The Best Book I’ve Ever Read

A young woman searches for a book to read.

The other day, I was complaining to my husband about not reading books I’ve enjoyed as of late. In the midst of my complaints, he asked, “What’s the best book you’ve ever read?”

What a question. So many books, so many years, so many states of being to read them in. The question of “What’s the best book I’ve ever read?” seems against the idea of books. You read one, which builds off another and builds off another, and eventually you’ve read the history of Western Philosophy in order to understand a joke in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s an impossible choice, and one I’m not inclined to make lightly. Rather taboo, like choosing a favorite child or something.

That said, I’m also intrigued. Which, if I had-to, had-to pick, would it be? How does Hitchhiker’s stack against Voltaire? Game of Thrones against The Sun Also Rises? Can I choose? I’m going to try.

The Method to the Madness

After we finished talking, I started pondering how to set up such a tournament. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

From my Goodreads list and all the books I have in the house right now (if you’re not on one of those, I’ve neglected you too much to be considered already), I made a list of 64 books to go through a tournament style showdown. At first, I wanted to do it by seeds for category, but the part of me that enjoys chaos decided to do random selection instead. The list got thrown in a hat, drawn for the playoffs, and away we go. The increasingly subjective competition to decide the best book I’ve ever read.

Books will be ranked on the following categories

  • Goodreads Rating (1-5) -As some level of objectivity in this game
  • Length (1-5) -Let’s face it. Some books are just too long. Others, far too short. The best length is the best length, but if you’re too long or two short, points will be deducted.
  • Readability (1-5) -Pairing with the above, I’ve read thousand page books that are page turners, and I can’t put them down no matter how hard I try. Others take me a while to get into or are so weighty I can only digest them in chunks. How well the book flows, how interested you are in reading it -that’s readability
  • Language (1-5) -Not to his detriment, Ernest Hemingway is a man of few words. But I enjoy poetry and sometimes I’d rather be in awe of a sentence’s structure and the mouth feel of the words rather than understand what’s going on. Poetic or enticing language gets you high marks in this category.
  • Characters/Plot (1-5) -Characters can make a bad book good, and bad plot can make excellent characters exhausting. This category grades on balance and loses points for the bias or lack.

And, of course, I maintain dealer’s choice to decide that even if I’ve graded out something as a higher score, I can change my mind and say, “Nooooo, yeah, this one really is better.”

For a series, I’m counting the series as one book told in parts. For authors with multiple books, I’ve picked my favorites except for ones that are notable in different ways -someone that genre hops or, as in many cases, the writer is just really good and deserves more than one listing.

Round One

Round One is initial pair offs from my random drawings. In this round, I’ll give you brief introductions into the works before giving the score. In later rounds, the descriptions will be shortened, linking back to the original pair off for the general info, then discussing the specifics of why one beats out the other.

The Categories are: Fiction, Nonfiction, Fantasy/SciFi, and Classics. Notably, I do not have enough multicultural authors on this list. I’m working to rectify that now, but alas. I almost didn’t include Nonfiction since I knew those books would ultimately lose out on the top title (maybe they won’t, who knows), but I decided to let them in for want of a nice, even 64 seed bracket.

The Method -shoddy at best. The Picks -spectacular. Some books aren’t for everyone, but I think most people would enjoy any of the contenders if they gave them the chance. With that, next time will begin round one.

What’s better? The Shining by Stephen King or The Hot Zone by Richard Preston?

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