Last Wednesday, in the car on the way to Thanksgiving, Chad was telling me about his blog post on different kinds of "'favorite' book lists." I had a rotten headache and, without realizing it, was well on my way to an excellent case of car-sickness, so I was only listening with half my brain. Across the other half, book titles quietly floated past. When I noticed this, I realized that my backbrain had come up with its own definition of "favorite" and was tossing up titles.
So, two things resulted from this. One, of course, was a list of book titles. The other was a question: when confronted with the question, "What are your favorite books?", is there any definition of "favorite" that comes first to your mind? Or is it solely dependent on the context?
I'm putting my definition and list behind the cut tag, to avoid prejudicing any instinctive reactions on readers' parts.
My backbrain's definition of "favorite": books that inspire a wordless passion, that's something like a feeling of completion or satisfaction (somewhere around my sternum, I think), but is incredibly hard to describe fully or accurately. (Often I can verbalize what's good about the books; it's my reaction that's hard.) It's not co-extensive with quality or favorite authors; notice that there's no Bujold here. It's not a desert island list; notice that there's no The Lord of the Rings here, either (it only gives me that feeling in parts). How do you describe love? I've never been any good at it.
The list, vaguely in the order they occurred to me that night:
- Freedom and Necessity, Steven Brust and Emma Bull (booklog)
- The Last Hot Time, John M. Ford (booklog)
- When the King Comes Home, Caroline Stevermer (review, booklog)
- Spindle's End, Robin McKinley (review)
- Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers (booklog)
- The Sarantine Mosaic, Guy Gavriel Kay (reviews of books one and two)
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (booklog)
- The Element of Fire, Martha Wells (booklog entries one and two)
- The Sandman, Neil Gaiman (booklog)
- Look to Windward, Iain M. Banks
- Bridge of Birds, Barry Hughart (mini-review)
- Deep Secret, Diana Wynne Jones (booklog)
- The Innkeeper's Song, Peter Beagle
- Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (booklog quick hits one and two)
- Last Call, Tim Powers
- The Lady's Not for Burning, Christopher Fry
- Possession, A.S. Byatt
Interestingly, I just went upstairs and perused the bookshelves, and didn't come up with any additional entries than what I'd come up with in the car—not what I expected with my memory like a whatchamacallit.
[ ETA: a breakdown of the list by when-read is over in a comment to Melymbrosia's entry. ]
(Cross-posted to rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan because I said I would.)