Changing the world's opinion… as soon as we finish this math homework
When someone asks what my favorite book is, there are always two novels that come to mind. And I can’t for the life of me choose between them.
I love a lot of books. Like, A LOT OF BOOKS. I’ve read The Hunger Games trilogy and Anna and the French Kiss and half the Harry Potter books and Thirteen Reasons Why and the entirety of the Chronicles of Narnia series (and a bunch of others) at least three times each. I actually read Anna and the French Kiss back to back at one point this summer, just because I didn’t want it to end. (Also because OMG THAT ONE SCENE IN ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER.) (I mean, you can’t help but reread Anna a thousand times after that.)
Of my two Absolute Favorite Books though, I’ve read one twice and the other one and a half times and I don’t have plans to reread either again anytime soon.
Those original reading experiences mean too much to me. I don’t want to spoil the memories I currently have locked between those pages with new ones that could never be as big or deep or significant as their predecessors.
The first of these two Absolute Favorite Books is Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. The second is Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.
The funny thing is that Before I Fall is this kind of wonky, Groundhog Day-esque, lyrical contemporary YA and Code Name Verity is this very dark, bittersweetly beautiful, historical NA-ish-thing, and neither are anything I would ever write myself. They aren’t even books I would normally pick up. But they mean the world to me.
I don’t love Before I Fall and Code Name Verity the way I do because they’re particularly excellent on a technical level, even though they are. (Before I Fall has some of the best characters, and character development, I’ve ever read and Code Name Verity has just, like, one of the most perfectly executed plots ever written in the history of ever.) I love these books because they make me feel things in a way other books don’t, and I found them in times when I needed saving and they were exactly the right heroes, and they have shattered me and stomped on me and put me back together again.
And more than anything else, isn’t that what matters about books? More than the author’s use of symbolism, or well-done plot twists, or tightly-crafted prose, isn’t what a book makes us feel the part that stays with us the longest?
I recently re-read The Catcher in the Rye, and although I can tell you lots of reasons for why it’s a classic (that voice! that symbolism!), it honestly didn’t make me—personally, as an individual—feel a thing. But at the same time, I haven’t read a word of Code Name Verity in over a year and I still, you know, JUST HAPPEN TO HAVE SOMETHING STUCK IN MY EYE every time I think about it too much. And I will never forget the tough time Before I Fall pulled me through junior year of high school.
In essence, these books matter because they matter to me. Any book matters, first and foremost, because of how it affects the readers who love it most.
You don’t have to read a book (or watch a movie or listen to a song or take in a painting) “at least three times” for it to be your Absolute Favorite. You just have to remember how it made you feel, and treasure those memories caught in those pages, and know that that book is important. The fact that you believe it is important makes it so.
Every book, whether it has affected a single person or millions, is important.
To paraphrase Code Name Verity, “It’s like being in love, discovering your favorite book.”
And btw, you should totally read Before I Fall and Code Name Verity if you haven’t already. Not promising you’ll fall in love with them, but who knows. We’re all in need of saving at some point. Go out and find your heroes.