My first week in college, it became readily apparent that I was going to need to figure out something interesting about myself. Every single new group introduction seemed to start with, “Tell us your name, where you’re from, and something interesting about yourself.” The things that made me unique growing up were completely commonplace at University. Waiting for my turn with nothing interesting to say caused more stress than I’d care to admit. Once I went on and on about how my hometown is named after a national monument that’s actually in the next town over. (As you can imagine, no one was at all interested. This also said nothing about me other than my ability to talk at length about nothing at all.) Picking a favorite book used to strike a similar fear in my heart. How in the world would I pick just one? Does the person asking want all my thoughts about why I chose a particular book or are they just making polite conversation? With so many beloved reading memories and meaningful books, how does a bookworm choose? Although my answer still changes with my mood, the question got easier to answer once I identified four characteristics of all my favorite books:
Stands up to multiple reads. The number of books I’m willing to reread is getting bigger, but I’d like to think it’s because I’m getting better at finding books I like. If a book is worth reading even after I know how it ends, I know there’s more than just suspense keeping me engaged.
Gives me something to think about. The best books are the ones I can’t stop thinking (and talking) about after I’ve read them. I’m not too picky on what kind of thinking: it can be a new perspective on something, new knowledge about a person or place, or just descriptions of the world I wish I’d thought of first.
Worth reading on the bathroom floor. Some explanation: It’s not uncommon for me to read in bed even after Josh falls asleep.* Josh claims the light doesn’t bother him, but I still feel guilty every time he turns over or covers his face with his arm. That’s usually my cue to turn off the bedroom light and finish the chapter while I finish getting ready for bed. Sometimes a book is just too good to put down, however, and I find myself reading another chapter on the bathroom floor after I’ve brushed my teeth. The very best books are those that keep me reading chapter after chapter on the bathroom floor, too engrossed to even relocate to the couch, let alone go to sleep.
Leaves me feeling hopeful. I used to only read happy books. I can enjoy difficult situations more these days, but I still want to end on a positive note. Finishing a book feeling depressed and discontent just turns me into a beast no one (myself included) wants to be around for a few days. I have read some books I can appreciate objectively but will never love for this very reason.
My dinner party small talk got a huge boost when I decided on two things: the interesting thing about me is that I can fit my whole fist in my mouth (really), and my favorite book is Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (perhaps not coincidentally, also the first book I finished reading on the bathroom floor). Since identifying these four traits, my list of favorites has grown, so I can even come up with another equally beloved title if I’m at a party where no one reads YA or fantasy. I’m almost ready for polite society, folks. Mom will be so proud.
I’d love to hear: Am I the only one who panics when someone asks me my favorite book? What is your favorite book? How did you decide?
*My mom was a huge advocate for reading with proper lighting. She caught me reading undr the covers with a flashlight one night and told me to just turn the light on. If I was going to stay up reading anyway, she said, I might as well save my eyesight. (Spoiler: I’m pretty horribly nearsighted anyway.) The habit stuck, and I almost exclusively read with the overhead light, even though I own a very nice booklight. Is it any wonder I grew into a bibliophile with a mother so wonderful as that?