What Defines a Favorite

Hello, friends!  It feels like it has been forever since I posted on the blog, and even longer since I’ve interacted on the blogosphere. Finals just ended a few days ago, and while I survived, I’m still recovering from having such extreme amounts of stress placed upon me with such tight deadlines. All that to say that I will slowly be responding to comments and catching up on all the posts we were tagged on and eventually even start blog hopping again. Although it may take another week or two to get back into the full swing of things. But that’s enough chatting about the impromptu hiatus we went on. Let’s talk about books!

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I’ve had the idea for this post in my mind for a while now, but I haven’t felt quite ready to write out my feelings until now. Basically, what I’ve noticed is that there are many books that I loved to pieces years ago, that I no longer have that same love for. And honestly, you don’t even have to go back years. There are some books that I read and adored and shouted about for weeks, and then a few months later, I’m already questioning if they’re truly favorites. So today I’m here to talk about my experience with favorite books, why I think it’s so difficult for me to have an all-time favorite, and to discuss a little how I’ll be choosing my favorite books of the year for 2020. That last bit is why I thought now would be a good time to post this. I need to start thinking over favorite books of the year, which inspired a mini crisis in me about “What truly is a favorite?”, and I decided to figure out all my feelings with all of you to hear your thoughts on the matter as well!

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For the longest time now, I’ve struggled with a particular tag question that I’d see quite often. “Name a favorite childhood read!”. It seems so simple! I’ve had so many favorite series throughout the years. The trouble is, as time passes, my memory fades, and as my memory fades, so does my confidence in the fact that I loved a certain book. After all, if I can barely remember the plot of the book, how can I really be sure I loved it? And what if I read it now and hated it? That’s a concern I have that can fill up a whole post in it of itself because the few times I’ve reread childhood favorites, they haven’t had the same impact on me.

Part of the problem is, I struggle with separating my current feelings with my past feelings. Yes, I adored reading the Percy Jackson series, and I stand by the fact that it’s a fantastic series, but I no longer hold any interest in reading it. And like I mentioned, on my most current attempt at a re-read, it didn’t hold my attention. Which begs the question, is it still a favorite then?

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To make matters even more complicated, part of how I rate a book has to do with how memorable I feel the book will be. Many times a 3 star read isn’t a bad book, just one I don’t see myself remembering or recommending in the future. Which brings me back to why I’m having trouble deciding on favorites this year. There are some books that I loved and gave 4 or 5 stars that I haven’t thought about until I started going through the books I read in preparation to make a list of 2020 favorites. Do I now lower those ratings? Are those books truly favorites? Do I separate the list into memorable favorites and forgettable favorites? Because I do think that a book can find you at the perfect time, and can become a favorite that way. It doesn’t need to necessarily leave a lasting impression. But then is that something I want to recommend, if it’s so subjective? These are all the questions I’m pondering at the moment, especially when I think back to what my favorites were last year.

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Sick Kids in Love and Red, White, & Royal Blue are still books that I love and recommend with my whole heart, but I’m waiting for the time when my love for them starts to feel more like a memory, rather than a tangible thing. After all, that’s what has happened to me with all my other favorites. And I think that while it can be upsetting to lose that feeling of a book being an ultimate favorite, it’s nice to know that my answers will change as I change and grow personally. I want my favorites to be representative of me, and if I’ve changed as a person, it makes sense that my favorites would change to reflect that. 

But I’m curious now about how other people define a book as a favorite. What makes you recommend a book incessantly? What makes you proclaim a book as an ultimate favorite? I still haven’t quite fully figured out my logic yet, so I’m hoping that hearing some other perspectives will help me gain some insight into how I judge my favorites in the future! 

What are some of your favorite books? What makes a book a favorite? Is there anything that can make a book no longer be a favorite?

26 thoughts on “What Defines a Favorite

  1. I think I agree with you – it’s so difficult to have concrete rules that define favorites, and I’m not even sure I’d want my favorites to be chosen that mechanically, if that makes sense? So for me too, a favorite is a book that is memorable and that made me feel a lot of emotions while reading. It’s one that, even as I forget the details of the plot, remains with me and one that I’d reread, even if I haven’t done so yet. When I was doing my favorite pieces of media post months ago, I struggled a lot with choosing the seven things that mean so much to me, especially as some of the things I mentioned are faves I currently consume – like an on-going podcast or book series – while others have ended and I haven’t revisited them in a while.

