National Book Lovers Day - What is your favorite book?
What happens when an impromptu question is sent to NYPL staff in honor of August 9th “National Book Lovers Day”?
“What is your favorite book? Pick one: One that you've read again and again, or that had a profound impact in your life.”
It becomes a great conversation starter with amazing recommendations coming along and very touching moments shared - a very nice experience.
Below a list of favorite books from our staff: they are in no order or classification (going against my librarian instinct) but hoping that this may prompt a serendipitous encounter with a new favorite book for you too! Take a look, you won’t be disappointed.
You might have seen this question asked on social media - and we now ask YOU to share with us. Please post your answer to this question in a comment!
“The Neverending Story” by Michael Ende. I reread it every single year and it still captures my imagination. - Alicea
“If I have to pick one book, I will say "Little Women" I lost count how many times I read it growing up, loved Jo! Her friendship with Laurie and how much she cared for her family, and her love of books.” - Adriana
My favorite is “Dragon's Bait” by Vande Velde. - Janett
“My favorite book is “Just Above My Head” by James Baldwin”. - Kayleigh
“I read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" for the first time this summer and fell in love. The father/daughter relationship reminded me of my dearly departed Dad and I while growing up here in the Bronx”. -Dawn
“If I can only choose one favorite book, it would have to be The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker. It combines all of my favorite things: a sweeping saga, cowboys, poetry, and Siberia. Its poetry inspired a tattoo my dad and I now share!” - Alexandria
“The Great Gatsby”. There's something captivating about these first lines "in my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” Many people can relate to the privilege of a middle class life. Tom Buchanan's rough and tumble chauvinism, Daisy's damsel in distress persona, and Jay Gatsby's nostalgia for a faded love make this book the great American novel. - Herbert
"Stealing Heaven: The Love Story of Abelard and Heloise” by Marion Meade. This true story of the love affair between a student and the much older scholar hired to tutor her stuck with me since my pre-teen years when I first read it. Heloise became an inspiration to me when she quite literally stated that she would forsake everything for her love of Abelard (she eventually became a nun, and still stated that her love of Abelard came first, God second). I gifted it, and a second book of their love letters to each other, to someone special in my life”. - Anonymous
“The Phantom Tollbooth”! - Tatyana
“Shh! We Have A Plan” by Chris Haughton!” - Melissa
“If I could only choose one favorite book, I would have to choose Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I avidly read (and re-read) the entire Harry Potter series many times but this one was a turning point for me. The book deals with many complex social and emotional changes, and I felt as though I was able to face a lot of challenges in my own life while growing-up alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione.” - Hannah
“The Scar” by China Miéville is a fantasy novel about a librarian who finds herself on a floating pirate city; it is as if someone took a D&D game I ran when I was 13 and applied very adult politics and motivations to it all. Underlying all of that is the beautiful idea that scars are a way to show where we've been and how we've overcome obstacles and pain.” - Judd
“I really love “Matilda” by Roald Dahl. She was my hero for many years as a young person (and still kind of is). Also “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy. The first time I read this book, I fully understood how words can have the power to take your breath away. I fortunately was able to use this book as part of my graduate thesis, so I re-read it countless times, and I still love it and would like to re-read it right now, actually. “ - Katrina
“One of my favorites is Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. I remember reading it in 9th grade and being the only student who enjoyed it! I never knew a book could be so romantic and depressing and moving! It definitely inspired me to widen my reading horizons.” - Rebecca
“My favorite book is “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. I have read it many times. I like how much love and encouragement there is in that close knit family, and the habit of reading a page of Shakespeare and the Bible every night.” - Alexandra
“I first read The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope in the 8th grade. I had found it at the used bookstore in my small hometown. It was literally in a pile of books on the floor that I had to sort through, It was a small yellowed paperback with a fairy queen on the cover - not something I would normally pick up. Up til then I wasn't a big fantasy reader. I liked it but I didn't always seek it out. Historical fiction, romance and mystery was more my jam but I was intrigued by it's Elizabethan England setting. Little did I know that it was an all of the above kind of book, It had history, romance, mystery, fantasy and snappy "His Girl Friday" like dialogue. It felt like Elizabeth Marie Pope had literally written that book just for me. It fed my imagination and heart in ways I didn't realize I was hungry for. For the first time I realized that a seemingly simple story could be so much more than the sum of its parts. I've read plenty of books since that are better and better written and some that have captured my imagination even more but reading Perilous Gard that first time felt like my reading life would never be the same again and I've pretty much carried it with wherever I've lived in the world ever since. It is my piece of home. “ - Anne
