Sunday, June 10, 2007


One’s favorite book is as elusive as one’s favorite pudding.
***E. M. Forster
“In My Library” pt. II (1949)

There's a discussion going on elsewhere--what's your favorite book? it's asking. And interestingly, although mystery writers/readers could all talk for hours about books we adore, and are thankful to have read, my favorite of all favorites was a winner by a mile. So I typed it in, and said, anyone else love this? I'd love to know. Days went by, and I didn't hear a 'Me, too' from anyone.

There were Jane Eyres (of course) and a lot of To Kill a Mockingbirds (who doesn't love that?) and a Shogun or two. And many more, of course. But I started wondering, if my favorite book is no one else's favorite book, why is that? And then, days later, a reply came in...Carol Shmurak of Connecticut says, she was just about to type in the same book. And I felt--let's have dinner! I just know I'll like her. The book is Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin. And if any of you have read it....

And doesn't it feel like a betrayal when a best friend hates a book you loved-loved-loved and recommended? I recommended one of my favorite books from last year, Joseph Wambaugh's Hollywood Station to several good friends and their response was tepid.

Well, you gave it to my darling husband for his birthday, and he's loving loving living it, I must say. So there's at least one soulmate. But yes, you offer a wonderful book, like a treasure you've discovered and want to share, and part of the fun is sharing the experience, right? Like in a book club. But then they look at you like, thanks but no thanks.

When it was my turn for book group, I chose Custom of the Country, my favorite of my favorite Edith Wharton. I went to the meeting, eager to share in a true reading delight. Instead I was hooted and booed. (Not really, but some of the group thought it was boruing and stilted.) The other half thought--as I do--it was innovative and thought-provoking and revealing and marvelous.

I've been in a reading group for over a year and a few months ago, I finally got to choose a book. I chose The Egyptologist, which I thought was clever, fun, smart, engaging, and original. Not my favorite book of all time, but a good read, as they say. People didn't get it, some hated it. I sat there and felt like I was from Mars. One of my favorite writers is Robert Hellenga (Sixteen Pleasures, Fall of a Sparrow.) And no one's ever heard of him. I keep waiting to mention his name and have someone say "Omigod, you like him,too!"

Everybody brings their own life to a book. Also the mood of the moment. When I was in my late teens I went on an F. Scott Fitzgerald rampage, reading and adoring every single one of his books.

Now I'm reading The Great Gatsby for a second time. Clearly the revered author's most highly regarded book, and a story that intrigued me the first time around. You know what I'm thinking? I'm thinking, geez Scott, this sentence construction is a little pretentious. And man, you could never get away with this melodrama today. In short, now that I've gone through my jazz-age fascination, I have less patience. But other favorites -- and less revered works -- that I've reread have only gotten better as a repeat. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry for one. I could read that book once a year and still enjoy it. And yet one of my very best friends, a writing buddy, couldn't stand it. It's all just all so personal...

Yes, going back is always interesting. Maybe it means there's a favoirte for each time of your life. (I read Look Homeward Angel about 6 times.) It means something to you then, lasting, sometimes, but sometimes ephemeral. I had a lavender hot pants suit once, I loved it. It was my favorite. (I will pause now, for the general hilarity.) And when I think about it in that time--I still love it. (I will join in, now, with the general hilarity.)

BREAKING NEWS. (Hank couldn't resist.) Just to remind you all that the pub date for my first novel, PRIME TIME is Tuesday June 12! Reviewers say "it's a perfect comimbination of mystery and romance." Here's a fun photo of some of the (very wonderful) people who came to Book Expo America last week and actually stood in line to get a copy. (That's me in the black and white checks. The chic woman in the ice green jacket is the charming and indefatigible Anita Sultmanis from Harlequin, who kept everything working perfectly.)
And it makes me wonder--might PT someday be someone's favorite book? At least for as long as they loved their hot pants?
Anyway. I hope you like it.
And looking back at our opening quote--does anyone actually have a favorite pudding?


  1. Taste in books is so personal that I've come to be almost as protective of my favorites as I am of my own writing :) I've gotten pretty good at knowing which books people close to me will and won't love. Recommendations from some people merit more weight with me than others, depending on who they come from - it's no reflection on the books, purely a matter of likes and dislikes. I wonder why it's so disappointing when a book we're so excited to recommend is not well received - it's almost like a personal rejection, isn't it?

  2. It does give a sense of satisfaction when someone thanks me for recommending a favorite book.

    Hank, I had to smile when you wrote that you hope Prime Time will be someone's favorite. I think all writers have that wish.

    It was nice to see you at NEC yesterday. Best of luck with PRIME TIME!

  3. Winter's Tale is a really wonderful novel. I gift that one often...I think everyone should like it as much as I do.

    And gratz on PRIME TIME!

  4. Its like when you it was your turn to pick the song that would be played on the juke box, remember? (Well,some of us do. And for other, yes, this is what happened.)

    So you'd wait for your quarter to clink though, and the music to start, and then you'd have to clench your brain while you waited to see if a wail of derision arose from your classmates who were just waiting to see if you picked a clunker.

    It was such a public decision. I can see why Lisa prefers to keep her favorites to herself.

    But then, let say you picked, oh, Jackson Browne, Running on Empty, and everyone cheered. So sharing is fun, too.

    Crystallyn, thanks for the kind words. xo

  5. OK, now you have me ready to recommend Hank! No matter what kind of books people like, I've rarely found anybody who can read Lamb by Christopher Moore and not find it hysterical. On a more literary vein -- The Dogs of March and the whole Darby series by Ernest Hebert are fantastic. They are very New England, very New Hampshire and very beautiful. I'm going to play G2 - Tainted Love, J4 - 96 Tears, B2 - Baba O'Reilly (it's full of oldies). Ha, I'm out of the closet :) --- and Amazon emailed today to let me know Prime Time has been shipped!

  6. I just finished Prime Time and I'm fairly certain Charlie McNally is going to be everyone's favorite new sleuth!She's so incredibly likeable with her skills and her self doubts. And her compassion-to-sleuthing ratio is perfect.

  7. Ok--Lisa has me going to the bookstore for her picks (and now I can't get Tainted Love out of my head, darn you)(and whoo hoo, thanks Amazon)....
    and Jan has me going to the drugstore for Kleenex.
    Thank you thank you for your very thoughtful and wonderful words. It's so reassuring when someone gets it!

  8. Sticky toffee pudding is my favorite, if we're talking English puddings rather than Jell-O. Just thought someone ought to have an opinion!

    And I agree with Jan's sentiment about Fitzgerald -- mainly, that the time in your life at which you read a book greatly influences your reception of it. I'm currently loving Flannery O'Connor's short fiction, but ask me again in a few years...

    No, on second thought, I'm sure she'll still be brilliant. I look forward to reading Prime Time, Hank!