I always struggle whenever people ask me what my favorite books are.
For me, growing up moving a lot meant that my most constant and intimate friends were books. The library was often the first place I'd ask to visit when we moved somewhere new and finding all of my favorite authors on the shelf there brought a sense of welcome and normality to each new home. So, I'm quite attached to certain novels and authors that helped me through difficult years or I happened to read at a important crossroad in my life. Attached to the point where when I start to talk about a book I really like or author I admire and hear criticism towards them it feels very personal. In college I had a professor who brought up Madeleine L'Engle only to be completely dismissive of her works and it really bothered me because L'Engle wrote books that helped me keep moving on days when I wanted to give up. (She's still one of my favorite authors and re-reading her works inspires me in new ways; I love how your relationship with a book and how you see the characters changes if you read it during childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Each experience of the book is unique from the last one because you're in a different life stage and passages or characters you overlooked in the past suddenly speak to you in a new way.) My favorite authors feel like friends or mentors and it's hard to hear criticism towards them without taking it personally. My favorites aren't my favorites because of the quality of prose or an author's understanding of syntax or the story arc; criticisms of the writer's skill or grammar don't bother me. But dismissive attitudes towards the work as a whole, perhaps the genre in general (as someone who loves Science Fiction and Fantasy); a response of "oh you enjoyed that?" tends to make one feel defensive, but also ready to retreat. Why yes, I did enjoy that novel and I think I'd rather be reading it (or a sequel) than listening to the judgement in your tone!
So perhaps I'm overly sensitive, but it also comes from being overly attached to books, and it makes me like a dragon hoarding its treasure--I usually want to keep the books I enjoy the most to myself. I love the experience of reading. Of being so caught up in a novel that you forget to eat and you don't even hear someone trying to talk to you when they're sitting inches away. Novels can put my heart in my throat, make my stomach twist in anxiety, or even make me laugh out loud. My face is apparently quite a picture when I'm reading a good book. When I'm fully engaged in a book what is happening to those characters feels more significant than almost anything happening in my real life. Realities of living become minor interruptions between periods when you can get back to your novel and find out what has been happening to the characters while you've been away working. I'm always disappointed when I reach the end of a good novel, no matter how well the plot ties up the ending never makes up for the fact I would rather have continued reading that story for another few days. But they always come to an end and then it's on to the next novel or author, seeking something that gives you that rush again. I could ramble on about how I adore books, but instead I'll cut to the chase and list of few favorites that have made me feel. They might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I savored them at just the right moment for them to make a permanent impression on me...
Fun fact: books have not always been shelved with their spines facing out. Titling or shelf-marking can appear on all sides (including the edges of the paper) and may indicate the past shelving practices in some libraries. Above left is an example of edge marbling which became popular in Europe in the 17th century.