Friday, July 29, 2011

Are My Favorite Books Still My Favorites?

Yes and no. After re-reading my eight favorite books this month, I would delete one from the list and rearrange a couple of others. But for the most part, I seem to have a pretty good handle on my taste in books.

Here's the books I read, in the order I read them:

8. "The Prime Minister" by Anthony Trollope. As I wrote at the beginning of the month, Trollope is one of my very favorite authors, and I chose this as a representative sample. I dislike the secondary storyline in this book, just as I remembered I would. Overall, I like "Phineas Finn" better, but I hated the last few pages so much I couldn't bear to read the book again.

7. "Persuasion" by Jane Austen. I underestimated this book and would now place this one up a few notches, probably to number 5.

6. "Cass Timberlane" by Sinclair Lewis. I overestimated this book. I was on a Lewis kick maybe five or six years ago, and this was my favorite of the bunch. The book is all about marriages and how they're rarely as straightforward as they look from the outside. As a fairly new wife myself at the time, I found this fascinating. Now I wonder how it would compare to his classics like "Main Street," which I read so long ago I can barely remember the plot. Anyway, I would knock this one off the list, but I'm not sure what I would replace it with.

5. "Emma" by Jane Austen. I watched a movie adaptation of this book a week or two before my 16th birthday, and shortly afterward read the book. Thus began my infatuation with Jane Austen, and so "Emma" will always hold a special place in my heart. It's been a few years since I've read it, however, and I must admit that I found a secondary character or two more tiring than usual. "Emma" drops to number 6 on my list.

4. "Middlemarch" by George Eliot. As near as I can remember, I read this book my freshman or sophomore year in college, and I can specifically recall finishing the epic and thinking that it was one of my favorite books. Fast-forward 11 years and I couldn't name a single character in the book. The first 400 pages or so made me question what I saw in the book, but the last half made up for the tedious parts. What's more, I came away with a greater appreciation of Eliot's skills as a storyteller. This book remains on the list.

3. "Anne of the Island" by L.M. Montgomery. My parents got me "Anne of Green Gables" -- I think for Christmas -- when I was just old enough to think I was too old for such fare. Nevertheless, I fell in love with it and quickly devoured the seven sequels. The set makes up some of the few books I own. "Anne of the Island" is the third book in the series and my favorite. Sure, it doesn't have the depth of "Middlemarch," but rereading it I found more than a few similarities to "Pride and Prejudice." The book also renewed my interest in visiting Prince Edward Island. When you hear of me reading all eight of the Anne books in one month, you'll know a trip is near.

2. "Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami. If you were to play the old Sesame Street game "one of these things does not belong" with this list, this book would be the odd man out. I was introduced to Murakami by a coworker a few years back, and I'm still working my way through all of his books and short stories. "Norwegian Wood" is the best of the bunch. There are more than a few parts that would make me blush if I were forced to read them aloud to my mother, but it's the overall mood of the book and the feeling that it leaves me with when I turn the last page that makes this one of my favorites.

1. "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen. This seesawed with "Emma" as my favorite book shortly after I read it, but I think I can safely say that this has been my favorite book for about 13 years. I can flip to my favorite scenes and find my favorite lines in seconds, and I know the book so well that I feel like I'm almost floating over the text instead of reading it. The book -- no surprise -- was just as good as I remembered.

I've always loved to read, but I think I can truthfully say I've never looked forward to reading quite as much as I did this month. I could hardly wait to put down one terrific book to pick up the next. The exercise has convinced me to re-read more books -- especially the classics I read as a teen and now barely remember. Maybe I'll even find a replacement for the book I kicked off the list.

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