You remember those awful ice breakers in school? When you had to go around the room and tell everyone your name, and your favorite color, and a fun fact about yourself, and your preferred flavor of ice cream or whatever? Chances are good that none of these activities actually helped you get to know your classmates any better, and since they weren’t exactly deep or introspective prompts, they probably never inspired you to reevaluate anything about yourself either. Yet when I was in grad school I did get one ice-breaking question that made me think about things a little differently.
My professor asked the class: What’s your favorite book when you’re trying to impress people at a cocktail party…and then what’s your real favorite book?
It seems silly now, but that was the first time I ever consciously acknowledged how I tend to tailor my favorite book to suit whoever asked me about it. My go-to impressive book was always Never Let Me Go by Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro. But with other audiences, my favorite book might be Harry Potter or something by John Green, since those are the books that I can read and reread without ever growing bored of them. And, of course, there are other times when people ask me my favorite book and I just freeze, paralyzed by the sheer multitude of books I’ve read and loved in my life. And sometimes my favorite book is literally just whatever book I most recently finished.
That’s why I liked my professor’s ice breaker question. It gave me space to have more than one favorite book, but I want to make a distinction. None of my favorite book choices are more “real” than the others. I don’t have one real favorite book and a bunch of other fake ones. All of the books I mentioned are my real favorites—plus a lot of others I’m not thinking of right now—depending on what I want to get out of them.
So I think we can open up the favorite book categories even more. For example:
- What’s your favorite book to cheer you up when you’re sad?
- What’s your favorite book to reread every year?
- What’s your favorite book to help you escape your problems?
- What’s your favorite book to recommend to others?
- What’s your favorite book to inspire and motivate you?
- What’s your favorite book to make you feel like you’re not alone?
Do you think it’s necessary to sort your favorite books like I do? Or is it easier for you to pick a capital F favorite? Either way, tell me your faves in the comments!