Four of My Favourite Books
I’ve said this before, but I don’t really DO “favourites”: in fact, “what’s your favourite…” is one of my most hated questions ever.
Seriously, it makes me break out in a cold sweat. Sometimes if I’m asked to name a “favourite”, I make one up on the spot, just to make myself seem normal, then I’ll jolt awake in the middle of the night and think, “Why did I choose X? I should totally have picked Y! No, Z!” And so on and so forth. I probably shouldn’t have admitted that, actually. Anyway!
I don’t have a favourite book, is what I’m trying to say. I mean, out of all the books in all the world, how on EARTH could I pick just one? Or even two? Or fifteen? Or fifty? Can’t do it, won’t do it. I do, however, have a cupboard in the spare bedroom which I use to keep all of the books I refuse to put into storage or download onto my Kindle. Most of them are dog-eared and full of underlining (which I know is sacrilegious to a lot of book-lovers, but I don’t mind them looking well-loved…), but I still read them – or at least pick them up and flip through them, to re-read my favourite parts – and seeing as I’ve shown you the shoes I couldn’t live without, I figured why not the books?
These aren’t my all-time favourite books, or even the top 4 – they’re just four of my many favourites, and they are…
Generation X by Douglas Coupland
I’ve read quite a few of Douglas Coupland’s books, but Generation X was the first, and it remains my favourite. This book is absolutely chock-full of scribbles and underlinings – I think I first read it at university, and it was one of those “OMG, someone in the world actually understands me!” moments. This book doesn’t have a big, dramatic storyline – instead it’s about the act of telling stories, which is something that really appeals to me, and is what my own book is (more or less) about, too – or will be, if I ever finish it. Ahem. (70,000 words and counting, though! Not saying any of them are particularly GOOD words obviously, but still…) It’s beautifully written, painfully relatable, and one of the reasons I’d always wanted to visit Palm Springs, where it’s set. I finally did that this year, and was happy to find it every bit as “other worldly” as I’d imagined it…
“[she said] that the only reason we all go to work in the morning is because we’re terrified of what would happen if we stopped. ‘We’re not built for free time as a species. We think we are, but we aren’t.’ Then she began almost talking to herself. I’d gotten her going. She was saying that most of us have only two or three genuinely interesting moments in our lives, the rest is filler, and that at the end of our lives, most of us will be lucky if any of those moments connect together to form a story that anyone would find remotely interesting. “- Generation X
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
I realise it’s a bit of a cliché to study literature, to want to be a writer, and to read On the Road, but, well, I AM a giant cliché sometimes. I wrote my final year dissertation on this book (and a few others), and I wrote my Sixth Year Studies (final year of high school) dissertation on it too, so I guess you could say I like it. As with almost all of the books in this list, I mostly love On the Road for the poetry in its pages: there are some paragraphs you just can’t help but underline, and go back to over and over again.
I also love that it’s a book which is as much about writing as it is about travel: it’s ostensibly the thinly-fictionalised tale of Kerouac’s own travels across America, but it’s also about his attempts to write, and I like the fact that throughout the book the author feels he has nothing of importance to write about, without realising that the things he’s experiencing ARE his story, no matter how insignificant they might seem. On the Road is the reason I’d put “drive across America” right at the top of my bucket list – if I actually had one – and it’s also one of the reasons I want to one day finish my own book. I have a lot of insignificant stuff to record too, you see: I’m just not sure “In My Office” is quite as catchy a title, somehow…
“And before me was the great raw bulge and bulk of my American continent; somewhere far across, gloomy, crazy New York was throwing up its cloud of dust and brown steam. There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded – at least that’s what I thought then.” – On the Road
Sexing the Cherry by Jeannette Winterston
This is another story about stories (amongst other things), and another book I love as much for the sheer poetry of the language as for the plot, which meanders through space and time, and (loosely speaking) looks at gender and identity, and how history frequently ignores the female perspective. All of which makes it sound incredibly dry and dusty, but I studied this as part of a feminist literature module at university, and loved it so much I immediately went out and bought as many of the author’s other books as I could afford at the time. (They’re all good, but this one’s my favourite. Yes, I just named a favourite – I CAN do it if I try, apparently…)
“Everyone remembers things which never happened. And it is common knowledge that people often forget things which did. Either we are all fantasists and liars or the past has nothing definite in it. I have heard people say we are shaped by our childhood. But which one?” – Sexing the Cherry
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I COULDN’T pick a favourite of the Harry Potter books, but I can’t really imagine anyone being able to read just one of them anyway, so I don’t think it matters, does it? I actually read the third book first, having assumed the series was just for kids, and not worth bothering about – which just goes to show what I know, huh?
Anyway, the third book landed on my desk one day when I was working as a journalist: our paper had just started a book review column (Yes, it was my idea, and yes, it was totally just so I could read books and get paid for it. Oh, don’t pretend you wouldn’t have jumped at the chance, too…), and I selflessly volunteered to take on Harry Potter. I read Book 3 in about two days flat, and immediately went out and bought the first two: Terry and I then stood in line at midnight for the release of all the rest, and I’ve probably cried more tears over these books than I should really admit. I re-read them all fairly often- which reminds me, it’s been a while since I’ve done that. If anyone needs me, you know where I’ll be…
“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.” – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
I’m not going to ask you to tell me your favourite book now, because obviously if you’re able to narrow it down to just one, we can’t be friends. Sorry. I WILL ask you to name A book you love, though, so I can go and read it if I haven’t already: that should be easy enough, no?