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Just One Book??

May 21, 2012

Yeah yeah yeah, I’ve seen a gazillion tweets recently about people’s reading lists for summer or their all time favorite reading lists or whatever.

Anyone can make a list.

But what if you had to recommend JUST ONE BOOK??

I know, I know, that’s just crazy talk.

But I’m just saying, if you had to. What would you recommend? Hold on to that thought.

So anyway, I’ve mentioned my great love connection with Lisa from Coliloquy. Well Lisa sent me an email in February telling me about her friend Carlin Gettliffe and his project On The Read. It turns out, Carlin is traveling around the world, staying with people and asking them to recommend a single book (recommendations are to be made with solemn care).

In other words, if you could choose a single book that you would want someone to read in his/her lifetime, what would it be?

Carlin will stay at each place for as long as it takes to read that book, and he’ll blog about it at ontheread.com.

Now, I ask you, is this not a super cool project???

But of course, what really sold me on this was Lisa’s line about why I was receiving her email (along with other bcc’d people): “Please note that this means I put you squarely in the crosshairs of interesting person, reads a lot, and good taste.”

What??? You know I’m a sucker for compliments!!

Well, I gave my one bathroom caveat (offset by the cutest, most entertaining kids ever, of course, not to mention a husband who cooks!), and said count us in!! If you dare…

Well, he dares. And he’s coming. Soon!!

So, in light of our whole one bathroom situation, my husband was really pushing for ONE FISH TWO FISH.

But I don’t really think that’s the kind of “solemn care” that they were talking about.

Well, I’ve chosen my book for Carlin. I’ve bought a copy (for me to reread as well, which I should get doing by the way since he’s supposed to arrive next week), and I’m SO EXCITED to hear what he thinks!!!! (I guess he doesn’t want to know in advance so you don’t get to know yet either, sorry.)

He’ll blog about it and I will too. You know, assuming he doesn’t steal my computer or something.

But just out of curiosity, if you could choose only one book for someone to read, what would you choose? Tell me in the comments.

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49 Comments
  1. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.
    Hands down the best book I have ever read to date. I use it as a bar of perfection for my own writing and hope that one day someone will think of my work the way I think of his.

  2. That is so incredibly tough, but at the same time easy. There’s one book that is indelibly printed on my memory. It’s one of the first ones I read largely on my own, with the help of my dad who taught me how to read. Tee Vee Humphrey by John Lewellen. It might be out of print at this point but it’s one of those books that just stayed with me.

  3. Wow! How fun! Yikes. One book. Hmmm…

  4. Ok a lot of people will view this as either, a., a cop-out, b., an eye-roller, or c., boringly obvious. But what about the Bible? And I am not a religious person. I mean strictly from a literary perspective. It has to be the most-quoted book in literature, entire novels are based on interpretations of it, and its events–fictional or not–have started countless wars. I started reading the Bible not because I was religious but because I wanted to be a better and more educated WRITER, and it has been fascinating. Every page, it seems, there is a reference that makes me say, “ohhhh, THAT’S where so-and-so got that.” But I don’t think this would be too good for Carlin’s project, unless he wanted to move in and start paying rent. The Bible’s not a book you read in a weekend.

    If the Bible doesn’t count, maybe I go with The Phantom Tollbooth?

    • I don’t think The Bible is a terrible suggestion at all, but even if I had the space (which we definitely don’t!!), I would never really suggest it for reasons that will become clear when I talk more about the book I HAVE chosen. But I think it’s a valid choice and you make a lot of excellent points.

  5. That’s almost a cruel thing to ask, yet a fascinating thing to debate in my head. Hm. Thinking of books that made the biggest impact on me, probably either To Kill a Mockingbird or The Poisonwood Bible. But for the sake of pure enjoyment, The Blue Castle, by LM Montgomery. 3 titles. Sheesh. I can’t even follow the rules.

  6. Okay Michelle–this is so hard, but I think I would pick Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated. Like Stephanie said above, this is one that has stayed with me since I read it in college six years ago. I can’t wait to see what you pick!

