Friday, 10 February 2012

What Makes a Favorite a Favorite?

Recently, I was in kind of a slump. I was trying to read three really long, really dense books with lots of plot building and set up. Two were review books, one was for a challenge I'm doing with Harmony. A paranormal romance, a post apocalyptic mostly-adult novel, and a high fantasy. And it wasn't working. I had spent over two weeks reading the review books. A week into February and I hadn't finished one book, while I managed to finish 17 in January. I had to fix it.

I let myself take a breather. Put down the review books, set aside Harmony's book for the moment, and pick up a short, light, contemporary read. Just a day or two. I picked up a book I've had for about a month, one of the shortest books on my TBR pile.

I read it in one sitting and fell head over heels in love. I kicked myself for using all but $2 of my Barnes and Noble gift cards earlier that day because it meant I couldn't buy the sequels. I started plotting to get to B&N so I could buy more gift cards. I simply couldn't wait for the sequels. I had found a new favorite series, renewed my love of reading, and was ready to start reviewing right away.

But that got me thinking...why did I love it?

Sure, I could name the ideas off for a review, but this isn't the type of book I would usually fall so hard for. Do I love it for what it is or do I love if for what it did to me? Would I love it so much if I read it at a different time?

Truthfully, I'll never know. This is when I read the book and I can't undo that. It'd be pretty friggin awesome if I could, but I can't.

Then I started wondering about my other favorites. A lot of them I read when I was either in a bit of a rut or when I was reading a bunch of fantastic books one after the other. Again, there are exceptions, but now I can't help but wonder if I loved most of my favorites for what they are or if I loved them for what they did for me.

It's almost not fair on the other books I read. I feel like I need to tell them, "I'm sorry, it's not you, it's me. Honest." I didn't read it at the right time or it didn't compare to the book before it. And that first impression is going to be burned into any rereadings I do. That book and I will never get to start over.

My moods and my reading at the time and the book itself probably aren't even the only factors, but it's what comes to mind now. There's probably more and I'd love to hear your thoughts on what other factors could come into play. And how big a role do timing and the books right before a book play to you?



Everything below is pretty much just...thinking "out loud" and it's unedited, so I apologize if I ramble or don't make much sense. 

I've just recently realised that timing is probably a huge factor in whether or not a book becomes a favourite of mine.

Of course there are things that I like my favourite books to have, certain boxes I like them to tick but the thing is, they don't all tick the same boxes and some of my favourites have nothing in common.

But, I think the timing of when I read a book counts for a lot. There's books that I love and consider favourites, but if I went back and reread them now then I might not find them as amazing as I did back when I first read them or if I had read them too soon or too late then the impact wouldn't have been as extreme. But like a friend, they were there when I needed them and at just the right time.

The most recent book I finished that I loved was Every Other Day and it snapped me out of a reading funk and it was fun to read -- it made reading fun again when I was struggling to find that in the other books I'd tried reading before it. Sometimes a book makes me bawl my eyes out when I was feeling really low, or numb, and just needed something I had some distance from to give me an excuse to cry. Or a book that made me laugh when I didn't even feel like smiling. That, that good timing, was probably a big part of the reason I loved it, more so than anything about the book itself.

I guess my favourite books often aren't favourites because of the book specifically, it's more about me. If I find myself connecting to it in a certain way, or it makes me feel a certain way when I need it, then it'll be one of my favourites - that's the only thing that all my favourite books have in common; the way they managed to get under my skin and wake up a part of me that is dormant while reading any other book. And it's such a subjective thing - my favourite books could be the least favourite of someone else.

So yeah, I think that's my answer to what makes a book a favourite: the reader. It's not about the plot or the writing or the characters or anything specific to the books themselves, although I do love those things, it's the reaction they manage to get out of the reader and being the right book at the right time.

And I'll shut up now. What are your thoughts?



  1. I completely agree! I just realized this recently as well, and it's weird to think that. How many amazing books I might've missed out on if I hadn't read them at the right time!


  2. I actually was just thinking about this, because I'm reading a rather dense book and having trouble getting into it. However, I've been awfully tired this week and as you said, this may be a case of "it's not you, it's me." In fact, as I've gotten into the book, the author has become more impassioned and less clinically intellectual. Because of that, I'd love to love this book but I'm having a really hard time getting over my negative first impression from sleepily slogging through the first few chapters.



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