    Personally, I look at the characters the most when I read – or consume any other type of media – so my favorite books, shows, podcasts etc. tend to be ones where I absolutely adored the characters. This is why The Diviners series remained a favorite, even though the final novel was somewhat disappointing. That being said, my favorites definitely change – there are books that remain with me for a long time, but others I let go for one reason or another. I think it’s cool when it’s something I slowly let go of – like Percy Jackson, which I still have fond memories of, even though I only read the book in high school, so not as a kid. It’s worse when I grow to dislike something because the author is problematic – that happened with Rowling. I was already growing out of the series, I think, but after all that she has done I can’t look at them fondly at all, and this has been the case for the past few years, which is a pity. :/ Really great discussion, Malka!

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    1. Oooh, yes! That’s a really good point! Part of what makes a book a favorite is that feeling that you have towards it. I know that for me there are some books that make me emotional, but don’t become favorites. Others that have many flaws but I love them regardless. Having a set checklist of sorts to define what makes a book a favorite would be impossible for me! There are too many different ways a book can become a favorite for me!

      And I definitely understand that! There are some books that I would still consider favorites even though I haven’t interacted with them in years, while others are newer favorites that I still think are fantastic, even if they don’t remain an all time favorite!

      I’d say that there are several things that can capture my attention when reading a book. Characters are definitely a big deal for me. Plot is not as big a deal, since I prefer books that are more slice of life, rather than books with more action. However, if the author crafted the plot so that there are unique elements are several storylines that intersect in interesting ways, I’ll make exceptions from time to time. Lastly, if the writing wows me, a book can become a favorite, even if nothing else about the book really impressed me!

      I think I also have different levels of favorites. my favorite books of the month might not all end up favorite books of the year, and taking it a step further, it’s even more difficult for a book to become an all time favorite! I also feel like no book can be a forever favorite. I believe that at some point every long-time favorite book will fade from my favorites list, unless I have reread said book more recently.

      That being said, there definitely are some books that I slowly fell out of love with, although I’d still recommend them. They just no longer hold a piece of my heart. I was actually lucky enough to have that experience with Harry Potter as well, so by the time Rowling revealed her true nature, I wasn’t invested in the series, and I’ve had no problem cutting those books out of my life. Although of course I wouldn’t recommend the series anymore, while I would still recommend PJO and other books that used to be favorites.

      Thank you! 💕

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  2. This is such a thought provoking post! I don’t know how much I’ve thought before about how I define books as a favorite but now I’m really thinking about it. I rate books very similarly to you, where a lot of what I read ends up getting 3 stars because I enjoyed reading it, but I know I won’t be rereading it or labeling it as any kind of favorite. But I definitely also don’t have the best memory of all the books that I’ve read this year, so I know when I look back at the end of the year I’ll be wondering how much of a favorite one book is compared with another book that also seemed to be a favorite in the moment but now I can’t recall the character’s first name…

    Anyway, I’m going to stop my existential crisis before it gets too long, but thank you for this very lovely post, Malka! ❤

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    1. Thank you! I think that the test of time is both helpful yet frustrating. Because there are some books that you can remember loving, but not remember any important detail, like the character’s name, whereas there are other books that were just okay, and yet you remember so many details! I think the problem becomes when we think all favorites need to be judged on the same scale. I don’t think it’s beneficial to compare or even rank favorites. Each book can be a favorite for a different reason, and that’s perfectly okay! If it feels like a favorite, why not call it a favorite?

      I’m sorry for causing you to have an existential crisis ! But I’m very glad that you enjoyed the post regardless! 💕

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  3. I think we all overthink it a bit. Our memories of every book fades over time, and I think it’s more about the fact that you sat down, read the book and loved it, that makes a favourite. I dont think theres a specific set of rules that have to define a favourite book. This is sort of why I dont really write reviews- sometimes I dont want to explain why and how I loved a book- I just did. I feel like we have to take a step back, and not overly analyse things about books- a series you read when you were younger might have been a favourite, and just because you don’t enjoy it anymore shouldn’t take away from the fact that at some point that book gave you happiness. To me, a favourite is a book that means a lot to you, and made you think really hard and smile really wide, and granted also made you cry very long 😅 Just because you dont like it now, doesnt mean it wasnt a favourite.

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    1. I definitely overthink things! But it’s been a blessing for blogging, since I get to turn all the topics I ponder into discussion posts!

      I agree though that you don’t need a set of rules to call a book a favorite, but I find it interesting that my approach to what makes a book a favorite is inconsistent! There are some books that become favorites because of how beautifully they’re written while others are favorites because they just made me so happy, even if the writing wasn’t anything special. It makes it hard to compare or rank favorites, since I have different reasons for loving each book.

