Discussion

What is a Favourite Book?

Today’s post is definitely more of ramble. Last Wednesday I had a bit of a crisis going through my favourites shelf on Goodreads. I hadn’t updated it in a while and I wasn’t sure it reflected my current favourites. This might not really matter to most people, but for some reason I stress a lot about it every once in a while, so I thought I might as well talk about it. Whenever the conversation around comfort books or favourites arises, I blank because, besides The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins-Reid it is a hard question to answer.

There are many different factors that play into why I have doubts about what my favourite book is:

1. Firstly, many of the books I had on my “favourites” shelf are books I haven’t read in years. That begs the question, do they hold up? There’s no way to know unless I reread them, which I don’t usually do.

2. There is also the reality that my reading tastes have evolved. At one point in my life I’m sure I might have considered The Fault in our Stars by John Green as one of my all-time favourites, but that time is long gone. Because of this, I’m certain the same has happened with other titles.

3. Another reason for my overthinking is that there are series I consider favourites, such as The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, but I wouldn’t consider any of the books 5 stars. I also couldn’t tell you what the plot of it—or others—was all about, but my connection to the characters makes it a favourite.

4. There is also the fact that I tend to read the series I love very fast without stopping after each book, so I have absolutely no clue where one installment finishes and the next starts. For instance, I read the over 1000 pages of All for the Game by Nora Sakavic in 7 days, where I’d finish one book and immediately pick up the one that followed. In those 7 days I was also busy and I barely slept to continue reading (yes, I was that obsessed). So now, I can’t tell what happened in each book, it’s all just a big blob.

5. Finally, there are also factors outside of the book that might make me stop considering a book one of my favourites. The obvious example is Harry Potter. After all the author has done and continues to do, I simply cannot hold it in the same place I used to. There is also something to be said about how we interact with books written by bad or problematic authors, but that’s a discussion for another time.

I don’t actually have any answers for all my questions. All I can personally do is trust my gut feeling and continue revisiting my favourites list every once in a while to see what might have changed.

How do you define your favourites? What are some books that you consider as such?

37 thoughts on “What is a Favourite Book?

  1. This was such an interesting discussion, Maria! I really liked learning what makes a favorite for you, and I related to at least a few of your points 😁 I definitely also have favorite series in which I didn’t rate all (or any 😅) of the books five stars – like, objectively, I can tell that there’s stuff about them that wasn’t great, but somehow, I love them all the same! Take Enid Blyton’s school stories, for example – even as a kid, I knew they were really simplistic, tried to shove morals down your throught, and all followed the same structure. But I LOVE them! To this day, they’re some of my ultimate comfort books, and I keep rereading them over and over again in spite of their flaws 🥰

    However, the rereading thing is probably also what makes it much easier for me to decide which books are my favorites. I am constantly rereading stuff, and if I absolutely love a book, there’s no way I could go multiple years without returning to it. Even if it’s a childhood favorite and I’m technically “too old” for it, I will reread it in blissful nostalgia anyway 😂 Which also means I can tell you EXACTLY what happens in those books – I am in no danger of forgetting what happens in which installment in the series and can recite the plot for you in a heartbeat. For my very favorites – like Harry Potter, which I usually reread twice a year on average 😂 – I can even quote them pretty accurately…

    So yeah, for me, it’s very easy to tell what my favorites are – the books I reread the most and love over all else 🥰 However, that only applies to my overall favorites – when looking back on my favorite books of a particular year, I actually run into similar problems you do. Some of them, while I loved them at the time, I simply lost interest in. Maybe because my tastes changed, maybe because I noticed stuff I didn’t really like about them when I picked up on more details on a reread, or maybe because I just never gravitated towards them again and didn’t have the chance to fully fall in love with them on further rereads. And then I end up seeing those lists and think, “Huh, really, this book is on there?” 🤣

    And as to problematic authors – I feel you 😪 J.K. Rowling has definitely added a sour taste to my relationship with Harry Potter, but at this point, I’m in so deep that I just can’t stop loving it any more than I could sever off one of my own limbs. I highly doubt anything will ever be able to knock Harry Potter from my favorite books of all time pedestal, so I guess that just goes to show that when I truly adore a book, nothing – not even the author’s horribleness – can come between us 😅

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the comment, Naemi! I do believe that if I was more of a rereader I wouldn’t have half the problems I do with choosing favourites. However, I tend to gravitate towards new stories and I end up rereading only occasionally. Last year I read Boy Parts twice in a week, but that was an unprecedented event, so rereading chunky books such as Harry Potter twice a year is definitely a nono for me 😅 As a sidenote, I definitely don’t believe in being too old for any book!!

