I am not content unless I am reading so it’s impossible to choose just one book as a favorite. I do have a few that are/have been my favorites at various times. I think some stories come into our lives when we need them most. Right now, and since March 2011, my favorite novel is The Seas by Samantha Hunt. I read it because it was longlisted for the Orange Fiction Prize (now the Bailey Women’s Prize) and as it was only a few weeks after my father died, I wasn’t really straying too far from bed. I think I stayed in bed for 2 days reading it. The protagonist, a disheveled young woman in a small seaside town where everyone drinks too much, is obsessed with the idea of being a mermaid and joining her dead father in the ocean. There’s no surprise why this book appealed to me si much at the time I read it (I still love it). Other books I’ve loved this way: Jane Eyre, the first piece of literature I owned that wasn’t a required text. I was 20, a student, and vagabondish around beach cities in the south bay. An old bookshop owner gave me his last copy of Jane and demanded I read it while wandering in and out of the stores and restaurants on Pier Ave. I became so fixated on the description of a dress the main character wore in a particularly dreadful scene, I filled a small journal with badly-written poems about frocks, rain, and ruined pastries. The Temple of My Familar by Alice Walker was the first book to make me weep. Walker’s description of the middle passage broke me wide open. I was 22 and left so grieved, I left work early and called out sick for 2 days afterward. I couldn’t look at my white coworkers, I didn’t want to leave my house. I felt unsafe, untethered, unlaced. I had been stripped bare and made to fashion a new skin that would allow me to navigate a world where there are too few balms for hate.
Each of these books are with me all the time and there are many more and more still to come.