      I do hear that. Sometimes it can be really difficult for me to review books I loved because I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it was about the book that made me love it! But I still enjoy breaking things down too much to not at least attempt to figure out what made that particular book work so well for me.

      And that’s definitely true. Some books are no longer favorites, but they still hold fond memories and hold the title of past favorites! I just would no longer include them on lists of current favorites!

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  4. I mostly agree with you. I find I will say I loved a book and a few weeks later I’ve blocked out everything about and couldn’t even describe the plot. I’ve always been terrible for not being able to remember character names, even minutes after finishing a book. If a plot doesn’t stick in my mind I begin to doubt if it’s a favourite. So for yearly favourites I’ve got to be able to distinctly remember at least some part of the story. All time favourites I disagree on, though. I’m a huge retreaded for comfort so I know a book is a true favourite if I keep rereading. It may be I have to preface any recommendation for some favourites with a disclaimer that it’s problematic and hasn’t aged perfectly, but there are certain books and series I struggle to let go, even if I know if I read it for the first time now I’d hate it.

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    1. That happens to me too! I’ll finish a book and adore it, but I can’t remember a single thing about it a week later! I think that I like to be able to share *why* a book is a favorite, which I obviously can’t do if I’ve forgotten everything about the book, which in turn makes me less likely to claim it as a favorite. Although if I’m scrolling through the books I’ve read that year, and I can’t remember the plot of a book, but I do still get that feeling of loving it, I’ll still consider that to be a favorite, since the emotion is still there.

      I definitely reread my favorites, or my favorite scenes/chapters from my favorites, but I don’t hold it against a book if I enjoyed it on the first read but don’t want to reread it. There are some books that have stuck with me as favorites, which I’ve never reread, nor do I intend to reread them, but they still get to keep their status as favorites. I think I’m scared of ruining that initial enjoyment with a reread, so I’d prefer not to reread certain books because I think that part of what made them so special was their novelty!

      And I definitely get that! There are some books that I look back on and struggle to understand how I didn’t notice the glaring issues the book had, or how I could have even liked the book in the first place. But I don’t ever recommend those books, especially since usually they lose their luster as favorites in that case. I’m sure there are probably exceptions to that rule, but I can’t think of any offhand!

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  5. Great discussion post!

    I personally don’t really stop to think about “favorites” anymore. There’s just so many books out there these days, so all I know is I enjoyed a book at the time I read it, haha. Books have different purposes as well, which makes it hard for me to rank stories. Although I tend to think more about those with characters that stuck with me long after I turned the last page.

    Anyway, I hope my rambling made sense! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. 🙂

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    1. Thank you!

      Oooh, that’s really interesting! I think for me there are some that I just want everyone to read, and so I have no problem calling them favorites. Others stick with me, and become favorites that way. But I do agree with you that it’s really difficult to rank my favorites since each book is loved for unique reasons that are hard to compare. Off the top of my head right now I can think of three books, all of whom I consider favorites, that each got that title for a different reason!

      I think your rambling made a lot of sense! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me! That’s what makes these discussion posts so much fun!

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  6. This is such an interesting discussion! I’ve never really thought too hard about what makes me call a book a favourite – it’s just this warm and fuzzy feeling when I close the final page. (My gosh that sounds cheesy, but I really don’t know how else to describe it!) Sometimes a book is a favourite because I feel a strong attachment to the characters, sometimes it’s a plot twist that blew my mind, sometimes it’s because it makes me emotional! Even if a long time has passed, I still count my old favourites as favourites. To me, it’s not about my current tastes, it’s more that feeling of nostalgia and remembering the love I had for that story.

    I think childhood favourites are simply books that were your favourite during childhood. I wouldn’t expect everyone to still love them on a reread, but if they were your favourite in childhood then I definitely think they still count! I’m a very forgetful person, and my tastes change so often that I’m always surprised looking back across my year and remembering these books that I rated 5 stars and really loved at the time. Good luck with your yearly favourites list, I hope you figure it out – I’ll be interested to see what makes the cut!

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    1. Thank you! What I’ve learnt by now from these discussions is that I overthink everything, but I don’t mind because it allows me to have fun conversations about different topics! But I definitely understand what you’re talking about with the warm and fuzzy feeling! There are some books that you just know will stick with you when you finish them. Like you, there are many reasons that a book can become a favorite, but unless there’s that gut feeling a few days or months after I finish the book, that book just can’t become an all-time favorite.