  7. How rich and wonderful to be able to experience this. Bravo for stepping up and taking the challenge!

    I consider book referrals a reflection, at some level, of the interpersonal relationship between both parties. Making a One and Only book recommendation would make this difficult. I can’t tell you how much I love this entire concept and I’ll be following Getliffe’s trek from here on out. Thanks for spreading the news 🙂

    Hmm. I might go with The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac because Keroauc’s and Getliffe’s experiences mirror each other in interesting ways. Wow- that’s tough. Can’t wait to see what you’ve chosen.

  8. I highly recommend Marni Mann’s–Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales: A Story of Addition. Don’t let the title/subject matter scare you away. The writing is fantastic.

  9. Wow, that is so incredible difficult. So, if we take away religious texts from the running, I think I would have to go with The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Ironic, considering I mostly read and write YA, but this is the book that truly made me decide I wanted to be an author. I’d always written books (since I was in second grade ha ha) and read voraciously (I’m talking Jurassic Park in 5th grade, Pride and Prejudice in 6th, etc.). But when I read TPB, I was struck to the core. First, I’ve always been fascinated by Africa, second the writing was absolutely beautiful and made me feel like I was there, but third–and most impactful for me–were the voices of the characters. I was completely floored (in all my teenage wisdom and knowledge) to read a book where the voices were so incredibly unique for each chapter, that I could open the book and know exactly which character’s chapter I was reading without having to look. (It’s told from the perspective of five sisters.) Also, I am the oldest of five sisters, so that struck a chord in me as well. I just remember thinking, “I wish I could write a book this good someday.” And I have reread it many times to remind myself since then. So, just because of the profound impact it had on me, that’s the one I would choose. Plus, it is a fascinating book to discuss whether the person who read it liked it or not. There is so much meat to the story. So, yep, that is my long, rambling answer for you. 🙂

  10. My favorite book ever is a A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

  11. My blanket recommendation is always THE BOOK THIEF, by Markus Zusak. I recommend a lot of books, but always tailor based on who I am talking to. I recommend that book to everyone, no matter what.

  12. tbronley permalink

    My personal favorite is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Even though it’s not the world’s best writing (of course, it was in a day and age where ‘concise’ wasn’t as important), it’s such a great story with fascinating sub-stories. They everything meshes makes for a great story. Insatiable revenge was an awesome theme. Just my opinion.

  13. Looking for Alaska by John Green. I’d recommend it to anyone.

  14. ebedwell1 permalink

    Wow. Great question. I’ve been pondering it for awhile now. Part of me wants to pick a really long book, just so he would stick around and talk about it. Part of me wants to pick my favorite book, but I know it would be read in a couple hours….Hmmm…

    Okay, I’m going with Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Morality, humanity, love, pain, loss…it’s a tome, but it’s a beautiful tome.

  15. Wow, that is tough to narrow down. Let’s see … maybe The Hunger Games. It’s taut, well-written, and has trans-generational appeal. I haven’t met a person who’s read it who hasn’t loved it. Even people (like me) who generally don’t care for dystopian novels.

  16. I would keep a series of books on hand and feel him out. Questions I would ask him over dinner: What has your life been like so far? What kind of person do you want to become? What do you hate? Then I’d pick a book from a pseudo-list. That’s what I do for my friends, I cater.

    The list from which I’d draw is more than just a favorites list. I see them as crucial books for life, ten nonfiction and ten fiction. It looks something like this:

    Fiction:

    The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
    Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
    The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle
    Tale of Two Cities by Dickens
    The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Deathly Hallows by Jo Rowling
    Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
    The Giver by Lois Lowery
    Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

    Nonfiction:

    The Gospel of Luke
    Outliers by Gladwell
    Faerie Queen by Spencer
    Secret Life of Houdini by Kalush
    Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
    Fruits of Solitude by William Penn
    The Apology of Socrates
    Aids to Reflection by Coleridge
    Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
    The Psalms

    The end.

