This is often my starter question when I meet a new person for the first time. I don't really expect them to tell me they loved a book from some magical pre-set list that I keep in my mind or in my wallet and judge them when they don't list one of those, thereby failing to live up to my expectations and ruining what little opinion of them I may have already formed.
I just want to know what books people enjoy and why.
How someone describes the book to me, or what words they use for their synopsis tells me far more about them than it does about the book itself.
I don't often ask for recommendations of books. Most peoples opinions don't count to me when considering literature. I have never trusted another person to tell me if I will, or even should, enjoy a book. I feel the same way about professors. Do not tell me that a professor is good or not. Just tell me how they do what they do. That's all I need to know. I'll form my opinion on my own, thankyouverymuch.
My favorite professor at university was actually one of the professors that often got ranked low on student opinion polls. He was not one to coddle his students. He expected a lot from us, as was expected from him. He laid all his expectations and plans out very plainly at the beginning of the course and if you didn't like it or couldn't handle it, you were free to drop. He lectured and told us what he thought of the materials; it was a British lit. class and he was a Shelley scholar specifically, but he expected us to form our own opinions and share them in an academic manner and not copy what he said. Most students couldn't get this. And in the sake of full disclosure, I never managed more than a B in either of the classes I took with him, but I learned a lot more about my own abilities from him than I ever would have from a professor who just wanted me to regurgitate the pre-set information ad nauseum.
This is how I feel about books. I want you to tell me what you think, yes, but I don't expect anything more. I don't want you to think my opinion of something will be solely based on your opinion of something. I like to experience things, especially books, for myself.
My professor also used to mention books he was reading in class, as a kind of side note. He really enjoyed history books about the English language. I used to write them down in my notes whenever he would mention something he particularly enjoyed. One book I actually tracked down for myself was The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. He enjoyed the book, which intrigued me, but what really caught my attention was the subject matter he described. A book about some of the history of the OED. Yes, please! /nerdmode.
I also think that our favorite books can tell us a lot about us as people. Why we like what we like and all that good stuff. What is it in the story that draws us in? What keeps us there, or keeps it firmly placed in our minds as an excellent story? Why do we reread certain novels over and over even though we know that nothing has changed and nothing will change?
My favorite novel is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I haven't soul searched enough to know exactly why it is my favorite or what in the story appeals to my inner nature, but I know that I love it.
Funny enough, the book I claim as my favorite was recommended to me by someone else, my best friend at the time. She knew enough about me, as a person, to know that I would thoroughly enjoy this story. And she was right. It was because of her that I discovered the wonderful world of Neil Gaiman, and because of her that I enjoyed my first year of college. Megan was one of those people that I will always be eternally grateful to. She was probably the first person to help me escape my introvert shell and experience the world head first. It saddens me to know that we grew apart because of something stupid and I will never get to tell her that I am thankful for the friendship she gave me the few years we were friends. I miss going to the movies with Taco Bell shoved in our purses and making lanyard necklaces and buying new cd's and listening to them at full volume in her car with the windows down, driving 80+ on the interstate. I don't think I've had a friend that I've clicked with that well since her and now that she's gone, I know I'll never get to tell her how sorry I am that I am a horribly irrational person at times. But I am eternally grateful that she introduced me to Neil Gaiman and led me to my favorite novel.
This may be part of the reason why Neverwhere is my favorite novel. The connection I make between it and my now gone friend. This is something I will figure out one day. And I probably won't rehash it here, for my own sanity.
Anyways, what are your favorite books and why?