“My all-time favorite is Infinite Jest and I totally fit the stereotype” - Jenny
“One of my favorite books in the world is “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman - specifically the fully-cast 10th anniversary audiobook edition. The voice actors picked for each character are just stunning. I listened to this book at the right time in my life and it had an indelible impact on how I understand literature, religion, and everything.My absolutely favorite part is when the main character Shadow is talking to Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jacquel about the ancient Egyptian afterlife. “Back in my day, we had it all set up. You lined up when you died, and you'd answer for your evil deeds and your good deeds, and if your evil deeds outweighed a feather, we'd feed your soul and your heart to Ammet, the Eater of Souls" "He must have eaten a lot of people." "Not as many as you'd think. It was a really heavy feather. We had it made special." - Ellen
“”Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse is my favorite.” - Andrey
“For me: “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. Maybe a cheesy selection, but a decade ago I came across a beautifully decorated version of this left in one of those free giveaway stacks of books that people in Queens (and I'm sure elsewhere) leave for passersby near their house. I took it home and began reading it immediately, and was so consumed by the concept of a Personal Legend and the "Soul of the Universe", that it greatly changed my outlook on life's purpose. I'm a slow reader but I finished it in an evening because of how much it drew me in. Of course I later came to find out that this wasn't some rare book but is actually hugely successful.” - Daniel
“To Kill A Mockingbird”. The book and Atticus Finch's words and characters impacted me so much that I (obviously) took his name when I began to transition and had to decide exactly what sort of man I was. I read it at least once yearly and have done so since I was 16.” - Atticus
“If I had to pick just one book with a "profound impact" in my life, it would be “The Penguin Book of German Verse”, edited by Leonard Forster, which I first pounced on when I was just starting out with German in high school. With the help of the "plain prose translations of each poem" at the foot of the page, I learned more German than a dozen textbooks could have taught me, and with the help of a millennium's worth of samples from the great corpus of German poetry, I was inspired to a lifelong love of world literature and the desire to appreciate any part of it that I could in the original language.” - Kathie
“I have lost myself in the pages of Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir “Fun Home” more times than I can count. Even before my father passed away - as Bechdel's does in the book - I connected so fully with her experiences. To this day when I see someone reading it on the subway I feel a spark of joy. Her dark humor, her literary lifestyle, her exploration of sexuality, and ultimately her very real grief make this a favorite of mine.” - Caitlyn
“The book I could read over and over again is Raymond Chandler's “The Big Sleep”.” - Gregory
“Harry Potter”. Rowling put into words and fantasy the magic and power of love. She also transformed this wee young non-reader into a reader.” - Ricci
“I've found “The Blue Octavo Notebooks” by Franz Kafka to be an excellent book to get lost in. Due to its fractured, segmented, often unfinished nature, it has become my go-to beach/airport/waiting room book as there's always something new to find in it.” - Joey
“One book that has had a profound impact on my life is definitely “Sabriel” by Garth Nix. It was my first "fantastical" fiction book and it changed me forever. I read it when I was in the 4th grade and at least once a year since, I reread it along with all the books following it in the series. (I especially enjoy rereading its sequel, “Lirael”, which features my favorite literary librarian!)”. - Nanyamkah
“Anyone who knows me knows it's all about Tolkien's “The Fellowship of the Ring. I read that and it's following books at least a dozen times between the ages of 10 and now. The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began …” - Joshua
“I'll go with Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith. A recommendation from my mom, I spent too much time convincing myself that I didn't need to read it. Now, I spend that time convincing others it's the perfect book. Set in Appalachia, it recounts the life and letters of a young girl as she grows and lives her adult life. Her development, as well as the change in her language which evolves with her, make this book personal, captivating, and heartfelt.” - Jenny
“Many books have had a profound impact on me, but one of my most memorable books was one that was assigned to me in high school: “Long Day's Journey Into Night” by Eugene O'Neill. This simple but powerful play about a family that disintegrates before our eyes over the course of one night lodged right into my heart and stayed there. Immediately after reading that book I requested the entire Eugene O'Neill collection for Christmas. I became a bona fide fan, and O'Neill worked his way into everything from my college papers to the way I react when I notice people turning lights off to save electricity. I've seen Long Day's Journey Into Night multiple times on stage and on film. And EVERY SINGLE time, that story makes me cry.” - Andrea
