Ask a doctor…

Several years ago I was talking to a friend. He had just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and I was curious if this qualified him to endorse any particular worldview as the most credible.

“So what’s your favorite philosophy?” I asked him. He laughed.

“That’s like asking a doctor what their favorite medicine is.”

For the rest of this essay I will be discussing my favorite book.

There have been different books in my life that were extremely meaningful to me at specific times: Immediatism by Hakim Bey, The Hip Mama Survival Guide by Ariel Gore, George by E.L. Konigsburg, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Small Is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. I’ve loved reading books since I was small and since it’s been almost thirty years since I was small I’ve had plenty of time to read quite a few.

If I had been asked this question at the age of five I likely would have said Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. It is the tale of a man who messes with magic forces and is forced to pay the price. This book taught me that there are serious consequences for breaking a promise and that one should not fool around with other peoples’ stuff. At fifteen I might have told someone that Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer was my favorite book. This is the perfect book for a precocious high schooler since it is full of jobless ex-patriots lounging around and drinking and reading it really made me believe that living an interesting life was a possible vocation. My outlook changed when I became a parent and at the age of twenty five I almost certainly would have answered The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco. This book is about grand adventure but it drew out of me a sadness that I couldn’t step in the same water twice. Once I chose my grand adventure, I could not go a different way or start over.

Looking at that short list I can’t pick one book as a favorite. They are each so different and appropriate only for the time and place where I read them that it feels like comparing heart medication with neosporin even though they are, in fact, all books.


It is still next to impossible for me to pick a single title as the one and only, but it sure does make me take pause for a moment. Each of those decades I had a favorite book that reveals something about my attitude and personal mythology of the time. Although I’m nearly half way through my current decade I have not yet found my current favorite book. Perhaps I’ll only be able to identify it in retrospect. Ask me in ten years what my favorite book was ten years ago and I’ll be able at that time to answer for my self now.

Muriel is the creator of 'Documinutes: 60 second documentaries' and a contributor to the podcast 'This Manic Mama.'

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