      I also totally get the feeling of loving a book in the moment but forgetting about it rather quick… It’s something that happens to me quite often. What makes a difference are the characters. I will forget plot lines fast but if I fell in love with the characters I will probably consider that book a favourite. Take All for the Game, those books are objectively quite… trashy, for lack of a better word, and I remember next to nothing plot-wise, but I am simply too attached to the characters to not consider it a fave.

      I totally get that, and I also still love Harry Potter, but it’s definitely made my feelings for it more complicated. I’ve come to the conclusion that yeah, it’ll always mean a lot to me but no, I’m not actively putting more money in her pocket. I’ve truly been thinking about this a lot lately (this meaning how we might interact with books by horrible people and how that interaction changes depending on how long ago that book was published) so I’ll definitely try to write about it eventually.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Characters are also what make or break a book for me! But if really love the characters, it’s also unlikely that I won’t go back and reread the book, so it ultimately always comes back to the rereading anyway 😂

        Also, I’d love to see a discussion on how we interact with books by “horrible” authors! For me, it definitely also depends on how long ago a book was published. There are plenty of classics I love despite them reflecting racist and misogynist attitudes – but I’m willing to forgive that to a certain extent (though not if it becomes to blatantly dehumanizing or hateful) because I know they are products of the time they were written in, and also because I know those authors won’t be profiting off of my money…

        With modern authors, it gets a lot more complicated. While I don’t believe in cancelling anyone per se – if I only read books by people who held the same opinions as me, I’d be stuck reading all of my shitty first drafts – I’d also feel very uncomfortable checking out authors who are known to use their fame to actively harm minority groups. Take Orson Scott Card, for example – his books do sound interesting, but since I know he funnels parts of his profits to charities who combat gay rights, that would always be at the back of my mind while reading his stuff, even if I did not buy his books myself. With J.K. Rowling, though, I have a past history and since she also doesn’t actively use her money against people (in fact, I think her charities are actually commendable), I don’t feel as bad about still reading her books – although I have been getting her newer releases (like The Christmas Pig) from the library now. What hurts me so much about what she is doing isn’t necessarily her opinion – I realize that not everyone has had the same relatively sheltered and open-minded upbringing I have and that certain bad experiences might make an otherwise kind-hearted person irrationally prejudiced – but that she shares them to her audience of millions without even listening to the perspective of the people she’s hating on. Her TERF Wars essay reads like the most biased Rita Skeeter article I’ve ever read, and once you start digging into her sources, things get very fishy indeed. And then there’s the fact that J.K. Rowling’s words have been used to actively pass legislation against trans people, further ostracizing people who are already misunderstood, and J.K. Rowling hasn’t said a thing about it.

        And I think that’s my issue – if a less well-known author had sentiments like J.K. Rowling’s and chose to tell a few friends, but behaved kindly otherwise and had a bunch of charities helping people out, I probably wouldn’t care. I’d say, “Well, I don’t agree with XYZ on this matter, but they seem nice enough otherwise and aren’t doing any harm. I guess they have their prejudices, but they’re a good writer, so I’ll read their stuff.” And, honestly, I there are probably also a ton of authors out there who hold questionable opinions that we just don’t know about, either because they’ve never shared them or because we personally don’t have the time to intricately research every author we read a book by. But once you have a platform as huge as Rowling’s, you can’t just blurt out whatever you’re thinking without considering the real-life consequences. If your opinion could needlessly hurt people, you’d better keep it to yourself! And if you do end up saying something harmful by accident, I expect you to at least hear out the people whom you’ve hurt. You can’t go about publicly bleating your opinions and then become really quiet once your actions have consequences. And if you do, I think it’s only fair if your readers call you out on it and don’t want to read your books anymore.

        But yeah – J.K. Rowling rant over 🤣 I could vent about this forever, so I’m very much looking forward to more of your opinions whenever you decide to grace us with a post! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That makes sense. I think I’m the odd one out in that regard 😅

          Certainly time plays an important role in it, I agree wholeheartedly. Take Maurice for instance. We both loved it and yet it is quite misogynistic when you think about it.

          I also agree that cancelling people or reading only books by people with the same exact views as ourselves makes no sense and is quite counterproductive. Also, I agree that what makes the JK Rowling situation so horrible is that she has a huge platform which she has been using to essentially spew hate towards trans women, who have a hard time already without JK Rowling’s nonsense. She is definitely not the only author with these harmful views, but she certainly has been the loudest.