“The book that changed my life was "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud. Before I read it for a class in grad school, I didn't "get" comics or graphic novels at all; it had been a chore to read them, and, to be honest, I felt sort of shut out from the medium. "Understanding Comics" was just what I needed to open myself up to a whole new world of stories and experiences. It's a comic *about* comics, and McCloud uses the conventions of comics to teach the reader how to interpret visual narratives. Now that I know how to read the pictures with all the artist's cues, the words and characters come alive for me in a new way and make for a rich and layered reading experience. I'm so grateful "Understanding Comics" was required reading!” - Leah
“My pick is one that profoundly changed my thoughts on middle grade comics...yes, it's Nathan Hale's Donner Dinner Party! Cannibalism, starvation, and the pioneer spirit. There are so many great things about this comic - the way it seamlessly blends historical fact about that ill-fated 1846 trip with strong narrative; the way it maintains a morbid sense of humor that appeals to so many 10 year old readers' love of disaster tales - but the thing I love best is its back matter. Yes, the back matter. Here Nathan Hale includes perhaps my favorite infographic ever - a color coded diagram of the Donner Party - who lived, who died - and how! In these 2 pages he demonstrates the power of comics to relay so much information in such a succinct and yet impactful way. Also, I won't lie - I was one of those 10 year old readers obsessed with disaster tales....hmmmm, well, I still am - so, Nathan Hale, what about a comic on Pompeii?” - Amie
“I've thought long and hard about this and really it just came down to numbers. The book I have re-read most often (i.e., worn out one copy and purchased another) is “Sunshine” by Robin McKinley. It is the retelling of Beauty and the Beast I did not know my vampire-loving self needed in my life until I stumbled upon it during my lunch break in a tiny public library branch I'd never visited before. Robin McKinley was already one of my favorite authors, and I thought that I followed her publications closely but here was this book, already in paperbook, that I'd never even heard of before. It was and still is a lovely surprise to me in every aspect.” - Jennifer
“Little Women" is my favorite book too! I loved Jo for her rebellious spirit and independence, and, of course, her love of books and reading. She's the first strong, fierce female role model I can remember coming across in a book. It makes me so happy every time I encounter someone else that loves the book!” - Amber
“Gah. I have asked myself this question for years and have never been able to successfully to narrow it down. The closest I've come is this handy chart I made a few years ago. The overarching themes are brave girls, magic/powers and cool dragons.” - Althea
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Seven Realms Series by Cinda Williams Chima
Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede
“I know it's cheesy and not a literary masterpiece at all, but I love “Midnight” by Dean Koontz. I've read it many times and I keep going back to it, because it's well written and scary and it stay with you after you're done with it. It's about a small town in California, whose inhabitants have been mysteriously changing into emotionless robotic people and the reasons behind it are shocking and terrifying.” - Nanor
“A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman” is my all-time favorite book. I pick it up every few years for another read and have given it as a gift dozens of times. It is a beautiful selection of essays on our five senses - delicious and intriguing.” - Maura
“My favorite is Dan Brown's “The Da Vinci Code”. I was so excited about the story I couldn't wait to get back to it to continue reading. I read it with a legal pad next to me on which I wrote down all of the things that were mentioned in the book that interested me. I filled up pages and pages of the legal pad and then went and read up on those topics. This was before tablets came out with touch screens that you could do further research on anything you clicked on in the book. These days I would just touch the name or phrase and get a definition or detailed information from google. The story was a fascinating mixture of fiction and fact and history (which I love). This book generated such excitement among the public that many books were written in response to it. I did a display at BLC of all of the Da Vinci Code related material I could find in the library including titles about the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, Italian Renaissance art (The Mona Lisa), the Priory of Sion, Opus Dei, Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, the Merovingian kings of France, Rosslyn Chapel and the Holy Grail among other things. And of course there was the movie with Tom Hanks.” - Cheryl
“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini is still one of my favorite books. The cultural richness in this fiction novel is heartfelt and well written.” - Frances
“Books about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances appeal to me. It's hard to nail down just one book so I will present some of my faves.
