OK here is a challenge for you. I believe that it’s impossible for a writer to have a favourite book. Having a favourite book means a) you have not read enough books and b) you have not changed over time. Both fatal flaws for a writer.
I have literally (sic) thousands of books in my house, nearly all of which I have read, and which I am hanging onto because I think I might want to read them again. Then there are many, many books which I have read and not kept because I did not like them, and then more still which were lent to me or which I borrowed from the library and so don’t have a personal copy.
How could I choose just one of these and say it is my favourite? My favourite is probably the last one I read and enjoyed. My favourites from 10 years ago are completely different to those I enjoy now.
In my teens and 20s I was addicted to Sci Fi and to a lesser extent, fantasy. I picked up a Robert Heinlein the other day and had to put it down – it was so dated! I read every Doris Lessing and Fay Weldon going in the 1980s – don’t really like their more recent stuff.
The best reads in the last few months are: Time Traveller’s Wife, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell (incidentally I left her off yesterday’s post, she is an Edinburgh writer too), Human Traces – Sebastian Faulkes. Can I also have Maggie O’Farrell’s After You’d Gone even though I read it more than a year ago?
Hey if you are into lists of books then don’t miss Nick Hornby’s the Polysyllabic Spree – a list of all the books he bought in the previous year. A great read if like me you are depressed by the number of books left in the world that you have not yet read, and the number of days left to you in which to read them.
Please don’t recommend any books to me (unless they are exactly like the ones above and therefore you are sure I will love them) simply because it will make my list of books I must read before I die much longer and more impossible than it is now.
(First published October 2007)
Additional thoughts: Maggie O’Farrell has of course written the Hand that first held mine and Instructions for a Heatwave since. Both excellent books which prove that becoming a mother can do great things for the muse.