I was recently asked what my five favorite books are. Of course that’s impossible to decide. My favorite books change from day to day and mood to mood. As it it I am usually reading at least two at a time so I can have reading material for every whim. (My now-ex-husband used to hate how many books I’d pack for a vacation, unsure of what I’d feel like reading for a full two weeks. Perhaps if Kindles had been invented earlier our marriage might have been saved. Err… perhaps not).
So, when trying to come up with a list, I tried to break it down: what makes for a book I love? What differentiates the passing flings of well-done chick-lit from the enduring love of a book that changes the way I look at the world? As I was trying to come up with a list, I realized I have a core group of books I read more than once. (I have a core group of movies like that too. A post for another day). In a way, these books form part of who I am. When I crack their covers, I feel like I’m revisiting an old friend. Here’s the list:
Nightfall by Isaac Asimov. I am something of a sci-fi nerd, although I read less of it now in my old age, sticking instead with the comforts of the ones I discovered in my teens. Nightfall is the story about an imaginary world with 5 stars where the inhabitants never know darkness. Except every 2000 years all the suns align on one side of the planet and there are a few hours of night. Everyone goes bonkers and civilization destroys itself. Just an awesome concept and so well executed. And not nearly as much of a downer as I’ve just made it seem.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. I have read this book maybe 10 times. It’s the story of an ill-fated climb of Mt. Everest, which I happened to follow online with my first computer in 1996. I’ve always aspired to be an adventurer, except I’m way too lazy and risk-averse. So I read about adventures instead.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I know, I know. It’s popular to be down on this book because it’s a little like the Celine Dion Titanic song of literature. But it’s been uber-successful for a reason: it’s engaging. The narrator is eminently likeable and inquires about the world in a way that feels very familiar and accessible to me. Plus, it came along at a time when my marriage was falling apart, and it’s a book about what happens when a marriage falls apart. So… yeah. It was a dear friend at an important time.
All the Questions You Ever Wanted to Ask American Atheists With All The Answers. This book absolutely rocked my world when I was 16 years old. I’d long been questioning the religious instruction I was getting and this book introduced me to answers so logical they shifted the course of my life. I’m sure better atheism books have been written, but this one has a special place in my heart as the one which taught me the questions I’d been wanting to ask. I wouldn’t call myself an atheist anymore, but I did learn to pick and choose the spiritual beliefs that made sense to me in large part thanks to the inquiry I began when I first read (and re-read and read again) this book.
Lucifer’s Hammer by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. Yep, another end-of-the-world book. Nothing cheers me up like imagining what I might be if all social constraints were stripped away and the system reinvented afresh. (I think I secretly harbor the fantasy that I’d be this generation’s George Washington). This book is great fun and a trip into what life would be like in the weeks leading up to a giant comet slamming into the earth. I’ve read this a gazillion times. I always the part where the guy double-baggies important books and leaves them floating in a giant water tank so they’ll be safe and undiscovered.
Do you have books you love to re-read?