Books, Thoughts

The Thing About Favorites

I was updating my GoodReads & was checking out some of their newer features.  Apparently, one new item is your own new “favorite” shelf, which takes all the books you’ve given 4 or more stars to & groups them together by default.  I decided to take a quick inventory, just to see what was there.  When you have 400+ books listed, you tend to lose track of what got the highest ratings.

Nothing pops up in the top ranks that I feel like going back on, but I realized that with the books taken out of my personal shelving system, there are a few oddities.  For example, The F Word shares space with The Brothers Karamazov & Maria Irene Fornes’ plays.  Sacrament & Blood and Chocolate are next to Sacred Games & Mystery and Manners.  An excellent how-to guide for bloggers hangs with the Greek tragedies & (God help me) Anne Rice’s Belinda.

I stand by what I said, I wouldn’t re-rank any of these books.  But clearly they don’t stand equal to one another.  For me, at least, there are different tiers of favorites, which is what I ham-fistedly tried to say in a previous post.  This is why I love the GoodReads personalized shelving system so much.  I can give The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle 4 stars because it’s going on my YA shelf & I can indulge in memories of my 10-year-old self.  (A time when my biggest heroes/obsessions were Nancy Drew & Virginia Dare. *happy sigh*)

The same with genre works like Sacrament or Belinda or A Rage in Harlem.  I can appreciate them for what they are.  The books aren’t high literature, but the authors are intensely committed to the story they are telling & the conventions of the mode they’re working in.  But, to borrow a metaphor from Anne Fadiman, I wouldn’t expect them to have much to say to Infinite Jest or Sacred Games.

Of course, I’m not trapped by GoodReads default setting; I can create a “favorites” shelf of my own.  Perhaps I will, but at the same time, I do have to say this.  Although seeing my highest ranked books corralled together is jarring & a bit embarrassing, I might just let them be.  Like love, all favorites are not equal, but they are personal landmarks & deserve their place.  Who wants to waste the energy putting together an “acceptable” list of favorites?  There’s a reason you “play” favorites: sometimes you win the cool prize & sometimes you look like a dork, like the rest of us.