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"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

Rite of Passage

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.

Rite of Passage

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.

Your turn.

One. (And no "I don't know" or "I can't choose one!" answers. :P)

Don't cheat.

Poll #1779292 Favorite book

What is your favorite book?

Previous Saturday Book Discussions.


( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
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Sep. 17th, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC)
That's actually an easy one. Ask me for a list of my favourite 10 or 5 and I'll spend half an evening trying to weigh things and to incorporte exactly the right mixture. But the one? Has been the same for the last 12 years or so - Paradise Lost ;)
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 17th, 2011 11:53 pm (UTC)
Definitely one of my favorites.
Sep. 17th, 2011 06:28 pm (UTC)
I have a lot of book I enjoyed but my top favorite is White Oleander. That book spoke to me as a teen and I continue to reread it now.
Sep. 17th, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC)
A hate-boner for Heinlein, eh? LOL. That phrase alone makes me want to read it.

My favorite right now is probably The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett. What can surpass brilliant, brooding, gorgeous men + adventure and angst and vivid historical detail? *happy sigh*
Sep. 17th, 2011 11:41 pm (UTC)
A++ to this comment. I was just about to declare Dunnett's 'The Game of Kings' my favourite book though it's so hard to pick my favourite volume of the Lymond Chronicles. They're the perfect blend of history and political & emotional intrigue.
(no subject) - twasadark - Sep. 18th, 2011 03:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lalucie - Sep. 19th, 2012 06:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 17th, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
Is it necessary to name the author of To Kill A Mockingbird? I decided not. Sorry, Miss Lee! After a little mental squabble with myself, I chose Mockingbird over Jane Austen's Emma, because although I can read both novels again and again, and own multiple editions of both, I have loved Harper Lee's novel the longest.
Sep. 24th, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC)
To Kill a Mockingbird is probably one of the best books ever written---it captures childhood and so many different social issues (racism, addiction, etc.) so well.
Sep. 17th, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC)
I'm having a difficult time deciding between Brideshead Revisited and The Maltese Falcon. I think I'll pick Brideshead Revisited, though. I could read that again and again.
Sep. 17th, 2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
Brideshead definitely makes my top 5, based on that I'll have to check out The Maltese Falcon.
(no subject) - inverarity - Sep. 17th, 2011 11:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 17th, 2011 06:50 pm (UTC)
Well right now that's an easy one for me at the moment. I just finished rereading Ken Follett's The Pillars Of The Earth. I had read the book once before not long after it first came out 21 years ago. I decided to reread it because I was planning to watch the miniseries that came out last year. That is a whole other discussion though. Pillars is one of those sweeping novels that people seem to either love or hate. The comments on Goodreads were basically split one way or the other. Some people seemed to get caught up in the fact that the story was not very historically accurate. To that I have to ask, do people understand what historical fiction means? Anyway I enjoyed the book immensely regardless of it's accuracy or inaccuracy. It's one of the few books I felt I could really visualize, both the scenery and the characters and it kept me wanting to keep turning the pages and not stop reading which has been rare lately. I'm not much for rereading books but I can see myself picking up Pillars again in a few years.
Sep. 19th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
Oh God Yes!
Yeah I read Pillars of the Earth awhile back and I still think it's AWESOME. It might not be my favourite but it's definitely in the top 5
Sep. 17th, 2011 07:31 pm (UTC)
My choice, Tempting Fate by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, probably wouldn't always end up at number one on my top ten list, but I think it might be the only book I'd always include. I first read it about twenty years ago, and one part still makes me cry.

if someone pointed a gun at your head and told you you will never read another book unless you answer, what would you say?

The title of the first book that popped into my head.
Sep. 17th, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
I have a few favorites, but whenever I see the 'What is your favorite book?' question, only one book pops into my head: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I read it for the first time in seventh grade and fell in love with it. I've read it numerous times and listened to the audio book about three times. I love the characters, the way it's written, the description of how Francie sees the world around her. LOVE IT.

My other favorite books include The Giver and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith. And probably The Outsiders.
Sep. 17th, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC)
I love, love, love A Tree Grows in Brooklyn too. I identify with Francie so much: growing up poor in the city, finding refuge in reading and writing...it's such a great book. It's the only book I've ever read that moved me so much I cried. (When her father died... D: I was sobbing.)

Yeah, I just wanted to share my experience. :)
(no subject) - madeleine27 - Sep. 18th, 2011 07:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - evercelle - Sep. 19th, 2011 02:57 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 17th, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC)
My very top favorite book is A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Don't ask why, I'm still figuring out that part of myself that gets absolutely fascinated/thrilled/very happy every time I read it. I think it mainly has to do with the protagonist's journey, the themes, and the language. Oh, the language. Burgess invented a whole new language composed of Cockney slang and Russian phrases and wrote an amazing book out of it.
Sep. 17th, 2011 09:21 pm (UTC)
I would go with
God of Small Things because it is so different in terms of how she constructs her one and only novel
I think what also holds it high on any list is the fact she rewrote so little of the text after the first draft. It is stellar.

I would be remiss to not rattle off the remainder of my top three

The Polished Hoe A. Clarke
Monkey Beach E. Robinson

Edited at 2011-09-17 09:24 pm (UTC)
Sep. 18th, 2011 02:27 am (UTC)
Re: I would go with
I did not know that about God of Small Things, but that's pretty awesome! I'll have to reread it again soon.
I had to shove this title - newwaytowrite - Sep. 18th, 2011 03:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 17th, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC)

Already did this one. Anybody interested, you can find my top HUNDRED list, with commentary, here:


But to answer your question, #1 on that list is Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Rabelais.
Sep. 17th, 2011 11:28 pm (UTC)
Though there are many I would like to add to the list, the one that always pops up first when someone asks me this question is The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley.
Sep. 18th, 2011 01:28 am (UTC)
I'm not sure I have a single favorite that I'd rank above all else anymore.
Sep. 18th, 2011 09:55 am (UTC)
Same here, but I have favourite for each genre. And my favourite change with time, my mood, ...Still, there are a few books that always make it on the favourite list, so I end up listing them.
Sep. 18th, 2011 01:30 am (UTC)
Oh, that's a hard question. But I would have to say...My Most Excellent Year. By Steve Kluger.
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