I started posting this as a comment in a community simply about "good books you've read", but I decided I'd rather post it here where I can actually discuss it with people I care about.
When people ask me about my favorite book, it is impossible for me to answer. I've read too much in my life and have had so many wonderful adventures reading, that there's no way I could choose just one. And my favorite books change like the wind with my moods, with the weather, with the passing hours of the day.
So, instead, I shall create a meme of sorts. Tell me about five books or the books from 5 time periods that have been "favorites" or otherwise been meaningful to you at different times in your life:
1. As a little girl, one book I went back to again and again was From, Anna about a girl in a German family who moved to Canada to escape the Nazis. The adaptation of Anna's family to life in Canada was the framework for the story, but the meat of the narrative was really more about how Anna learned that she was nearly blind and was finally able to get the help that she needed to see her world and find her own place in that world in the process.
2. I cannot remember how it was that I discovered Ray Bradbury in junior high, but from the moment I first read his stories they were absolutely magical to me. Perhaps I wanted to read the book Something Wicked This Way Comes because I loved watching the movie on HBO. Perhaps I stumbled across a story in an anthology. However it was, finding Bradbury was like opening a treasure chest, but instead of gold and jewels, I found entire new worlds. A friend of mine loaned me a copy of a collection of 100 Bradbury stories and I devoured them - "All Summer in a Day", "Dark They Were, But Golden Eyed", "A Sound of Thunder"...these were the background to my budding adolescence. I used "The October Game" as one of my selections for Prose Reading in Speech competition...my sophomore year, maybe? It brought rooms to a standstill. I still get that feeling of holding something precious when I read one of his books - especially the short story collections, which are like a string of perfect pearls.
3. In high school, it was The Stranger by Camus that spoke to me. I was 16 years old and haunted Babbits Bookstore, looking for well worn treasures in the philosophy section. I was unfussed by the bleakness of Camus' tale and drawn to the idea that we are all ultimately responsible for ourselves and our actions. So I read Camus and Sartre ("No Exit" was the subject of my direction unit for Advanced Acting and Directing my Junior year) and dipped my toes into Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and luxuriated in my own way. Runner up has to go to Close to the Knives by David Wojnarowicz, which fueled my burgeoning sense of outrage about AIDS and interest in gay rights, which was only fitting, since I was pretty much out as bi as of the summer before my Senior year.
4. Ah college. Never have I been able to so immerse myself in words words words. College would be a three way tie, I think (yes, I'm cheating) between The Handmaids Tale which has always been a favorite of mine, The Last Lunar Banneker by Mina Loy - the best poet you've never heard of, and Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker - not so much because it is a favorite that I want to turn to again and again, but because Acker's prose helped me realize that I could stretch the boundaries of the page in my own writing. There are so many other possibilities for this time period, though.
5. Most of what I read now is relatively ephemeral. Lots of series novels that are quickly devoured and the paper discarded; one off thrillers; pop-culture essays. But I turn time and time again to Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - any of his works, really, but Neverwhere is my favorite, with it's visceral, yet homey, vision of London Below and magic that Richard Mayhew learns to embrace, rather than ignore. Gaiman is one of the few authors, other than Bradbury, that have been able to create that feeling of being entrusted with something delicate and jeweled and precious, just in picking up the book and turning the pages. And I should add that I absolutely adore the introduction of M is for Magic in which he discusses the allusion to Bradbury's R is for Rocket and S is for Space and the conversation he had with R.B. about using the name. It gave me little fangirl shivers.