"What one book would you take to a desert island?" always strikes me as a stupid question. (Actually, I think my answer would be: How to Survive on a Desert Island.)
When people ask "What's your favorite book?" I have no idea how to answer. I'm likely to just name the last book I really liked. When I look at every book I've rated 5 stars, I see a mixture of timeless classics universally acclaimed as life-enriching literary masterpieces, and entertaining shlock that I just really, really enjoyed. There are so many books in so many genres and what books I love most depends on my mood and where I am in my life. I periodically go through my ratings and sometimes change them, adding or removing a star, especially when I compare two totally dissimilar books and think "How could I give this book 5 stars when I only gave that book 4 stars?"
Have I mentioned that I am obsessive about listing and categorizing things?
So anyway, I could easily rattle off two or three or ten or twenty books I really love, but my very favorite best-loved book of all time? I don't know.
How would I determine which one is my very favorite? There are the big thick juicy novels that I remember taking me forever to get through but which I savored every page. (James Clavell's Shogun, which I read as a kid, angry that my parents wouldn't let me stay up past my bedtime to watch the TV miniseries; Stephen King's The Stand and It, probably my two favorite novels by him though neither are his best.) There are the books that ended a series and literally made me choke up that this was The End and there would be no more. (These are mostly children's series, like The Dark is Rising, The Hunger Games, and yes, Harry Potter.) There are the books that are just full of Awesome and Win on so many levels. (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope; The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss; Tomoe Gozen by Jessica Amanda Salmonson...)
Agh, I'll stop now. So I just rattled off a bunch of my favorites. 'Cause I'm the one writing these posts, and that's my prerogative. But I am not going to be so lenient with you. This Saturday's Book Club Discussion question is:
What is your favorite book?
One book. One. Not a series. Not an author. Not "One of these..." (which I did above :P) You have to name one book as your favorite. Use whatever arbitrary selection method you have to to do it, but if someone pointed a gun at your head and told you you will never read another book unless you answer, what would you say?
(Then you can go ahead and list your ten or twenty favorites in the comments.)
But I'll go first. And the book I am going to name is:
Rite of Passage, by Alexei Panshin
Probably 99% of you are saying "Who? What?"
Alexei Panshin is an odd duck who had a curious, obsessive hate-boner for Robert A. Heinlein. (Google the whole thing if you want to read some serious Old School fandom wank, including their one face to face meeting.) He's written several science fiction novels (and a book about Heinlein), but none recently, and none particularly well known. But Rite of Passage won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1968, and was a Hugo finalist.
The book was basically Panshin trying to write a Heinlein juvenile the way he thought they should have been written. (Heinlein called it a cut and paste job of his own work while claiming not to have read it.) Basically the story of a young girl growing up on a generation ship, it wasn't a truly original premise then and isn't now, but I remember it profoundly affecting me when I read it as a teen (after having already read most of Heinlein's work), especially the ending. If my own WIP (yes, I am one of those) is ever published, I intend to credit Alexei Panshin with inspiring it.
It's also notable in that Mia Havero, the teenage girl who is the first-person protagonist of the novel, is an extremely believable character who speaks with a believable girl's voice, and she's smart and capable but not too capable for her age, and while this is rare enough coming from a male author today, it was very rare indeed in 1968. I don't think John Scalzi did as good a job with Zoe's Tale, and let's not even get started on Heinlein and Podkayne of Mars.
There's also a sex scene -- and it's a believable, mature, yet awkward sex scene between two juveniles, told without shame or prurience or any moral fluttering, which is another thing you rarely see today and was probably kind of mind-blowing in 1968.
Rite of Passage would probably be considered YA today, but it's just a good silver age sci-fi novel (and it's still better than most YA sci-fi).
Oh, one more thing: see those two covers? Notice how Mia is a very, very white white girl?
In the book, she is described as having dark skin. (This is something I've almost never seen noted in any reviews.)
So yeah, whitewashing covers ain't no new thing either.
So that's my favorite book of all time. Not the best book I've ever read, not the one book I would take with me to a desert island, but I choose it as the one that (at least today) I count as having the profoundest influence on me. Though tomorrow I might choose another.
One. (And no "I don't know" or "I can't choose one!" answers. :P)
What is your favorite book?
Previous Saturday Book Discussions.