What’s your favourite book?
Don’t you just hate that question?
It sends me spiraling… how can anyone have a single book that is their favourite?
I can’t comprehend it.
I’m an eclectic reader at best. My true love lays with grim dark fantasy, and I can tell you my favourite grim dark book (The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie. I think… quick lets move before I give my brain a chance to really ponder this).
I also love historical fiction, and hope to write my own. I find it harder to pin down a favourite book in this genre though.
And I love fantasy in a wider scope than just grim dark (Eddings’ The Redemption of Althalus or Feist’s Magician or Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind).
And sci-fi! Phillip K Dick, and George Orwell, and Michael Moorcock, and Aldous Huxley, and Ursula Le Guin, and C. S. Lewis.
And the classics… broadly, Ann Radcliff, Jane Austen, the Brontes, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, Wilkie Collins, Daphne Du Maurier, Louisa May Alcott, Alexander Dumas…
But that’s just genres. What about specific authors?
Namely, Sir Terry Pratchett. Or again, Joe Abercrombie. Or Haruki Murakami. Or Jasper Fforde…
My tastes are varied, and I attach a lot of emotion to books.
Sourcery by Sir Terry Pratchett; there may be other Discworld books that I will readily admit are better written but I would say Sourcery is my favourite because it was the first Discworld book I read.
The Chronicles of Narnia I would suggest were my favourite books as a child because they were the first fantasy books I read, and I would never have known of them were it not for a close family friend who bought them for me as a gift.
Books like Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore and Sanderson’s Way of Kings are all special to me because my husband introduced them to me.
Books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Elliot’s Middlemarch, Moorcock’s Behold the Man are all special to me because I studied them in University and they remind me of those amazing years.
In short, I think this is a bloody mean endeavour.
How can you select one book above all others? Casting aside genre and subjectivity?
And yet despite my reservations, I desperately want to join in. Because people are talking about books and what better thing is there to talk about?
So, here are my five nominations. Well, hopefully five. We’ll see when we get that far shall we?
Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Do I even need to explain why? I suppose I should otherwise what exactly is the point of being a book reviewer…
Lord of the Rings is, in my opinion, seminal fantasy. People argue it’s difficult to read, it’s too dry, boring, too many names, too much history… Tolkien only really came up with the world as an experiment for his made up language blah blah etc etc
But these books are so culturally important. They paved the way for so many things. And I for one love the intricate histories constantly referenced, the layers upon layers in his world building. The various cultures, the vast scope.
This is an example of a situation where I think other books may be better written, or better at the whole “exciting fantasy” thing, but Lord of the Rings transcends all that into “something special” for me and therefore make it onto my Favourites List.
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Now here is an example of a book that is on my Favourites List because it is just so well written. I couldn’t put it down, I took it with me wherever I went in case an opportunity arose to read it, I could not stop talking about it.
I loved the idea of an advanced civilisation who cause their own regression at the same time as another species’ evolution. It was incredibly clever, it was intricately detailed, it was minutely plotted and planned. More than anything, I loved the questions it bore; on humanity, on how we view progression, on how we revere the past.
Please please please read this book if you haven’t already.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley Vs 1984 by George Orwell
These two are usually pitted against each other, aren’t they. And poor Brave New World is usually the one in 1984‘s shadow.
Orwell painted a world for us that was stark, utilitarian, utterly dystopian; devoid of the freedom to even think. A world where any ounce of control was taken from you and was dominated by those in charge.
In contrast, Huxley painted a world where we given every freedom to choose to be as frivolous as we wanted; a world technologically advanced enough that we didn’t need to think too hard about anything.
Neil Postman wrote (perfectly) in foreward of his book Amusing Ourselves to Death:
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that our fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.
Ultimately, Brave New World wins out for me, because I fear Huxley’s world far more than Orwell’s.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte Vs Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Reader, it is a universal truth that I have no idea how to resolve this one.
Both are strong critiques on society and its treatment of women and marriage in their time. Both are subversive, deep, insightful. Their heroines are flawed; creatures molded by their environment yet desperately fighting against it.
Pride and Prejudice is witty, light with it’s tongue in cheek; Jane Eyre, by contrast, is dark and sinister.
I still can’t choose between them.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
To finish my list of nominations, I choose le Comte. This book is the very definition of epic; it is vast, it is all encompassing, it is far reaching and complicated and convoluted. It has betrayal, hardship, escapes, cunning, drama, dirty deeds, revenge, loss…
I also love Dumas’ Muskateers series of books but The Count of Monte Cristo was the first of his read, and there’s something darker about it that appeals to me.
Do you agree or disagree with any of my nominations?
What would you nominate?
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