Do you have a favourite book?

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LogartyMaya
Do you have a favourite book?

Someone asked me this the other day and it got me thinking. There are lots of books I love but I'm not sure I could pick a favourite.

I think I have pretty eclectic taste when it comes to reading and enjoy a huge variety of books. Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, lots by Stephen King (especially writing as Richard Bachman), India Knight's My life on a plate, Robin Hobb's Farseer series, Muriel Spark's short stories, Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, Brave New World... The list goes on. I suppose you could say that I'm more drawn to fiction, but then again, I enjoy getting stuck into a Bill Bryson book as I love his observation and humour. And I love a good autobiography. A life-changing one for me was Autobiography of Malcolm X, which I read when I was at university.

When I was actually asked this question, my current favourite tripped off my tongue as I'd just emerged from reading it and was still wrapped up in its world - Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I came late to this book (it was published around 2002) but I really loved it. Witty, original and poignant, it tackles families, history, incest, politics - race and otherwise - the growth of the Detroit motor industry and a myriad other things besides. All told from the viewpoint of an engaging protagonist, who happens to have inherited a life-changing gene.

Now, writing this, I've just read Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation and if I'd been asked today what my favourite book was, I may just have said that! So I'm fickle... or maybe it's not possible to have a favourite book with so many good ones out there.

How about you? It would be great to know about other people's favourites, and maybe add them to my own to-read list.

touche
That's a difficult question:

That's a difficult question: I've had many favourite books, at different stages of my life. As a student, I was obsessed with John Fowle's The Magus, which I remember devouring on a Greek beach - where else - and have since re-read several times.

Other novels I've loved include Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series, which felt pretty edgy to me at the time. Once I find an author I like, I'll seek out everything they've written. Fay Weldon is a genius: Praxis and Puffball had me gripped and She may not Leave helped me clarify my thoughts.

My favourite author of all time may be Ian McEwan. I prefer his bleaker novels, particularly The Cement Garden and The Child in Time; and yesterday I couldn't resist ordering his latest, The Children Act. Roll on September 2nd!

Sybil
Thanks for recommending Girl

Thanks for recommending Girl in Translation @LogartyMaya, I checked out the reviews and it looks great (I was sold on the cover alone!).

I've been trying to choose a favourite book but have drawn a blank so far - there are so many great reads. The one that sticks in my mind is The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger). I also keep meaning to re-read Lindsay Clarke's bewitching The Chymical Wedding.

morningstar
morningstar's picture
Hooray, another book topic!

Hooray, another book topic!
@Sybil - I read the Chymical Wedding years ago and absolutely loved it - I must look it out and re-read it too. It reminds me of A.S. Byatt's, Possession - another book I really enjoyedl.

@Maya - I've just ordered Middlesex - am looking forward to it.

@touche - Good shout for The Child in Time - another wonderful book that deeply affected me when I read it. I'm a big McEwan fan too. Your 'Magus on the beach' story reminds me of reading Gormenghast - I read the final chapters outdoors, under an umbrella in a rainstorm. Perfect.

My favourite book? It's just an impossible question - so my stock answer is Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It's a novella and a deceptively easy read, but you soon get drawn in to its darker heart.

Sybil
Cheers @morningstar, from the

Cheers @morningstar, from the reviews, Possession looks right up my street. Having an expensive morning!

Interesting what you say about Heart of Darkness. I read this with my (now defunct) book group and for some reason the process of analysing it made me dislike it. You've made me think I should give it another go.

morningstar
morningstar's picture
Hmm, if anything can kill a

Hmm, if anything can kill a book, it's having to study it. Although I'm still greatly fond of Wuthering Heights, and despite being force-fed Philip Larkin at college, he's still my favourite poet.

Thomas
It's a fascinating subject -

It's a fascinating subject - like those arguments about who is the greatest tennis player of all time. Anyone go for Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching" - a sort of manual for living a bit like Kipling's "If"? Jane Eyre and most of Jane Austen would be among my favourites. I liked a lot of Ishiguru's earlier work in particular a Pale View of the Hills and Artist of the Floating World. Also a soft spot for HG Wells' short stories. I bore everyone by telling them to read The Door in the Wall - I re-read that at least once a year. As for poetry, a book published a while back is Douglas Dunn's "Terry Street", still the best book of urban poetry I have ever read. In ten minutes time I will be astonished by how much I have missed out!

LogartySal
@morningstar I agree that in

@morningstar I agree that in most cases studying a book will diminish its appeal, but as you say there are exceptions. I read Persuasion (thanks for reminding me @Thomas) at school and will always love it, especially this line: 'You pierce my soul.'

LogartyMaya
I hope you enjoy Middlesex,

I hope you enjoy Middlesex, morningstar - it's definitely on my re-read list. I didn't get on with Heart of Darkness when I read it but am thinking about having another go after reading this thread.

