The Dreaded Question

October 2, 2011 at 10:24 am (General) (, , )

There’s this question that I think every serious reader loathes and fears. It sits and waits- or doesn’t. When a non-reader or mild-reader finds out how into books you are, it’s often the first thing out of their mouth. It comes up in conversation when you have a book with you in line for fast food, outside of a movie waiting to be seated, on the bus.

Sometimes in job interviews, if the field is book-related.

I know the question’s coming and I try to prepare for it, but every time I manage to draw a complete blank. Mostly because there’s a lot of swearing where my regular words should be. Even when I know it’s coming.

The question?

What’s your favorite book?

How the f@&$ing hell do I CHOOSE?

The whole concept of a favorite book baffles me. It’s like choosing a favorite child- parents aren’t supposed to do that, right? Teachers aren’t supposed to choose a favorite student, bosses aren’t supposed to choose a favorite employee, favoritism in general is frowned upon in both a personal and professional setting. We’re not supposed to pick favorites.

And yet as soon as you tell someone that you don’t have a favorite book, they’re look at you like you’re:

A) Crazy. Favoritism, socially acceptable or not, is nonetheless an inherent part of human nature, therefore anyone without a favorite item within various categories is clearly missing an essential piece of intelligence or function.

B) Slow. You do actually have a favorite, right? It’s just not coming to you with the speed of the rest of the conversation. If they sit back with a condescending smile on their face and wait, it’ll catch up to you. Because everyone has a favorite.

C) Indecisive. Once they find out you are unable to name a favorite book, you’ll notice they ask for less input in other arenas as well. Like where to eat. Or what movie to watch. Because if you can’t even come up with a favorite book, how are you going to be able to come up with a decision for anything else.

D) A Reader. This attitude comes pretty much only from other serious readers. Which means the question probably came from someone else in the conversation.

I honestly don’t think I know anyone with a favorite book. Granted, I know and love a WHOLE BUNCH of people who read for fun and fulfillment, so my view is noticably skewed. But if I go around to my family, to my friends, to my co-workers, I don’t think there’s a single one who can identify a favorite book. Maybe a favorite author or series, and they can sometimes name a favorite book within that set, but if you ask them flat out if that’s their favorite book, they’ll probably sputter and backpeddle and say no, just one of them.

Because that’s the only answer most readers can give, me included. I don’t have a favorite book. What I do have is a list of favorite books. Books that for whatever reasons- some I’m able to name, some I never can- stick with me over the years and always jump to the tongue during conversations like this. Books that I consistently bring up whenever talk of good books arises.

When I sat down in my first interview for my current job at a bookstore, I was half-expecting The Question to come up at some point. It’s a bookstore, right? You have to be able to talk about books. I kept waiting for it as we wove through a mix of personal and professional questions, interspersed with some hypotheticals, and then it came. And I still had no idea how to answer it. What I finally said? “Ask me tomorrow.” And the manager started laughing and said “Oh, yeah, you’re a reader”.

But customers ask me ALL THE TIME. What’s your favorite book? Most of them will smile and go along with it when I take them to several on the list and talk about them, but some want to press the point. No, what’s your favorite?

The thing is, these people? They’re not readers. They may grab a Nicholas Sparks or James Patterson to rip to shreds at the beach, but they can probably count on one hand the number of books they read in a year. Well, if they’re James Patterson fans, they may go up to two hands and a foot just to keep up with the new releases. For these people, their pool of choices is so slim that maybe it’s not hard to pick a favorite.

But when you read literally hundreds of books in a year’s time?

Then The Question becomes the bane of your existence.

So, for the sake of the curious, what do you say when someone asks you that question?

Until next time~


  1. shelleybean1 said,

    Short anwer…”all of them.”

  2. GladElf said,

    I can count on one hand the number of times I remember being asked that question. Depending on how awake I am, the answer may take a bit, but I believe in the concept of multiple favorites.
    So, my answer usually changes depending on what I’m reading. For example, last week, my favorite book was Goliath. This week I’m predicting that it will be Son of Neptune. Okay, it’s already SON, but that’s beside the point. For about three weeks it was Wither and sometime after that is was City of Glass for a while. I guess what I’m saying is that I have my favorites and depending on certain variables, one or another will stick out in my brain when that question comes. And sometimes I just go with the easy answer and say Lord of the Rings.

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