We all have that favorite book. The one we immediately think of when the entire desert island scenario comes up — because apparently if we ever do get stuck on dessert island we can have only our favorite things to comfort us. My answer changed over the years, as tastes and age affect it. When I was a kid it was my comprehensive book of fairy tales, and presently, it would have to be Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I kept these books around me like totems. I plucked them off my shelves during sleepless nights. I brought them up constantly during conversations in any literary chitchat. I knew it was silly, but they seemed to be written specifically to meet my needs.
I had two favorite books during my formative years. They were two tiny Bantam Classic editions of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I first cracked those spines in the Philippines during a family vacation, and over time, they just became these sturdy go-to’s in my bag. As any purse wielding bibliphile may attest, there’s no beating a good purse book. They’ll be the right size with the perfect binding and they fit right there along with my phone and my wallet. On the first day of school since seventh grade, I toted either of these books along with me, reading the best bits during down times, or even just clutching them to ease any teenage jitters.
I guess I’ve been thinking about those favorite books a lot recently, because I just started writing a story with my favorite Jane Austen novel, Persuasion, in mind. Obviously, you go back to these books over and over again, because it speaks to your taste levels of writing, sentimentality, plot, and yes even familiarity. For me Persuasion reads differently every time I come to it. My perspective, what my life is now, the books I read in between all enhance how I read it when I return.
I have several copies of these stories sometimes. I had a tiny set of Pride and Prejudices. I’m not even sure why. I joked that I needed back-up, I suppose, but I also liked the idea of how extremely familiar I was with the story that I could recognize it any clothing. Silly, I know.
As far as my own writing, I keep in mind of why exactly Persuasion has that allure for me. I mean, I like the sentiment. I like the pace. I like the interiority. They’re things I try to keep in mind when I write too now. I skip out on environments because I always liked that Austen was about the people in the scene. I try to focus on dialogue and the character’s reactions because I found that Austen reads like a play in the same way.
The books themselves are teachers to us in writing, in exercising our perspective, in letting us reevaluate where we are and why we keep coming back.
I gave away those two Bantam classics to my two best friends at the time. After about ten years growing up with them, they were sentimental in the extreme, but I also had this idea that I wanted to share them with two people who affected me as much as those books