          I also think it is especially hurtful coming from her since she has been idolised by our generation (after all we grew up with Harry Potter) and that includes many many trans people. If she were a less relevant author, the reaction wouldn’t have been the same.

          All in all, I genuinely do not have a conclusion for how I personally feel about this. I do feel disappointed and angry with her, but that’s more on me. It is a complicated situation and it hits close for various reasons, which makes it even more difficult to navigate.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I think your words speak for a lot of us! It definitely hits way harder when the person spreading hate is someone who significantly shaped your childhood and whom you used to look up to… I agree that it’s a very icky situation and that there probably isn’t one right way to navigate it; but I loved getting your thoughts all the same!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. A really great post, it is such a difficult thing to quantify and everyone will differ in how they do so. I have my own understanding of favourite that’s always been in the back of my mind but I’ve never told anyone…. until Now!

    My favourite books are the ones that I would make sure I reread if I found out I was going to die soon.

    As of now, it’s an exclusive list, I never include anything that I’ve read only once. I have a few planned rereads this year that might conceivably be added but I won’t preempt things.

    Right now, my 3 favourites are: A Single Man, Lolita, and Crime and Punishment. They’re not in any order, either.

    As you can imagine, with my strange criteria I don’t have the same difficulties that you’ve set out – and don’t think I’m ever likely to. The only point that could come into play is number 5 – the author one – and for me that won’t be an issue, as I don’t care who wrote a book, only that the book was written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That criteria is certainly interesting 😅 but I see how it might put things into perspective.

      Of the three books you mentioned I’ve read only Lolita, which I really enjoyed, but A Single Man definitely does sounds up my alley, so thanks for the involuntary recommendation!

      Point number 5 is something that is definitely present in my mind these days and I’m not sure what to make of it. I do believe distance between the publication date and the present day makes a big difference in how I might feel about claiming a book a favourite. However, it’s something I need to think about further, but I do understand your point of view, and I can’t say I don’t agree to at least a certain degree.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I’m always so glad to recommend A Single Man, it really is a wonderful and beautiful read. Short, too, which can definitely be a plus some times. There is definitely something to be said for the distance, you’re quite right. The authors of my picks were all dead before I was born – I could be fortunate in never having to be exposed to their Twitter accounts. XD

        Thanks again, for the intriguing post. It has inspired my own take, to be posted tomorrow. I hope you won’t mind if I link back to your site and post?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post!! I find it really hard to pinpoint even five books as my favourites. For me, a favourite book is something I can reread over and over for comfort, and never get tired of. This worked when I had fewer books to read, I guess, but after I joined blogging and with all the new releases I discover I’m sort of finding it harder to return to a book once I’ve read it. It took me a while to get used to the ‘read, review, move on’ pattern everyone on this platform seems to have lol.
    I used to love harry potter too, (it was what got me into ya literature, actually) but after jkr came out as a terf I’ve got an icky feeling about rereading the series again. Which is sad , because it used to be my ultimate comfort series.
    I find several of my favourite classics have problematic elements in them (around the world in 80 days, for example, reeks of white saviourism) but I find it much easier to read them than contemporary books with the same issues. Bit hypocritical of me I guess on that one. But I started my reading journey with classics (which were the only recognisable English books in bookstores when I was a kid), so most of the first books I read are still my favourites!
    It is definitely subjective – I might rate a book 5 stars but it might not end up becoming one of my favourites while a book with a lower rating might!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There seems to be an agreement in the comments in terms of rereading! I rarely reread because I love discovering new stories, and rereading an old favourite might take time off that, but I understand why most people love rereading (after all, I do it to from time to time).

      I’m glad you brought up the fact that it’s way easier to reconcile with problematic classics than it is with problematic contemporary books! This has been on my mind a lot lately, and I hope to discuss it in a different post. But I definitely agree with you, Maurice became one of my favourite books last year and while it’s very progressive for its time in terms of sexuality, it is quite misogynistic. Also definitely agree with how subjective favourites can be!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve definitely found myself obsessing over, remembering and appreciating books that I didn’t actually give 5 stars. It’s all about gut feeling and vibes for me, it doesn’t have to make sense haha great post!

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  5. I love a good ramble 😉 And I relate to pretty much everything you said. I also have a Goodreads shelf called favorites that I’m currently trying to avoid thinking about because I think I could probably remove half the books on it if I was being honest with myself. My tastes have definitely evolved a lot over just the past couple of years, so there are books on that shelf that I’m not even that interested in rereading anymore. But they were still obsessions when I read them the first time, so it also feels like a betrayal to remove them 😅 Maybe I need to create a shelf called “books that used to be favorites” just to still recognize them as part of my reading journey.