      I think that I consider my older favorites that are no longer favorites to be in a separate category than my current favorites. I can have fond memories of the time when a book was a favorite, but that doesn’t mean it still gets to hold that title!

      As for childhood favorites, I think you’re right. I can’t expect to have the same feelings for them as I did when I was actually a child, but the fact that they were so formative for me growing up definitely says some things about them. I mean, there were some books/series that I would just constantly take out of the library to reread over and over again!

      I think that my taste has remained pretty similar throughout the years, so I’m usually not too surprised when I look back at what I read and loved each year, although there always tends to be a few books that I want to change their ratings after having had more time to think about my feelings regarding the book.

      Thank you! I still haven’t created the list yet! There are some books that I definitely know will be on there, but some other choices might even surprise me!

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  7. oh, what a wonderful discussion post, malka!! i LOVE your point about wanting your favorite books to be representative of you as a person as you change, i’ve never thought about it that way. i think i have this kind of crisis in regards to just like… any rating of books i read in the past haha, especially as i grow more analytical with my reading.

    i’m pretty picky when it comes to naming favorite books, but i think (maybe because of my pickiness?) i don’t have any qualms about crossing off an old book from my favorites list as my tastes have changed. i have books that are forever cemented as a favorite (ie. the poppy war and percy jackson lmao) but i’m totally open to changing things if i don’t hold the same love for those books anymore!

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    1. Thank you, May! And honestly, I think that was the point I needed to figure out while writing this post. There are some books that I despise now, but they were favorites for past Malka for specific reasons, and I respect that, although I no longer consider them favorites.

      And rating is definitely difficult! I’ve had a half written post about how I rate books that’s been sitting around for over a year and a half now, since my rating system just makes no sense! I can’t explain it, even to myself, although I’m 93% sure that there is some sort of logic in the way I rate books!

      I’m not one that names every book I love as a favorite, but I’m also not too stingy with the books I call favorites. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle? I’ll have 1 or 2 lifelong favorites a year, and several yearly favorites that will be my most recommended books for the next little while. Basically, I have many different subcategories of favorites!

      I think I feel bad crossing a book off from my favorites list because I know what an impact that book made on my life, so it feels sort of cruel to claim that the book is now unworthy of my undying love. I don’t know, maybe I’m being overdramatic! I’m not a fan of change in general, so maybe that’s where all this uncertainty over my favorites really comes from!

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  8. This is so accurate, I am going through the same exact thing trying to decide my favorites for the year, and then I was thinking that I should go back and revisit my “overall favorites” list because some of them I feel NOTHING for anymore. So I figure, any books that leave me with that “still love ’em” feeling at the end of the year get to be on the list, rather than going strictly by rating. Because when I am reviewing, while I DO count my feelings for something obviously, like you said, we can’t know ahead of time how we’ll feel about them in the future! So I have to kind of let myself be okay with adding a 4 star to a favorites list, but not a 5 star. It’s rough, no question!

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    1. The reason that we haven’t posted our favorites/2020 reading wrap up might be because I’m procrastinating figuring out which books are favorites. Some I have no doubt will make it on, but others that I thought would make it in the beginning of the year no longer call to me. I guess we’ll find out soon, since that post is happening in the next few weeks!

      As for overall favorites, YEESH! There are some books that Goodreads still claims are my favorites that I cringe at when I see. Like, yes, they were once favorites, and for some I even remember the reason why, but current day Malka does not like those books AT ALL!

      I think I’m probably going to do a mix of rating and feeling because I refuse to be consistent. I think I’d be okay adding a 4 star rating as a favorite. In my mind that just means that some technical aspects might not have been met, but I still enjoyed myself. Whereas some 5 stars won’t make the cut because even if they were technical perfection, I don’t have that emotional connection! I think my real difficulty is not really in the actual decision making process of whether or not a book is a favorite, but instead the difficulty is trying to figure out my justification/explanation as to why a book is a favorite!

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  9. I think the reason a book becomes someone favorite is because its popular. Everyone else like this book so why not jump on the bandwagon. Once the hype for that book dies down you look back on it and ask why did I like this book to began with?

    A lot of my favorite books are books not a lot of people have heard of. It why a lot of books are my favorites.

    The opposite can be true as well, where it popular to hate a book because everyone else does. It come down to people being a bunch of sheep and can’t think for themselves.

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    1. Hmmm, I’m not so sure I agree with that. Maybe when I was younger there were a few books that fell into this category, but at this point I only read books if I think I’ll enjoy them, and I’m quite honest with my opinions.