Thomas, I read very little poetry but am going to try the Douglas Dunn book. I do remember years ago when I worked in TV, covering an event with Linton Kwesi Johnson and being utterly captivated by his performance poetry so I may check some of that out as well.

Funnily enough, I've always rather enjoyed studying books and don't find it kills the experience. Rather, it makes me see different things in them, even when I don't agree with what other people think. In fact, being a bit contrary, I prefer it when I don't agree with what other people think! I remember spending a couple of terms dismantling Othello for English A level and always being out on a bit of a limb. Happy days...

I'm currently reading We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, which has been longlisted for this year's Man Booker Prize. So far I'm finding it quirky and engaging - will keep you posted.

LogartyMaya
Forgot to say, touche, I also

Forgot to say, touche, I also remember loving the Armistead Maupin books. If I ever go to San Fransisco, I'll probably have to re-read them!

Thomas
I had a similar experience to

I had a similar experience to you with Heart of Darkness logartymaya. Some years ago I was reading it in the bath and in it went. I have never picked it up since - well I did fish it out of the bath and dispose of it! But given yours and others comments, I may well give it another go from the comfort of a chair.

LogartyMaya
Oops! Yes, that's the problem

Oops! Yes, that's the problem with reading in the bath... I've dropped a few books in as well over the years. Now I read mostly on my Kindle and am considering buying a waterproof cover for it.

morningstar
morningstar's picture
My better half dropped my

My better half dropped my copy of Gormenghast in a bucket of bleach.I still haven't quite forgiven her.
If I could post pictures I would - it's still readable, but about 3 times thicker than it should be. And whiter.

LogartyMaya
Noooo! Although that does

Noooo! Although that does make a strong case for real books. As much as I love my Kindle, it wouldn't have survived a dunking in bleach...

Btw, I finished We are all Completely Beside Ourselves and very much enjoyed it. Unfortunately the reviews are a bit spoiler-y so worth avoiding if you're planning to read it.

Then I accidentally stumbled across We Were Liars, by E Lockhart. It's a young adult book and apparently there's been loads of hype about it (which I've missed, thankfully). It's a quick read that works on lots of different levels and, apart from a couple of can't-quite-go-along-with-that moments, I thought it was interesting, thought-provoking and moving.

I'm starting jury service next week so have a loaded Kindle to see me through the waiting around.

touche
My copy of The Children Act

My copy of The Children Act arrived just as my back gave out, so despite the effort involved in turning the pages, I am already mesmerised by Ian McEwan's mastery. Current news events reflect his latest theme: his timing is impeccable.

morningstar
morningstar's picture
I read We Were Liars recently

I read We Were Liars recently - it had a great review in the Guardian so I gave it a go - glad I did.
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/05/we-were-liars-e-lockhart-re...

My copy of The Children Act is on the way - am looking forward to it.

Just finished The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell - one of my favourite writers, and this one was gripping - but there's a slight suspicion that it's Cloud Atlas, a slight return.

Am reading Thirst by Kerry Hudson at the moment - I loved her first book ('Tony Hogan bought me an ice cream float before he stole my ma' - yes, it's really called that) so I'm trying this one - it's excellent so far.
'it explores the lives of people not generally considered fit for literature and does so with wit and a shrewdness that makes Hudson's subjects zing from the page.' http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/26/thirst-by-kerry-hudson-revi...

So maybe there's a new topic for a thread - 'What are you reading at the moment?' that one could run and run....

Thomas
Since he retired at the age

Since he retired at the age of 70, my father has been keeping a list of everything he has read. It is an impressive list including Shakespeare, Dickens, Asimov, HG Wells, Julian Barnes, JK Rowling plus a number of more obscure authors. His daughter in law keeps the list updated (he doesn't use a computer). The other day I asked him what was his favourite among the hundreds on the list,not really expecting a definite answer. But he said unhesitatingly, Rider Haggard's "King Solomon's Mines". I asked him why and he said simply the best adventure story he has ever read. An unusual choice perhaps, but there you have it. He is now in his 99th year, still reading avidly (currently a book on the Palestine/Israeli conflict) and still going strong.

LogartyMaya
Wow - that's impressive! Does

Wow - that's impressive! Does your father ever re-read his favourites?

LogartyMaya
(Off to look up King Solomon

(Off to look up King Solomon's Mines now...)

Thomas
As far as I know he doesn't

As far as I know he doesn't re-read full length books - but he has been known to re-read short stories - he re-read a number of HG Wells stories recently and his favourite ghost story "The Signalman" by Dickens - I've also read this one a few times, it's brilliant.

touche
Thanks everyone for

Thanks everyone for suggesting such a diverse selection of books - I'm going on holiday soon (for me, time off = time to read) and I'm spoilt for choice. I haven't got a Kindle, so I'll be weighing my books to make sure I don't go over the baggage limit. No hardbacks allowed, but that's fine as I've nearly finished The Children Act; I recommend it. Beautifully written as you'd expect from McEwan, with vivid characterisation.

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