Our son asked me who my favorite author is. We were talking about music, and who his favorite artists are and why: he’s drawn to powerful lyrics. It turns out, he appreciates words as art.
Be still my heart.
When he asked who my favorite author is, I groaned like I always do when I’m asked to pick a favorite. I can’t pick one favorite of anything, unless it’s “What’s your favorite dish at this specific restaurant where I know you only order one thing?”, so there’s no way I can pick a singular favorite author.
I asked why he wanted to know. He stopped reading in his early teens, I think because he knew what he loved at that time, and he just wanted to read those books over and over. As a result, all his favorite books are young adult books from several years ago in his life, and he wants to try something new. He wants to branch out into stuff that is layered and has deeper meaning. He wants to try some capital L Literature.
This, of course, was a delightful conversation for me. We talked about the brilliance of Animal Farm for showing the unfailing folly of humans’ attempts at being civilized, and how Life of Pi demonstrates that life is better when you allow yourself to believe in stuff you know may not be true. He had to read both of those for school, and I think he’d like to explore beyond assigned reading.
He permitted me to name favorite books rather than favorite authors, and I’ve continued to think about my favorites long after our conversation ended. In light of what we talked about, I’ve considered books I’ve read (and continue to read) over and over again, ones I keep thinking about even if I wouldn’t necessarily name them as a favorite, and ones I’m grateful to for helping me see the world differently.
I was able to narrow my favorites to 30. I don’t know that our son would like any of these, but maybe I can buy a few of them used for him and he can see what he thinks. They aren’t all Literary and Deep, but they have all impressed something on me, whether a mind-shift, awe, a deeper understanding of our world, or simple pleasure, that makes me not want to leave them off the list. I’ve read several of these multiple times; the number of re-readings is often related to how long ago I first read the book, or perhaps the length or density of the book (I will likely never read Ducks, Newburyport again event though it is genius). I’ve included the number of times I’ve read the book in parenthesis. There’s something there I love if I keep reading them.
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (1)
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1)
- The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (3+)
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates (1)
- Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom (1)
- My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier (2)
- Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (1)
- The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (3)
- The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (1)
- Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (1)
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (5+; it’s short)
- The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway (3)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (3?)
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (2)
- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (2)
- Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (3?)
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2)
- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (5?)
- Circe by Madeline Miller (1)
- 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (1)
- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2)
- State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (1)
- The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (5?)
- Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (3?)
- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (2? 3?)
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt (2)
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2)
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1)
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker (3?)
- Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (1)