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What Are Your Three Books?

Yesterday, NPR Books (via All Things Considered, I think) asked people a surprisingly awesome question about books:

I added my response to Twitter, but felt like expanding it a little bit more in a blog post. Here are my three books:

The Harry Potter series – This feels like cheating, just a little bit. If I had to pick just one of them it’d be the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but really they’re all my book. This series was the series of my young adult/new adulthood and I have so many memories tied to these characters and this franchise. Plus, choosing this series would tell a stranger about my love for fantasy and magic in my stories.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman – I’ve always loved good nonfiction writing, but I think The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down was the first book I read where I thought, “Yes! This is the writing I love.” It’s a beautifully complicated but compassionately told story that changed the way that I think.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – I thought long and hard about what fiction book to put on this list. I wanted something that was smart with beautiful writing, but that also was a little weird – not straight “literary fiction.” I picked this one because the ending of this story – even though you know exactly what is coming – was like an emotional punch in the stomach. I loved this book.

I imagine there are a lot of combinations of three books that I could have picked that get at this trifecta – a book loved in my youth, a book loved as narrative nonfiction, and a book loved for it’s fictional depth and quirkiness – but these were the first three that popped into my head.

What are your three books?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bookmammal March 26, 2014, 12:28 pm

    Wow–this is a really interesting concept! I’m going to have to do some thinking about what my 3 books would be.
    I also loved Anne Fadiman’s book, and I’ve read it a couple of times. I was so impressed with her ability to cover all the different sides of such a complicated situation.

    • Kim March 31, 2014, 9:23 pm

      I haven’t read that one in a few years. I think it’s time to do a re-read, although part of me is a little scared I won’t love it as much again (which is silly, but still something I worry about).

  • Jenny @ Reading the End March 26, 2014, 5:26 pm

    Oo, I need to give this some more thought. Every time I think I have three books picked out, another one pops into my head! Okay, but I think: Helen Oyeyemi’s White Is for Witching; Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire and Hemlock; and The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde. I think those three would give a fair idea of my reading tastes to an outsider.

    Or, I don’t know! A different Diana Wynne Jones book maybe? Or Tom Stoppard instead of the Oscar Wilde book? This is hard!

    • Kim March 31, 2014, 9:23 pm

      That’s what I kept doing — switching out “similar” books for each one on the list until I just went with my gut and my first ideas.

  • Rebecca @ Love at First Book March 26, 2014, 7:45 pm

    Oh my gosh, I have no idea. . . NPR posed too good of a question. . . Yikes!!!

  • maphead March 26, 2014, 9:22 pm

    Cool idea! Now I’m trying to decide which three books summarize me. Might have to think about that one…
    Since The Sparrow is one of my all time favorites, I’m impressed it made your list!!

  • Vasilly March 26, 2014, 9:32 pm

    I love this! What a question!! I’m going to think about my answer and post it later on. I can see why you listed Harry Potter.

  • Rory March 26, 2014, 10:44 pm

    I love this question. I might have to dedicate a post to this, just for fun. My three books are Jane Eyre, Empire Falls, and White Oleander.

  • tanya (52 books or bust) March 27, 2014, 4:50 am

    I saw this on twitter and my immediate reaction was THIS IS TOO HARD!! But i’ve been giving it some thought since then. The Secret History by Donna Tarrt. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. Maybe The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst? I don’t know. This is something that’s going to haunt me for a while.

    • Kim March 31, 2014, 9:24 pm

      It is really hard!

  • Jennine G. March 27, 2014, 12:31 pm

    Honestly, this is extremely difficult. There are books that pop into my kind, but I don’t know if it’s because they describe me. I am going to think on it and possibly return with an answer.

    • Jennine G. March 28, 2014, 12:16 pm

      Okay, here’s some thoughts:

      I think these were both big ones, but I came upon and read them after they’d already been out, so I wasn’t buying into any hype. Any book that I personally connect to goes highest on my list, regardless of critics and popularity. Tuesdays With Morrie was very popular, I know, but was personally meaningful to me. I can name names and see faces of those few who went above and beyond and helped direct my path. As a teacher I always hope I’ve returned the favor to someone else.

      The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch is another one. I’ve been collecting free and cheap copies to read with my classes here and there. I’ve given copies away to students who you wouldn’t typically think needed advice because they have it all together. But Pausch’s book talks about the little things that make a difference in life, much of it of a humbling nature, which not even the “good” kids take into account.

      • Kim March 31, 2014, 9:25 pm

        I really like those explanations. I think it’s ok to have hyped books on your list, so long as they we really meaningful as these have been to you 🙂

  • Trisha March 27, 2014, 9:21 pm

    What a great idea; and yet, I cannot do it. I’ve been plowing through my brain but trying to narrow down, to choose, is remarkably difficult.

  • Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader March 29, 2014, 12:44 pm

    Yet another sign that I need to read The Sparrow!

    I don’t think I could pick three books. Well, I could but the hard work of it deters me 😉

  • Alice March 29, 2014, 4:31 pm

    I don’t think it’s cheating to chose all of HP, I’d do the same. (Although, I suppose just because I would do it too doesn’t mean it’s not cheating, ha.) I’d also chose the same book as you if I was pushed to chose, freaky!

    This is such an interesting thing to think about, and my mind has gone blank for a second two that I think would represent me.

  • Lu March 30, 2014, 1:28 pm

    Oh, I don’t even know!! I’ve been thinking about this since I first saw this post and it’s so hard to narrow it down. I’m going to think about it some more, though. I think Harry Potter is definitely going to be on my list, but I think I would probably pick The Prisoner of Azkaban over all the other books – it’s the one I read first (I have NO IDEA how that happened, but it did, and it didn’t matter, I loved it anyway) and it’s the one that’s still the most magical to me.

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey March 30, 2014, 5:04 pm

    Oh, my book club just picked The Sparrow to read in April and I thought it looked it had a lot of potential! After reading your reasons for picking it, I’m even more excited to start reading 🙂

    • Kim March 31, 2014, 9:26 pm

      It is SUCH a good book. Just incredibly good and sad and smart and awesome. I hope you all love it.

  • Melinda @ The Book Musings April 8, 2014, 5:50 am

    This is something I really need to think about, but I’m pretty sure The Count of Monte Cristo will be in my list