Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What is Your Favorite Book?

Picture of a doe facing the camera.
I got that "deer in the headlights" look.
A customer asked me that question recently while I was helping her at the Information Desk. You might think it would be easy for a librarian to answer, but I dread this question. I sat looking at her for quite a few seconds like a deer caught in the headlights while I briefly considered (and dismissed as not being a “favorite”) all the titles scrolling across my mind. What criteria should I use—best writing? best characters? best plot? most thought provoking? something I would want to read again?  My customer finally told me to “forget it” since I probably started looking panicked as my eyes glazed over. Or because it was obvious that I couldn’t look things up in the catalog for her and think about that question at the same time.

Every book I read at just the right time becomes a favorite. At least, until I read the next one at just the right time. Favorite, for me, does not necessarily mean I want to read it again. There are not many books that I re-read because I usually find myself skipping paragraphs—even pages—since I already know the details. The most notable exceptions to this are the Harry Potter series (I used to re-read all the books every time a new one was published. Yes, my social life was lacking in those years.) and anything in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. (There are a LOT of Discworld books. Use this guide for suggestions on how to tackle them.) Another exception is Code Name Verity by ElizabethWein —a book that completely changes your perceptions of the first half as you read the second half. I want to read it again so I can fully appreciate just how well the author sets up the details to deliver the gut-wrenching jolt in the second half. 
cover image of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowlingcover image of Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

My customer’s question had me thinking long after she left the library. I read so many booksand listen to so many audiobooks in so many different genres that I have a hard time remembering what I have read let alone sorting them into favorites. I thought that maybe I should decide on a few favorites so that I have an answer (or six) ready the next time someone asks.

I took a brief survey of my colleagues to find out what their favorite books are. Everyone had to hesitate for a few moments before answering. One person, like me, said that she has "favorites of the year or of the moment" that seem to be replaced with new favorites the more she reads. Here are some staff favorites from my branch:
What are your favorites?
Tina R


  1. Your favorites are my favorites, too! The audio for Code Name Verity is SO GOOD. And I call Terry Pratchett's books my literary comfort food - although perhaps that's not generous enough, since I also pick up new wit and humor with each read-through!

    -Jen M, Librarian at GT

  2. It's nice to know another Discworld fan out there, Jen! I agree about finding some new nuance or wit with each re-reading. Maybe we could start Discworld book club...