It will probably come as no surprise to those of you who have seen the size of my fifth-grade glasses, but I was a major bookworm as a child. My boyfriend, whose contribution to our massive bookshelf is a a section of 6 or so Stephen King novels, continues to refer to me as a "book nerd" and shake his head sadly when I come home with a Barnes and Noble bag or stray street books.
I still remember with vivid clarity time spent fuming, FUMING when my parents had the audacity to be too busy to take me to the library. I love that building, even after the time my friend Ebony got masturbated at through a window there. (Maybe more after that.) I always came home with comically massive stacks of paperbacks, which I would lean against a wall and read on the playground in lieu of playing with other children, who, lets face it, were probably just going to throw my glasses over the fence anyway.
If you love to read as much as I did/do, you probably find it hard to pick just one favorite book, but I forced our contributors to do it anyway. I chose "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," which is a coming-of-age story about a young girl who turns to education and her love of reading to overcome the adversity of her uprbringing in a culturally impoverished environment. No idea why I would like that so much.
Daisy, "Gossip of the Starlings" by Nina de Gramont
There's no way I could ever pick one favorite book, but "Gossip of the Starlings," a novel by Nina de Gramont, is high on my list. Boarding school, rich kids, drug binges, destructive friendships, a cute boy, and that feeling of indestructibleness that comes with being an adolescent ... it's all there. Maybe I relate to it just a tad bit too much, but no matter what your past is like, once you pick this coming-of-age novel up, you won't be able to put it down. Promise. xx, daisy
Hannah, "The Favourite Game" by Leonard Cohen
Rachel McP, "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole
I always feel lame admitting this since SOOO many people claim it as a favorite, but my love is legit ("Geek Love" by Katherine Dunn is another guitly admission, just out of it's widespread coolness in my age bracket). I'm cursed with an Ignatius brain.
Julieanne, "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy
I studied Russian Lit in college and I vafel'nyi (that's Russian for waffle) on which sweeping epic is my favorite. Tolstoy gets better every time you read him, and this book is probably the most impressive work of fiction I've ever enjoyed. (It's a feat to be impressive and enjoyable.) It's a cop-out, but it also matched my shelves and nails and pajamas.
Lesley, "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" by Shirley Jackson
Tempting though it is to say "Moby Dick" and only offer the word "eskimo" in explanation, I'm going to go with Shirley Jackson's "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" (with "The Haunting of Hill House" as a close second). A contemporary critic once stated that Shirley Jackson was incapable of writing a bad sentence. I have to agree; so far as the craft of writing goes, Jackson is probably my favorite novelist ever. "Castle" tells the story of the Blackwood sisters, and their family poisoned to death at the dinner table, and the girls' subsequent status as social outcasts. Like nearly all of Jackson's works, "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" starts in a seemingly normal place and descends so subtly into madness that you barely notice it happening. It plays straight to my love of literature that makes me doubt my own sanity.
Helena, "The Eye of the World" by Robert Jordan
In the pantheon of weird stuff a boy put me on to, "The Wheel of Time" fantasy series ranks right up there with Brazilians and vinegar chips. Once you start you can't stop. In 13 books, author Robert Jordan weaves together the coming of age stories of three young men on whose collective shoulders the fate of the known world lies. In between fighting "The Dark One" and juggling three girlfriends, main character Rand becomes a medieval Buddha, suffering through rebirth, karma and enlightenment. His homeboys, Mat and Perrin, are dragged along for the ride. Also, people can blow up shit with their minds and a secret society of women permeate all government affairs. So yeah come March 2012 I'll be riding the subway eating my salt and vinegar chips and devouring the fourteenth and final installment.
Jane, out-of-print Diane Arbus photography book (so no photo)
It's a tough tough call. I have books that I have read dozens of times and books that got me through difficult times. I generally prefer non-fiction to fiction. If I had to pick one book that had the most impact on my life, it would be Diane Arbus's book of photography (and then later the one of her commercial work for advertisers and magazines where her writing was so beautiful, too). That original book of her photography was on our coffee table since I was 5 and I would page through it every time I sat on that living-room couch alone and imagine the fascinating and intricate lives of those people in the beautiful photos."