Last night I watched My Favorite Book on ABC TV. The program polled a bunch of Australians to determine “our favourite book”, and the winner was Tolkien’s desperately-in-need-of-editing tome, The Lord of the Rings.

While it was interesting to see that four of the top 10 were genre books, and that the #1 title was a fantasy, it made me think about my own answer to the question: what is your favourite book? It’s a question I’ve always disliked, and tried to avoid answering by claiming poor memory or whatever. I think the reason I’ve avoided the question is that one book isn’t like another and comparisons seem odious. Also, I’ve been so overwhelmed by the cult of the new and the need to read what’s coming out tomorrow that I don’t get to spend much time re-reading, reading just for pleasure, or even looking back. Reading is business these days, and almost everything I read is for business. Kinda takes the fun out of it a bit.

Still, that’s just avoidance. The first science fiction novel I recall reading is Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy and the first fantasy was probably Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but neither book would make my top 3. In fact, I don’t think a genre book would make my top 3, which would probably be:

1. this;
2. this; and
3. this.

Oddly, all were books that I was assigned to read at High School as part of an English class I was doing, and all of them knocked me out when I read them. The #1 book is the only one I ever shared with my parents that seemed to communicate with them too.

I don’t know whether I could pick a Top 3 genre books, just because I’ve read so many and loved so many. And also because I go off them. I once read C.J. Cherryh’s Downbelow Station five times consecutively in early 1987, but I don’t know if I could read it again. I loved Dune, but doubt it’s readable any longer, and I don’t think I could read anything by Heinlein, even though I loved his work above all else at one time in my life. Hmmm. Well, here’s a Top 11 genre books that I’d identify as having had a profound affect on me. They’re not the only books I’d pick, and I’d probably pick a different list tomorrow morning, but today I’d pick (in alphabetical order by author):

Light Years and Dark, Michael Bishop ed.
Nova, Samuel R. Delaney
Burning Chrome, William Gibson
Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay
The Year of the City, Frederik Pohl
Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
Pacific Edge, Kim Stanley Robinson
The Child Garden, Geoff Ryman
The Rediscovery of Mankind, Cordwainer Smith
Islands in the Net, Bruce Sterling
Strange Things in Close Up, Howard Waldrop