When I was young, once I was reading on my own, I always seemed to have a favorite book (and often a favorite series). When I was first reading chapter books, there were Ruth Gannett’s Elmer and the Dragon
as a book and comics as my “series.” As my reading improved a bit these changed to Jane Trahey’s Life with Mother Superior, John Gunther’s Death Be Not Proud, and Nancy Drew mysteries. In early high school it was Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Herman Hesse’s novels, especially Narcissus and Goldmund.
As high school ended it was John Gardner’s Grendel and Loren Eiseley’s essays. In college I was always quoting Elie Wiesel’s books, especially his non-fiction, and T.S. Eliot’s poetry. At Union, that became Adrienne Rich’s poetry and Nikos Kazantzakis’s books (though never Zorba). Since then I’ve got through periods where it’s been the novels of Robertson Davies, Wendell Berry’s poetry, essays and novels, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and Kathleen Dean Moore’s amazing essays.
Today, however, if you asked me what my favorite book is, I don’t think I have one. I know which book I spend the most time with – the Bible—though that’s largely for work and if I could only take one book with me to be stranded on an island, that’d probably be it, but it’s not my favorite book in the way that some of these others have been. I’ve read a lot of books that I’ve enjoyed recently, but none stands out. I’m at a loss for why that is.