All Time Favorite Book


Naming one all-time ¬†favorite book is like choosing your favorite song–nearly impossible. Even as I was thinking about this post I thought well, really, it’s a toss up between two. Then I stopped myself and said NO. You get one and only one.

Sometimes I can be really hard on myself.

So I thought about it a little more. It became pretty clear what the favorite was, and so I shall name it:

MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR by Herman Wouk

It’s about as far from crime fiction as you can get, but I so dearly love this novel that I kinda-sorta get choked up just thinking about it. The ending is so bittersweet that I’ve never read it and not cried. And I’ve read it many, many times.

It’s not a sad book, not at all. It’s the story of Marjorie Morgenstern, a 17-year old, beautiful Jewish girl growing up in Manhattan in the 1930s. Her Russian immigrant parents have worked hard to make certain she has the perfect future: marriage to a prosperous Jewish boy and a family. But Marjorie has no interest in living the dull life her parents lead and has a different idea; she wants to be an actress on the Broadway stage. The book is a chronicle of her road to the stardom she dreams of, her struggle between what she thinks she wants and what society expects of her, and what, ultimately, she really wants out of life and love.

I so wish there was something brilliant I could say to make you understand how great this book is, but alas, I feel I’ve failed.

I first read MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR when I was around 15 years old. One could argue that I still view it with the idealistic eyes of a teenager and thus it might not be worthy of the title MY FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME. I’d concede that might be true but it doesn’t change the fact that Wouk’s characterizations, his portrayal of pre-war New York City, and the world in which Marjorie lives are so vivid and charming I can only say “idealization be damned, this is a kick-ass book.”

What is it Liz Lemon says? I want to go to there. In Wouk’s deft hands, I can.

I’m turning 44 tomorrow so perhaps I’m feeling nostalgic, but MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR sums up much of what life is all about–endeavoring to achieve our dreams because we think that’s what will bring us happiness but realizing when it’s time to leave them behind.

See what I wrote there? Realizing when it’s time to leave your dreams behind.

I get misty just thinking about it.

But enough about me–I want to hear what your FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME is. And none of this toss-up crap. You get one and only one.

Holly West

2 Comments

  1. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. Revealingly, it is about a fat grump who lives in a medieval world of his own making, in his mother’s apartment, forced to get a job… his ridiculous selfishness knows no bounds, and when he creates an enormously funny catastrophe for everyone he touches, he flees to New York with his bohemian high school non-girlfriend.
    While dated, it remains the best book on the effects of not leaving the nest and extended adolescence, while capturing the heart of New Orleans, arguably the most unique and American of cities.

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