It might surprise you to know that the most dreaded question for a book nerd is "What's your favorite book?"
There are so many to choose from! It's so hard to pick just one. However, my go-to answer is To Kill a Mockingbird. I've read it more times than I've ever read any other individual book and I continue to get new things out of it each time I read it. There's something to be said for reading your favorite book repeatedly at different points in your life. I bet Rebecca Mead would agree---she wrote a whole memoir about how she has read (and continues to read) Middlemarch periodically throughout her life and how that's impacted her.
The followup question to the favorite book inquiry is usually, "So X must be your favorite author?" Or, in my case until Go Set a Watchman was released, the followup was, "Too bad your favorite author only wrote one book!"
Hold up. Harper Lee wrote my favorite book, but she isn't my favorite author.
How is this possible, you ask? I believe you can have number one favorite book that isn't written by your favorite author because it isn't necessary for your favorite author to have written your favorite book. Though, of course, it's certainly possible for one's favorite author to have written one's favorite book---I just also think it's possible for those two things to be mutually exclusive.
Sounds weird, I know. So allow me to explain.
A favorite book is one that you have a desire to re-read at intervals and revisit throughout your life. A favorite book is one that you feel shapes you and that you feel is a part of you in some way. A favorite book is one that's intermingled with your identity.
But a favorite author is a writer whom you want to read the entirety of his or her canon. You want to read every book s/he has ever written, though you don't necessarily feel compelled to re-read any of the books individually. A favorite author is a writer who consistently produces good work that speaks to your soul. A favorite author is the one you feel is writing with you in mind. For me, that's not Harper Lee---it's Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
I can't get enough of his books. I own half of them and I'm purposefully not plowing through them all at once because I want to have new Marquez to read throughout my life. I've even got a few of his more obscure works---and at the time I read one of those obscure works, mine was the only (the only!) review on Goodreads for the title, and he's a Nobel Prize-winning author.
I actually cried on the day Marquez died because, although he'd been suffering ill health for several years, I knew then that it was officially the end of his writing. It still pains me to think that we live in a world where there won't be any new Marquez books. I keep hoping that someone will find some unpublished manuscript of his and bring it to light.
As much as I adore To Kill a Mockingbird, I just can't say the same about Harper Lee. Go Set a Watchman didn't strike me in the same way as TKAM (any surprise she never wanted the damn thing published?) and I don't think she renders emotions as deeply as Marquez did. Harper Lee was good, but Gabriel Garcia Marquez was truly a master of his craft.
I want to study Marquez's work in the most passionate literary way; I just want to enjoy Lee's work. To me, there's a big difference. I've read similar books to the one Harper Lee wrote, but in all my years of reading and hundreds of books later, I've never seen anyone who (in my entirely subjective opinion) could hold a candle to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I mean, if you click his name in the tags below this post, you'll see how many times I've sung his praises just on this blog alone.
So my favorite book isn't written by my favorite author and my favorite author didn't write my favorite book. Perhaps paradoxical, but sometimes that's just how the bookish ball bounces.