I am, in my soul, a reader.

I grew up in a house full of love and books, and everyone I meet falls into one of two categories. They either Don’t Get It, or they Do. This is true for both love and for books, and often (though not always) both at the same time. Today, I have been thinking about books. The house I grew up in is full to bursting with books. (aside: In my experience, the love of a family such as mine cannot burst, but books are still physical things and even libraries run out of space. But love is for another post.) There are books in shelves, on dressers, stacked in the hallway. They are organized by subject, by author, by preference. Every bedroom and every common area has at least one bookshelf. Every transitionary space has books waiting to find a bookshelf. My nephew, perhaps both my nephews by now, has been holding books upside-down and backwards since long before he could read, in that ever-present human mimicry that spawned the phrase, “Monkey see, monkey do.”

Who needs television when literacy opens the joys of a million worlds and perspectives, and is there in a perfectly portable package? I don’t remember not being able to read, but I remember being amazed that my little sister could find so much joy in comic books when she didn’t even know the story they told. She proved me wrong once by telling me the story one of my dad’s old comics. It wasn’t quite right on the details but it was a compelling and interesting story nonetheless. Books provide millions of worlds because the imagining is up to you. They provide perspective because each one comes from a different point of view and as a reader, you have to find the common ground. I don’t do well when discussions turns to the TV shows everyone grew up with, because I didn’t. There’s always been a TV crammed in between the books in my parents’ basement, and one that must have been available on the main floor because one of my first memories is of watching Halley’s Comet on it and my father commenting that I might never see it again. But the lives of those popular characters on TV seem bland to me. Television is too rigid for my imagination. The watcher is tied to a character by the appearance and actions of an actor, tied to the passive role of watching. Books are always on your schedule, your pace, your ability to interpret.

I’m digressing. I wanted to write about my favorite books. I started thinking about the numerous Facebook surveys that I see wherein you’re supposed to mark off all the books you’ve read (and presumably, feel bad about the ones you haven’t or gloat that you can check off more than anyone else). I wanted to write a post about my 100 favorite books. Last summer my dad and I built a bookshelf for my guest room. For those that Get It, this is the proudest thing in my house. It outstrips our beautiful kitchen, our heirloom clock, our handmade quilt. It’s not full (mostly because I have a Kindle) but it will be, and I aim to have every single book on that shelf be one I’d want my children to read.

I’m still digressing. My favorite books. So I wanted to list them, not like some Facebook post but just as a list. So that if you hadn’t read them you could know I think you should, and so that if your favorites aren’t on there, you could tell me and I could add them. I’ve been thinking a lot about my favorite books because I am a reader. Ask my what my hobbies are and reading is always there. When I get stressed out, I read. When I’m on vacation, I read. When I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m bored, I read. Overworked or coasting through life, I always have a book. So why not share? But how could I decant decades of reading to the 100 books that are my favorites?

I started with individual books. Emergence. The Sparrow. But what about series? What about The Lord of The Rings? Is each one separate? What about The Hobbit? Harry Potter? If the whole series counts as one book, what if I find one on the series rather uninteresting? If not, how can I justify filling almost a fifth of my list already if I list each separately? What about Stephen Jay Gould, one of my favorite authors? He’s an essayist; maybe I should list my favorite essays of his. Or I could list some of my favorite short stories, like Flowers for Algernon. If I couldn’t put down whole swaths of books like “Everything so far by Robin Hobb” how could I possibly fit it all into a list of 100? Should I include books I feel are important, but not necessarily personally relevant, like the Bible? Maybe I should write down the books that come to mind first. Recently I’ve been re-reading books that would maybe come to mind second, like The Handmaids Tale and Doomsday Book. I’d want to include both of those. Or I could list my all-time favorites, which would surely include books like Hand Hand Fingers Thumb and Wacky Wednesday. How many books have I listed already? I haven’t even mentioned the Sector General books, which I’m reading right now. If an author has more than one book in my top 100, should I try to choose the very best by that author, or the one I think should be read first? Which Vorkosigan would I choose?

Maybe, as someone who considers reading an essential part of who she is, part of her very core, I could never write them all down. Maybe that’s my very favorite thing about books.