choose a favorite book? Or. . .do you have a favorite book? Am I completely alone in my absolute inability to select one single book?

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33 Comments

  • Reply miri February 23, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I have far too many favorites to pick one. There are some I can read more than others, and some I recommend more than others, but there’s no way to pick one or even five. I do have a top ten list, but it’s not comprehensive. It’s just basically the ten books that I love the most right now. It’ll probably change in a few months.

  • Reply David Grover February 23, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    People who ask about favorites don’t want the truth; they want quick, debatable lies. I shall blog about it presently.

  • Reply Packrat February 23, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    No favorite(s) – too many good books out there. (Oh, really, how could there possibly ever be too many good books?!) And, I have yet to read most of the books you’ve recommended. So, no you are not alone. 🙂

  • Reply Katie Rich February 23, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    I have decided that I need to start reading a lot more as an adult now to choose new favorites. My preferences have changed since high school.

    I have just started reading Ender’s Game for the first time and I was happy to see it on your list. So far I like it a lot. I also keep trying to get The Hunger Games from the Provo library but it is always checked out – between yours and Stephenie Meyer’s recommendation, I think it is certainly worth the time.

  • Reply Lindsay February 23, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    You’re not alone in your inability to pick a favorite. Now, I haven’t read nearly as many books as you have, and I can’t even pick a favorite with the small amount to choose from. But, I can relate it to movies. When asked the question of what my favorite movie is, I can’t just pick one either. There’s just too many genres and I couldn’t pick one over another.

  • Reply Sherry February 23, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    You are not a lone. I also hate having to name just one. Even if you break it into categories I’m not sure I could narrow it as well as you have. Although, you didn’t really narrow, you just named a few in each category, no?

    I know you thought The Giver was my favorite, and while it’s true that I’ve read it more times than I have fingers and toes, I still would feel like a traitor to all the other amazing books I love if I said that The Giver was my favorite. Plus, I don’t want people thinking that my literary brains are limited to YA fiction. 🙂

    Also, I liked Walk Two Moons better than A View from Saturday. At least for this go-around. I’m surprised that you liked A View from Saturday so well when it is essentially a series of short stories.

  • Reply Sherry February 23, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Ack! Typos! Please ignore! I have a migraine coming on, so I am dumber than usual at the moment.

  • Reply Ralphie February 23, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I had to open this up out of google reader to assure myself that I was on your site.

    A list of favorite books, and no Twilight listed?

    Do you have a fever?

  • Reply Jenn February 23, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    While I too have a hard time telling everyone my favorite book because I have read way too many great books to single out one book, I do have a favorite series that I recommend whenever anyone asks. It is the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    Ever since my fourth grade teacher introduced me to them I’ve loved them. I have read the entire series at least once a year every year since fourth grade and find myself relating to different moments in different books in the series at different moments in my life.

    And the fact that I can relate so much to this series, at many different stages in my life, is I think why the series is, and always will be, a favorite.

  • Reply Katherine February 23, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    You are not alone–I dread that question.

  • Reply biblauragraphy February 23, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Seems like this struck a chord with a lot of people – I’ll add to the chorus of “me too!” I think I have a different answer every time someone asks me.

  • Reply Sarah February 23, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    congrats! that means you have chosen the right career, obviously. 🙂 now if i could just do the same… use the clinical lab work i’ve been doing for 5 yrs + animals – convenience euthansia -great debt + decent pay = ? you’re very lucky!

  • Reply Jill February 23, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    I have so many favorite books! It is WAY too hard to just choose one!!! So I definitely think it’s OK to not have just one.

  • Reply Gretchen February 23, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I could never pick one either. Like you said, not even one from a certain genre. Too many good ones and it depends so much on my current mood too…

  • Reply Miriam February 23, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    It’s easier to list the books you hated (since there have been few of those!)

