We took the kids to Disney World recently, and as a way of talking about the experience I asked them which ride was their "favorite." Immediately I felt I had made a mistake -- asking children to put diverse experiences into a hierarchy probably flattens it for them. Anyway, since when have I ever been able to say what my favorite of anything is?
But I do have favorite books, if not a favorite. Eudora Welty's The Optimist's Daughter is one; I was reminded of it when I spotted a copy in JRL's grandmother's condo. She had it because her rabbi's wife thought we'd like it. It seems crazy that a person could just forget about a favorite book, but I did. How many more books out there have I forgotten about that are as good as that one? I could never just sit down and make a list. I'd forget too many.
So a hierarchy is out of the question, but I think it's possible to put all my favorite books into two groups -- an "A" list and a "B" list. The A list would include the best books I've ever read: the powerful, life-changing ones like Lolita and Moby Dick and Anna Karenina and The World As I Found It and Housekeeping. I think this list would have about ten books on it, but who knows what I'm forgetting about.
The B list would be made up of books that I love, but that probably haven't altered my worldview in the same way. For instance, I Capture the Castle and The Illustrated Man and Independence Day and Jesus' Son. This would have about 25 (or maybe 50) books on it, but would be much more subject to change than the A list.
Is this a waste of time? Oh, probably. But I couldn't sleep the other night so I spend a few restless hours coming up with this scheme. I think it has to do with our impending move. What to throw out, what to keep? There's probably a C list -- forgettable books I pretty much enjoyed at the time (She's Come Undone) -- and a D list -- deeply flawed stupid books I couldn't put down (Valley of the Dolls).