Happy Thought: The Long List of Favorite Books, plus A Theory

I have a theory about people and the genres that we prefer.

There's one genre that feels like home, one where we spent the majority of our creative and recreational time, the one we have grown up around, our true literary love. Most of our favorite books come from this genre. Well, maybe some people have more than one, but every reader has a preference for a certain kind of book.

We are most likely to forgive the faults of whatever comes out of that genre, because it already speaks our beloved language, so to speak. Just by existing in the domain we know the best, it already has a lot of the pieces we love the very most.

Now, for something to make our favorite list from outside our "home genre," it has to be really and truly exceptional. This is where we start to use words like TRUE ART and MASTERWORK and MAGNUM OPUS and THE BEST THING EVER. It has to be the very best of the best, the cream of the crop, the stand-out.

Now, for me, that genre is the middle grade fantasy. (If we were talking about movies, it would be romantic dramedies.) Yep, I have to say: over half of all the reading and re-reading I've done in my twenty-five years of life comes from this awesome subcategory:
  • C. S. Lewis's Narnia books
  • Harry Potter (of course!)
  • Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials
  • Madeleine L'Engle's the Time Quartet 
  • Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series
  • Patricia C. Wrede's The Enchanted Forest
  • Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness, the Immortals, and The Protector of the Small series
  • Peter Pan (also, of course!)
  • Ella Enchanted
  • Robin McKinley's the Blue Sword, Beauty, Rose Daughter, and Spindle's End
  • Sherwood Smith's Crown Duel
  • Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong and Dragonsinger
  • Mary Downing Hahn's Wait Till Helen Comes
  • and Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl.
And dear reader, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I've started writing books that aiming these realms.

(Note: But all of these books are the ones that were favorites BEFORE I started writing professionally. So, you shouldn't see books that have been published in the last two years.)

But some of my other favorite books in the entire universe coming from genres I don't normally read are:  

  • Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories
  • Nicole Krauss's A History of Love
  • Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated
  • Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
  • Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  • Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones' Diary & BJD: The Edge of Reason (better than the movies!)
  • Markus Zusak's the Book Thief (197 weeks on the NY Times list and still there! That's nearly four years!!)
  • Sharon Creech's Chasing Redbird 
  • A. S. Byatt's Possession (winner of the Man Booker prize)
  • Francesca Lia Block's Echo 
  • Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things
  • Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife
  • Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn
The funny thing about these favorites is that most have ended up on bestselling and/or award lists. :-P

Moral of the Story: People are going to like the books that they're going to like. And they'll surprise themselves by loving the books which are super awesome. :-)

P.S. Can you tell that I felt bad for missing a few Happy Thought posts in recent months? And that I'm trying to make up for it by telling you about a whole bunch of my favorites at once? :-P