  • Reply RA February 23, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    I have the same problem, but I’ve come up with a quick answer for situations like icebreaker games and small talk. I say that my favorite author is Madeleine L’Engle, and my favorite book of hers is Two-Part Invention. Hardly anyone has ever heard of it, so I don’t have to defend my ardent love, and that’s convenient. This book also holds the place of “book I am least likely to recommend to mixed company because I am afraid that any negative backlash would break my spirit.”

    That said, I think you would love it.

  • Reply diana banana February 23, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    I’m about to read its not about the bike…I’m so glad you liked it. That’s good to know

  • Reply Florinda February 23, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    This is right up there with “favorite song” on my Impossible Questions list. If you can name just one favorite book, I daresay you don’t read very much – especially if it’s always the SAME favorite. I can answer the question for a spcific author, genre, or time period – sometimes – but a general #1 favorite? No way.

  • Reply Saskia February 23, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I read about 12 books a month, know most of the new titles on the market and the best seller tables, yet can never answer that question either. So no, you’re not alone.

  • Reply Angella February 23, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Nope. I cannot pick ONE. The “group” of favorites changes constantly as well.

  • Reply Rhiannon February 23, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    I cannot answer this question. But my favorite book as a little girl was Ramona the Pest. I loved that she was from Portland, JUST LIKE ME.

    And, I still really do love Ramona.

  • Reply Alison Stewart February 23, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    I have not read most of what you just mentioned….i will have to add them to my “to read” list!

  • Reply Lexiloo February 23, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    I keep hearing such good things about The Book Thief…it is high on my list of books to read next! Also, The Giver?! How can you not love it.

    I’ve always been a fan of the Ramona books. Also, The Velveteen Rabbit is also way up there. Other then that, I really couldn’t ever pick one!

  • Reply goddessdivine February 23, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    My first thought is always ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, and then I add ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Those stories are endless classics. But then I always throw in a few more.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. 😉

  • Reply Amy February 23, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    omgoodness, i love all those you mentioned. I have about 500 favorite books-each one is my favorite in their own way;)
    -amy

  • Reply ambrosia ananas February 23, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Can’t choose a favorite. I can, at best, list off my five or six current favorites from various genres.

  • Reply Operation Pink Herring February 24, 2009 at 3:13 am

    I tell people that the best book I’ve ever read is The Time Traveler’s Wife, but my favorite book of all time is the Twilight series. All four of them, plus Midnight Sun. So my simple answer includes four actual books and one that has yet to be written. Obviously there is no easy answer to this question. I think you should prepare a list of your top 100 books, or maybe a separate list for all the categories, and make photocopies and carry them around with you. When someone asks what your favorite book is, you can hold up your finger, whip out a list, and hand it to them. THAT’LL show them!

  • Reply LeAnne February 24, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Too many favorites here to select just one.

    I love your list though, I agree with many of your favorites. I also found some new titles to read. 🙂

  • Reply Carly Jane February 24, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I second the motion.

  • Reply emandtrev February 24, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    I agree with you. I’m the same with movies. I just can’t choose ONE. I love so many of the ones you named in this post alone–Jane Eyre, The Book Thief (LOVED it), etc. etc.

  • Reply Amber February 25, 2009 at 1:20 am

    choose? pick? I think not… growing up mine was Westing Game – I think I did 3 book reports on it. *sneaky sneaky*

    but now – no way – I can just tell you what books I loved, that I would consider reading another time. 🙂

    Oh – Phantom Toll Booth – I forgot about that book. I remember finding that in the Harding Elemetry School Library, bottom shelf – plain looking book. but it turned out to be so good. maybe I will put that on my reserve list at the library.

  • Reply KT February 25, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    I can’t really name a favorite either. I love so many that depending on my mood something different comes out. I have a list of top favorite books, but I look at it wonder why this other book isn’t on there too.

  • Reply Lisa February 26, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I used to have a top 10. It was unchanging but only because I refused to think about it so that I didn’t have to change it. Now I can’t even pick a few for the fear that I’ll leave something out.

    I can’t pick a favorite color either.

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