Lately I’ve been asking groups about their favorite books — as a get-to-know-you activity of sorts. You know: “My name is Melanie…and one of my favorite books is Anne of Green Gables.” That sort of thing.
I’ve asked groups that include children and groups with only adults. (I ask groups of kids this a lot — great marketing research.) Before I throw this question out, I know that the group members are generally readers (I don’t want anyone to panic at the question), and I’m careful to say a favorite book, not the favorite book. I don’t specify “favorite book from childhood” or “favorite book from the last year” etc.
That last part is important, because what is fascinating to me is that most adults — even those who I know read three tomes last week — answer with a favorite book from childhood, not what they read last week.
“Trixie Belden…” they say, nostalgia in their eyes. Heads nod.
“And all those mysteries — Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, The Bobbsey Twins….”
“Winnie-the-Pooh—my mother read it to us after lunch every day!”
“Mine did, too!”
“D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths—my copy was held together with a rubberband.”
“Have you read Rick Riordan’s Greek Myth series? My grandson gave it to me and they are so fun!”
“The Ramona books — I loved them when I was kid, loved them when I read them with my kids, love reading them with the grandkids!”
“What was the one with the dog? I think Ramona was in that, too… And some kid named Harry?”
“No, Henry. Henry Huggins — “
“The dog was Ribsy, right?”
“Ribsy! I loved Ribsy. My second grade teacher read us Ribsy.”
Everyone is smiling and laughing and remembering. There are worse ways to meet people, to introduce yourself.
Three things are interesting to me about these exchanges — besides the fact that most adults list a book they read decades ago as a “favorite.”
- Many of the same titles are repeated — in different groups — there’s a sort of Canon of Favorites. (Except for one — someone said they devoured five copies of The Little Boy From Shickshinny by Frank Anders and Eileen Daly. None of us had heard of that one. Have you?
- Most talk about someone reading it with them. Reading with kids — can’t beat it!
- The conversations after these introductions are rich — people continue listing favorites on break, comparing memories on the way out the door, struggling to remember the title of a favorite book everyone in the 1950s read etc. Books create conversation and relationships.
Try it! Ask about favorite books the next time you’re in charge of getting a group to know one another. Or even a group who already knows each other well. I asked the question in one such group and we reached a whole new level of friendship!
What’s a favorite book of yours?
“The Twenty-One Balloons” by William Pene Du Bois. In 5th grade my best friend Ricky and I built a model of the balloon raft for a book project.
WOW – that’s quite a book project, David. I remember that book, I think! I’ll have to get it at the library and see if it’s what I’m thinking of.….