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Re-Thinking Favourites

A photograph of six books - Rebecca, The Snow Child, Quiet, The Fault In Our Stars, The Great Gatsby, and Suite Française

Wendy wrote a lovely comment on my post about the role impact has on whether you remember books. Thinking about what she said about her favourite books made me realise something, something that I found myself touching on when I met Alice in Brighton: the books I call my favourites aren’t often the books that have stayed with me.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I sure think it is. And the thing is, it had never occurred to me before Wendy posted her comment; I guess I get so wrapped up in loving good plots and, on the other end, writing lots of posts about themes I find incredible, that I don’t notice the disparity in how I view them on a personal level.

Some books from the shelves beside me that I’d call favourites in the ‘old’ sense: Jane Eyre, The Secrets Of The Jin-Shei, Bitter Greens, The Fault In Our Stars, Empress Orchard, The Doll. (That’s a mix of pre-blogging favourites and books I’ve loved since blogging. All books I’d give 5 stars too.)

The Brontë had some impact, mostly in the sense that I just loved it. The Forsyth and the Green I could write about (and did, in the case of the Green). The other three I just enjoyed, straight out. My favourites can be about the pace of the plot.

There’s nothing wrong with my list. Nothing wrong with thinking that a book has to be excellent in every way (and that some don’t need subtext and and ‘deep’ themes) for it to be a favourite. But then I look at the books I still think about a lot today and love to discuss: Rebecca, The Great Gatsby, The Snow Child, The Time Machine (I believe I’ve written three posts on the last one). I loved them but they wouldn’t make a top ten list. But why not? they should – I think about them all the time.

I’ve realised there are many ways to define a favourite, and the word itself has many meanings, means different things to different people. I suppose I ought to adopt ‘old favourites’ and ‘favourites with impact’ to include those I hadn’t considered favourites but clearly are. If I can’t stop thinking about a book in a positive way then it’s surely a favourite, right?

How do you define favourites and what does a book have to contain/be to be a favourite of yours?



August 17, 2015, 10:24 am

A favourite book for me is simply a book I wish to re-visit again and again.


August 17, 2015, 12:03 pm

I remember us discussing this! I’m still not sure, but maybe it is a mix. Because I have books on my shelf that I will always keep, but I don’t think about. And then there are the books I think about all the time that I don’t like. It’s weird. Maybe it is about impact rather than memory.


August 20, 2015, 2:48 am

Like Alice, I don’t know how to define a favourite, because I “do” different things which every one of my favourites. Sometimes it’s a book that I re-read several times; sometimes it’s a book I recommend or give as a present a lot but I have read it only one time; sometimes I just like to think about the book and how it made me feel, but I fail in recommending it because it doesn’t come to mind when I’m asked about recommendations…
I don’t know, favourites are tricky because you have loved them so much that you are afraid that they could “change” with a re-read or that your friends are not going to like them if you make them read it.

Literary Feline

September 17, 2015, 1:01 am

Thank you for the mention. :-) I think you are right about there being many definitions out there was to what constitutes a favorite. None of them are wrong.

As I’ve said before, I am much more an emotional reader, and I think that is in part why I tend to favor books that bring out my emotions. I can and do appreciate books for more intellectual reasons–like plot, characterization, writing, etc. And sometimes I call those my favorites too. I think all of that is important.

There are books, especially series books, I love but I wouldn’t list as favorites simply because they don’t meet my criteria for a favorite–but the books bring me joy just the same.



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