    I definitely also relate to calling a series a favorite without giving all or any of the books five stars, the Raven Cycle being one of them for me as well. I usually at least have to rate one of the books five stars before calling the series a favorite, but yes, my connection to the characters is what really determines it.

    Finally, I also read All for the Game in record time and now have no idea what each book is about 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love how similar our experiences with The Raven Cycle and All for the Game are 😂

      I think your idea of having a shelf for books that used to be favourites actually makes a lot of sense. Like, to take the example I already used: yes, TFIOS definitely had an impact on my journey as a reader, and as such it will always hold a special place in my heart, but it really isn’t a favourite anymore. So perhaps your solution is the ideal one!

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  6. I really enjoyed reading this post, and you’ve posed a really good question about what makes a favourite book a favourite? I’m so glad you mentioned the raven cycle because it’s genuinely one of my, if not my absolute, fave series – but I also wouldn’t necessarily rate all of them 5 stars?

    I think at the moment the song of achilles is my favourite book. It’s a comfort book for me too, but I also think the writing is beautiful and the character development is superb, which is why it’s still a fave to this day 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m starting to have a feeling many of us feel similarly toward The Raven Cycle, which is really interesting. I do truly believe the characters are what makes this series so loved.

      The Song of Achilles is actually the first book I was completely comfortable calling a favourite, and it has been so ever since I first read it in 2015. It’s just such a fantastic and beautiful book, I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving it.

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  7. High five fellow overthinker! 😂 I totally relate to this, as someone who likes to reflect on things and keep everything up to date. It’s so hard because one book might have meant the world to you in x years but you decide to reread it and it’s no longer special. So there’s a danger in rereading old faves for sure. (I do love rereading but I hesitate when it comes to favourites because I don’t want to lose that nice feeling attached to it.) Other times rereading can cement your love even more, because you read it with being more wiser and having experienced more in life, and that makes you appreciate the book even more. Honestly nowadays I go with my gut. I used to be really obsessed about it, but now I try to be more chill, because at the end of the day what matters is that the book helped you in a certain period of time.
    That’s definitely another thing if you figure it out afterwards that the author is problematic. Obviously, I was a huge HP fan too, but the author’s actions and words made it impossible to stay attached to those books.
    Loved this post again, Maria!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh and I forgot to mention that I noticed this obsession starting when I joined the online bookish community. Like, before then, I just read books and if I found something a favourite, that usually stuck with me (like LOTR or Agatha Christie books), and I still consider them favourites. So that could be another interesting conversation the effect online life has on people as readers. Obviously there are tremendous positive sides to it (like the fact that we’re able to talk here!) but there are downsides too!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I definitely agree that gut feeling is a good way to go! And I totally get being scared of rereading old faves in case they don’t hold up 😅

      As for problematic authors… It’s hard to navigate, and like I’ve replied to other comments, time plays a huge part. There’s a significant difference between reading a classic written by a… not good person or reading HP. And for a book that has shaped our entire generation it’s even harder. I’m of the opinion that sure, love the book, but stop promoting or giving money to the author. However, I admit that how we interact with books written by problematic authors is a topic I keep going back to, I find it quite fascinating and I’m still not sure how we should act.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely agree! I don’t mind when someone still loves HP, it’s understandable, but giving money and platform to her is a big no-no.
        Same, it’s a tough topic! I also am more accepting when it comes to classic authors who are long dead. That was the time’s norm, we can’t change the past, but it’s important to acknowledge the problematic part.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Fab post! I was continuously nodding as I read the points you made. Last year, I thought a lot about the books that I’ve rated 5-stars (without reviews) and consider favourites and also realised that I really don’t remember all that much about the plots or what exactly happens. My fave characters I remember, but the rest also have kinda fallen off my brain radar. Like you said, I read those books so quickly (and also so long ago lol) that it’s all a bit of a blur. I actually wondered about it so much that I decided to do a ‘re-read project’ this year to do a comparison and see if how I feel about the book has changed or not (probably has). I’m very much not a re-reader but I’m hoping this’ll be fun! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m very much the type of person that forgets everything but my favourite books, so I’m kinda working on paying more attention and giving myself time to process things that aren’t character related 😅

      And good luck with your project! I’ll look forward to seeing your thoughts if you wish to share them.

      Like

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