Can you answer the hardest question in all of literature? If you had to recommend one book, any book at all but just the one, what would it be? Imagine. You meet a person, a stranger or someone at work maybe, you can only recommend one book. No short list, no explanations, no comparisons. You’re launching a satellite into space and it can only contain one novel to represent the collective literary talents of all humanity.
A friend of mine asked this on Facebook. It is imposssible. I refused to answer. I don’t know who I’m recommending the book to, after all. What might they like? How long a read are they prepared for? What language do they speak? (I think best we presume some kind of Babelfish action for simplicity’s sake.) What are their political persuasions? In short, no I can’t answer your question. I don’t even like the question. Which meant I immediately had to ask it on Twitter.
@_muffinqueen just one is very hard! #thinking I love books #toomanytochoose
@anna_m_hassan I find it hard! There are so many books I love, and all for different reasons. Picking just one to recommend is just like erm..?
@deltrimental …….nope. Can’t do it. Not possible.
Luckily Twitter is mostly on my side.
But how wonderful that we have such loyalty. In the sea of secondhand bestsellers and faceless airport paperbacks we’re so attached to our stories that we refuse to claim a favourite child. Surely we wouldn’t pass on every book we ever read to some anonymous stranger. But the ones that stand out in our minds, that live with us for the longest, they’re almost autobiographical. How could we pick one out of the context of all our experiences and all the reading we’ve ever done and submit it up to an alien mind. It wouldn’t mean the same thing. Would it?
Of course, I immediately broke the rules and instead of choosing one I assembled a shortlist. On the list? To Kill a Mockingbird, 100 Years of Solitude, Nineteen Eighty Four, Slaughterhouse Five (told you I loved that one). I even toyed with Virginia Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own. Ender’s Game, The Neverending Story, The Dark is Rising series – all childhood favourites. When I finally settled on just the one – The Handmaid’s Tale – I realised it didn’t really matter why, it was just the novel that would be my own.
And what did Twitter choose?
@_muffinqueen I think Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
@pr_in_trackies Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
@RaniaG Love in the Time of Cholera comes to mind.
@peppergirl01 Valley of the Dolls.
@globalcopywrite The Hours by Michael Cunningham
@CrippleMrOnion To Say Nothing Of The Dog by Connie Willis
@Mark_In_Midland Hard question! I’d go with Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. No other book has made me run the emotional rainbow quite like it.
@DaveCoggin The Waterboys by Peter Docker. Speculative fiction with Freo playing special part
@Dylstra The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (can I cheat and include all four parts of the trilogy?)
@farmersway does Footrot Flats count as a book?
@ScientistMags To Kill a Mocking Bird
@burntsugar Life of Pi
@manthatcooks Voltaire ‘Candide’
@OsheaGreen The Iliad, or Bonjour Tristesse.
@AngieRaphael The Alchemist by @paulocoelho
@rachelhatesjazz Wuthering Heights.
@FionaKalaf love in the time of cholera, obviously 🙂
@captainrachael Oryx and Crake
@KatBellaVanilla that’s a really hard question! Shantaram.
@jonogurney Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It was a bit difficult to get into but it was so excellent.
@lapuntadelfin The Little Prince. Short and very, very sweet.
And you? What would you recommend?