      And I have quite a few favorites that it seems like no one has read, which makes it a lot of fun for me, since I can then get all my friends to read the book! Of course, I also have some popular favorites, but that makes sense. I read a mix of popular and less well known books, so my favorites reflect that!

      I think that a lot of times there are technical aspects of a book that make them either well loved or not loved at all. Of course, you’ll always have people disagreeing with the general consensus, but sometimes there’s a reason that so many people either enjoy or don’t enjoy a book. Writing a book takes skill, and some books showcase that skill more than others.

      I also think that it’s quite harsh to call people sheep just because they enjoy popular books. A lot of times people have limited time or money to spend on books, so they choose to pick up the most popular and well loved books, since they have the highest chance of enjoying them. That doesn’t make them a sheep. People definitely can think for themselves, and just because people can agree on a topic doesn’t mean that the mass opinion is now definitely wrong, biased, or flawed.

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  10. This is a wonderful and very thoughtful post, Malka! It is hard to define a favourite sometimes because our preferences can change over time. Some of my favourite childhood reads are still close to my heart, but in terms of more current reads, my favourite ones are the books I have felt the strongest connection to or has just blown me away with the quality of the plot and/or writing.

    Congratulations on finishing your finals, and all the best for 2021 🥰🥰

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    1. Thank you, Stephen! I definitely agree! Many of my favorites from 5-10 years back were fantasies, when I barely read that genre nowadays! I think for me current favorites can end up labelled a favorite for a variety of reasons, which is why I struggle a bit with the term. It’s not so much that I don’t think certain books are favorite, but I don’t have a consistent approach for why each book is a favorite!

      Thank you so much! I’m so glad to be done with finals and to have some time to relax! And I hope you have a fantastic 2021 as well!

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  11. I’ve pondered this question so many times. I just created my favorites list for 2020, and I definitely go with my gut. If I go through my list of read books and see a cover and instantly think, “Oh, yeah, I so loved that book!” then I consider it for the list. There are definitely books that I loved at the time I read them that don’t stand out to me anymore, though. I wouldn’t change their ratings because that is what I thought at the time, but I also don’t really consider them for my 2020 favorites list. Some books just have more of a lasting impression than others.

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    1. Having just posted my end of the year wrap up containing my favorites, I’d have to agree that I went with my gut! There are a lot of 4 stars on there, and some 5 stars didn’t make the cute, but I stand by both my choices of favorites and my ratings!

      For me ratings and favorites have different purposes. I can love a book, and want everyone to read it, while also acknowledging that it isn’t perfect and some things could have been done better. But I can also appreciate a perfectly crafted book, even if it didn’t hit me emotionally.

      I think that’s what I’ve come to realize through discussing this topic with everyone. My system may be difficult to explain, and it may not make sense to others, but there’s some sort of logic there, and that’s what I go by!

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  12. This is such a thought-provoking discussion! I agree with your points and you said it beautifully when you wrote that “I want my favorites to be representative of me, and if I’ve changed as a person, it makes sense that my favorites would change to reflect that.” That’s how I feel too, and that’s why I have no problem taking down a book from my favourites list. I might have loved it but if I currently don’t have any strong emotion about it, then it’s no longer a favourite.

    So basically, it’s all about emotions regarding choosing a favourite. Other factors are important too – like I wouldn’t say a book is a favourite if it has many problematic elements or it’s by a problematic author.

    Also, a book can be 5-stars for me but still not a favourite: if I forget about the book and won’t think and ponder about it again, then it’s probably not a fave.

    Sorry for this rambly comment, I have a lot of thoughts about this topic, but can’t put them into coherent words apparently. 😂

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    1. Thank you, Morgan!

      I really do feel that way. Like, there are some books that I would NOT recommend now, and are definitely no longer favorites, but I totally understand why they were so important to me at the time. To me while those books are no longer favorites, the fact that they once were favorites, still makes them hold a special place in my heart!

      Emotions definitely make up a big part of how a book becomes a favorite for me as well! There has to be that feeling of loving that book that goes beyond appreciation of the writing or the characters or the plot alone. That’s why some 4 stars are favorites, and some 5 stars are not! Because a rating is more about the technical aspect and in the moment feeling for me, while a favorite is a more long lasting feeling!

      I adore rambly comments, so thank you for leaving one for me! And don’t worry! I definitely understand that! Usually it takes me writing an entire blog post to make sense of my thoughts on a topic! And even then I sometimes wonder if I was coherent!

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