Is it possible to have a favourite book of all time?

Ideas

Is it possible to have a favourite book of all time?

People ask this all the time and it’s difficult to answer, but there is one novel that will always be a go-to for me

Sunday Times Book Editor

I always feel like a kid in the deadlights (a reference to Stephen King’s It explaining how the children were killed by Pennywise) when someone asks me if I have read anything good lately or what my favourite book is. I stumble over my words, trying to remember titles, authors’ names, and start to wonder if I do indeed have a favourite novel of all time? They also ask me to recommend books, which I can, but only if I know a little bit about them and their interests.

At the dentist this week, the receptionist asked me what’s good to read at the moment. I was flummoxed. Do I recommend the recent Booker longlist nominees, two of whom are South African — Damon Galgut for The Promise and Karen Jennings for An Island? Or do I tell her about the book I finished reading at 2am on Tuesday, The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, which left me pondering until 3am why we westernise ourselves and what the ultimate costs are of always trying to fit in and be comfortable in a white person’s world? 

Or do I suggest she waits until the end of August, when Paula Hawkins’s third novel, A Slow Fire Burning, will be released? Hawkins’s publisher at Transworld, Sarah Adams, says: “I adore this book, which contains everything readers could possibly want from a Paula Hawkins thriller — a dark plot that grabs you and never lets up, characters that you believe in utterly, incredible pace and knock-you-sideways twists. Paula skilfully balances delicious touches of sharp, knowing humour with deeply affecting storytelling, so that we are powerfully enthralled from first page to last gasp. This confirms Paula as one of the most exciting commercial thriller authors writing today.” OK, I won’t be able to remember all that, but hopefully I can relate something similar...

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