    • (sorry for the length, Michelle ;D)

    • Don’t apologize for the length. This is great. I agree, it’s not necessarily about favorites but about crucial books for life. But then again, given what I do, I would probably put a favorite in there as well. I have more thoughts on this but think I will incorporate it into my next post. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

      • You’re more than welcome. That list changes by the week, by the way. I nearly put “Fletch” by Gregory McDonald on there, even though I haven’t finished it yet. The dialog is… it’s something else.

  17. I CANNOT wait to read yours and Carlin’s posts from his visit!!!! So excited…

  18. Anonymous permalink

    I am commenting so your husband will keep his sanity.

  19. Very hard and unfair question 😉 I’m picking the one that sparked my imagination the earliest I can remember; ‘Treasure Island’ by Robert Lewis Stevenson. A teacher gave me a ragged, well used copy and I’ve been an avid reader ever since.

  20. I read your post earlier, and didn’t comment because the question is so weighty. I have so many favorite books and authors, And for so many different reasons!! I’m leaving a message here just to make your husband happy, but I’ll be back when I decide which book I would recommend…I may have to enlist help …I love the project and the question!

  21. “Letting Go” by Philip Roth. An old book, but it is truly The Great American Novel.

  22. Allison permalink

    If it could be a series, honestly, Harry Potter. I’ve read them all multiple times and wish I had the time to read them all again right now. Magical all the way through.

  23. aviatrixkim permalink

    I read CRIME AND PUNISHMENT at a crucial time in my life, when I was quite young and wrestling painfully with the more depressive aspects of my brain. So it felt like a revelation to watch a character plunge into madness, reap horrible consequences, and then come out the other side and rediscover a healthy self-awareness.

  24. I, too, give book recommendations to people based on what I think they most “need”….but looking back on it, the single book that I think I’ve recommended to every single person I know is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect book.

    A very close second choice, and also a perfect book, would be Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

  25. ebonymckenna permalink

    It has to be The Princess Bride by William Goldman. (I won’t get finicky and say you have to read the original Morgenstern in Florinese.)

  26. This is not difficult at all. The book I love best is Lori Lansens’ The Girls. My copy is worn, completely tattered after making it’s way to friend after friend. The only downside: no other book can match it (so far).

  27. Aurelia Blue permalink

    3 words….. THE. THORN. BIRDS.

    • LOVE this book!! Have read it a gazillion times too. But not in years.

      • Aurelia Blue permalink

        LOL. Yeah….. I know…… I read books out loud to my young teenaged kids through the summer and on school breaks. After the Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games and all the Potters, they were like, “MOM! This is so loooooong and tedious.” And I realized I hadn’t read it in so long that I’d forgotten how much time it takes to really savor it…. we ended up eating pizza and chips and nacho cheese for three days in my bed over Spring Break watching the mini series on DVD. Thankfully, they were intrigued and wanted more, so it’s back on the beach book list. We live near Lake MI and spend copious hours lying in the sun enjoying our books to crashing of waves…… wow, I’m so glad there are only 6 more days of school…….

  28. No one will know mine: The Widow’s Mite by Ferroll Sams. I’ve loaned had to replace my copy more times than I can count. (I guess that says something about my friends.)

    • Heard the name. What’s it about?

      • It’s a collection of (not so) short stories by Farroll Sams, a Georgia physician who wasn’t published until he was in his 50’s. Other favorites he wrote include Run with the Horseman, The Whisper of the River, and When All the World Was Young which are about growing up through high school (1st book), college, and medical school of his protagonist. These got me hooked on his writing, but The Widow’s Mite has such eclectic stories I would cry laughing from one and could cry with sadness from the next.

  29. Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. My father is French, so I grew up with it in the original language. As I’ve thought about this question, it’s the one book that keeps persistently arising over and over. The images and story have become irrevocably imbedded in my subconscious.

    The funny thing is that for a while I had no idea what I would recommend if someone asked me this question, but that didn’t keep me from asking everyone else and basing a project on their answers. Hurray for impossible questions!

  30. Danelle permalink

    I don’t know. Right now, I’d probably say The Hunger Games because everyone I know who has read it gets excited about reading other things. The pace is just so fast, it feels effortless.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. How Do You Choose Just One Book? « Wolfson Literary Agency
  2. On The Couch « Wolfson Literary Agency
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