I have this thing about favorites. Movies, paintings, cities, songs, types of food—hardly anything is excused from judgment. These lists are subjective and impermanent. For instance, I don’t think my favorite movie is the best movie ever made, it’s just the best for me. It aligns with my emotions and my narrative ideals. Other categories rely even more on subjective experiences. I’m sure some people love going to Tijuana, for instance, but because I went with my dad when I was fourteen and ate some bad enchiladas, I will most likely never return. I try not to focus on my least favorite things. Doing so negates the purpose of making these temporary lists, which is to seek out and eagerly anticipate new experiences.
With that said, I thought I’d start my first blog for the bookstore with a list of my five (technically six) favorite novels, in no particular order. I hope to elaborate on these in future posts.
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
The Hours by Michael Cunnigham
Deliverance/To The White Sea (Irrevocably tied, blame James Dickey)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
When I read, I’m chasing that feeling I had in my early teens when I first read Orwell’s 1984. I had picked up a badly used copy somewhere—the cover font was nearly identical to that used in the “Schoolhouse Rock” logo—and someone had underlined whole pages worth of text in thick blue marker. I stayed up late one night to finish it, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Finishing that book made me feel like I had been through the same psychological warfare as Winston Smith, especially in that last climactic, unbearable scene of betrayal. It was the first time I had been through such an emotional literary workout, and I loved it.
New favorites stacked up quickly after that. I was lucky to attend a school with a brilliantly run Humanities department with a broad reading list. Hefty classics (The Grapes of Wrath, The Scarlet Letter, A Tale of Two Cities) mingled with less predictable picks (A Confederacy of Dunces, A Clockwork Orange, Darkness at Noon) and soon I was awash in great books. Coming from a family of readers helps as well; my mom seems to draw only from the new fiction cart at the library, while an uncle of mine is addicted to audio books. One of my cousins often reads books in their original Spanish, while another is just starting to get excited about his totally awesome 9th grade sci-fi lit class. I love talking to my family and friends about books, and there is something particularly thrilling about discussing my favorites. They have each changed me a little; in the way I think about writing, history, relationships, religion, and most of all, about people.