1) “Meshugah” by I.B. Singer - This is a black comedy of a book about three people coming out from the ashes of the Holocaust, trying to rebuild normal lives but ultimately fail in the attempt. This book packs a punch.
2) “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon - This is a mash-up of romance, science fiction and history. Here our hero and heroine transcend time and space to build an enduring love for the ages. Utterly compelling!
3) “John Adams” by David McCullough - John Adams' extraordinary life and times comes brilliantly to life in the hands of master biographer David McCullough. This book is treat and delight for biography and history lovers.” - Helene
“It's always been “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy since I discovered it in junior high school. I've reread it countless numbers of times, and I always find something I missed before, and it's always fresh for me.” - Nicole
“I was so obsessed with 1984 by George Orwell when I first read it (in 1984!), I cajoled some of my classmates into performing it as a play for our 6th grade class. Not a huge success, but we made it through our one and only performance. First published in 1949, and still prescient today! Related material available on Kanopy - Winston Smith - The Hero We Never Want to Be. “ - Sherri
“My favorite book at the moment is: Maria Hesse, “Frida Kahlo Una biografía”. Is a beautiful illustrated biography about the life of Frida Kahlo. If you're learning Spanish is a very easy book to read and follow!” - Laura
“My all time favorite is “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck. I love it because it is a true epic about human nature, family, and the ideas of good and evil. And of course because Steinbeck's writing is so beautiful.” - Chelsea
“I'm glad no one has already said this: “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is absolutely the best, one of the only books I reread. It is such an emotional joyride to see these two boys come into their own and discover their love for each other. Tears and laughs on every page. "I wanted to tell them so many things and yet I didn't have the words. So I just stupidly repeated myself. 'Dante's my friend'" (Richard starts bawling). I'm nervous for the sequel…” - Richard
"Favorite" is a loaded word, but the book I find myself thinking about and recommending most often is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. It's a 9/11 story, so of course it is sad, but I also find it profound, funny, inventive and unexpected. Every time I pick it up, I discover a new detail or insight I had not noticed before.” - Ronni
“Growing up as first generation Chinese American it was refreshing to finally find an author that wrote something that I can relate to. Amy Tan's novel "Joy Luck Club" is my favorite book. Many ABC (American Born Chinese) will know that being first generation has its own list of battles, you're not Chinese enough for the family and you're not American enough for your peers. This novel brought to light my struggles of trying to be an individual, strong minded and independent woman. I re-read this book so many times that I finally needed to buy a hardcover copy because my paperback copy finally fell apart. “ - Kelly
“Can I pick a series? Terry Pratchett's “Discworld series” is amazing. It starts off parodying traditional fantasy novels, but quickly and steadily evolves into satirizing modern society. Like any series, some are great, but here even the least of the series has a message that resonates. The series and the author in general are very quotable: 26 Discworld Quotes About Life, The Universe, And Everything” - Gregory
“Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert. “Be satisfied with what you have and where you are. Sometimes all of us need to pause and think how happy we are and enjoy the moment". - Alyona
“As so many contributors have pointed out, it is extraordinarily difficult to point to a single title as being the one that had the greatest, most profound impact on a person's life. So many brilliant children's, YA, and adult titles flood my mind in an instant. This book blew me away when I was 12, that one shook me like an earthquake when I was 17, and these other two, read consecutively, were all I could think of for months when I was 25. But I can say with conviction that four children's books will, forever, fill my heart with deep sadness and overwhelming joy whenever I see them on the shelf or contemplate literary excellence. And those are Russell Hoban's The Mouse and His Child, E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince. All four share life lessons that are vital and can help make us better and more understanding and compassionate human beings. I will cherish all four always and will never cease recommending them, especially to young people.” - Jeff
We now ask YOU to share with us. Please post your answer to this question in a comment: “What is your favorite book? Pick one: One that you've read again and again, or that had a profound impact in your life.”