I saw a Tweet the other day asking “What was the best book you read in school?”
My flip response was “I could name one best teacher, maybe, but best book, no way.” It isn’t just the snobbery of having become an overeducated English Major (forgive the redundancy) that makes it hard for me.
What was “best” when I was 10 (Prince Tom) had been surpassed by many, many others only a few years later. But that fact did not diminish in any way the bestness of that story about an adopted Cocker Spaniel.
There are also books that I once disliked and yet came to reconsider and promote to “best.” Lord Jim was one. As I only understood decades later, what spooked me was the guilt Jim feels for not protecting the passengers from the Captain who abandons ship. The book was telling me a story I was not ready, at age 12, to face. I did not want to know that sometimes people who get drunk, even people you know, can be mean and stupid. And you can’t stop them.
It is in this way that a book which I thought of as my worst reading experience, one made more depressing because I didn’t know why it made me so sad, became “best” book, when I re-read it as an adult.
I do not believe there could ever be one best book in my life.
Best books are always plural, and always ones that I have read several times, will re-read again, and can’t imagine having lived without reading more than once.
That’s why I am working with a start-up company, Gluejar, which wants to make sure anyone’s “best” book can be reread at any time. We want to make sure no reader will see that book “out of print” and lose the opportunity to remember the joy felt the first time she called that book the “best book I’ve ever read.
Watch for more about Gluejar and our fundraising webstie, Unglue.it.