Useless Surveys

One of the most common survey questions, and one that has become a staple of everything from Presidential elections to college interviews, is "What is your favorite Book."  This is a question that you and I might (or might not) answer honestly with a friend in a bar, but almost no one answers honestly for publication.    The vast majority of the answers are public posturing, selections made to make one look bright or engaged or intellectual, and not honest answers.   Presidential candidates get asked to provide their current reading list and I would bet $100 that they have staff members huddle around working on the list that portrays their candidate the best.   I would be shocked if even 20% of these 50 answers at the link were honestly their favorite books.

I am not sure there is a way to get an honest answer, but if I had to ask the question, I would ask, "what books have your read more than once?"

PS - I do have to recognize Robin Williams choice of the Foundation novels and in particular his statement that the Mule was his favorite character in fiction.  For those who know the books (and the Foundation is definitely on my list of books I have read more than once), the Mule is a fascinating choice for Robin Williams to have made.


  1. jdh:

    Although I have read the Foundation series multiple times, I have to confess that the Lord of the Rings trilogy beats all others for me, hands down.

  2. Chris:

    Atlas Shrugged

  3. marque2:

    The Foundation Trilogy is definitely the largest trilogy ever written. I would avoid books 4 and 5 in the trilogy, since they are mostly about trying to unify all of Asimov's works into one universe of novels, rather than being about having a good plot and good story.

  4. anon:

    The tale of peter rabbit. I've read it loads of times

  5. Mike Saldivar:

    I hadn't even heard of the Foundation books, but they sound good enough to add to the library. Thanks!

  6. Howard Luken:

    The Mule thought he continued to rule when in fact he had been made irrelevant. This often happens to those who believe they have power over others when in fact they actually answer to yet another higher power

  7. Howard Luken:

    Actually Green eggs and ham is my favorite book.

  8. obloodyhell:

    }}} made to make one look bright or engaged or intellectual, and not honest answers.

    LOL, some of us don't need to lie to manage this... :-D

    I'd certainly seriously consider Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. But otherwise, some classic SF will do -- RAH's Glory Road, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, or Starship Troopers. Niven's All The Myriad Ways, or The Ringworld series. Then there's S.M. Stirling's Islands In The Sea of Time, the initial book of The Emberverse series. And Turtledove's The Guns of The South...

  9. Sam L.:

    I read the Foundation stories when the first came out. The fourth one, a bit later. Didn't like it. By that time, I found I no longer really liked Ike's writing. Son gave me a really nice copy of the trilogy a few years ago; I generally liked the first two, but slogged thru the third.

    I don't have a favorite book, but I do have favorite authors.

  10. marque2:

    Of all the primates in the world other than man, it is the gibbon that is by far the smartest. In fact it is a Gibbon that wrote the definitive 6 volume work "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," in the mid 1700's. Monkey's and typewriters - please.

    The reason I bring this up is because Asimov apparently was inspired by the "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," by Edward Gibbon, when he wrote the Foundation Trilogy.

  11. marque2:

    I didn't read the books and didn't know much about them as a kid. When I was in my 20's I got a free copy of Peter Rabbit when I filled up for gas at a British Petroleum (BP) gas station. I just assumed that Beatrice Potter, was a made up name that BP came up with to match their initials for their version of the rabbit story.

    It wasn't until I had my own kids, and read the rabbit books to them that I realized the error in my ways.

  12. skhpcola:

    The vast majority of the answers are public posturing, selections made to make one look bright or engaged or intellectual, and not honest answers.

    That must be directly analogous to certain bloggers that have an obvious affinity for leftist halfwits such as Kevin Dumb and affect an at-times dismissive attitude towards same. Then, at carefully selected intervals, those certain bloggers wax with admiration of the brilliance of aforementioned leftist halfwits in a showing of solidarity and traveling fellowship. This phenomenon is especially egregious when certain bloggers desire a righteous countenance when addressing, say, illegal immigration or other leftist dogma.

    Truly, this disingenuous bullshit is why liberaltarian intellectuals are the bane of contemporary politics. Certain bloggers who are obviously intelligent--yet flirt with radical leftist ideals--will never gain the trust of those that share the minimal government tenets of small-"L" libertarians. Certain bloggers are anathema to the basic principles of sovereignty and American Exceptionalism. Certain bloggers are too ashamed of admitting their leftist love and do a poor job of concealing it.

  13. irandom419:

    I remember reading it, sitting in the truck since it was the only quiet place.

  14. Sue Smith:

    "The Book" by Alan Watts

  15. Fraizer:

    Actually won best trilogy over Tolken's Lord of the Rings.

  16. Vangel:

    The Foundation trilogy is the progressivist wet dream. You have a 'science' that can be used to plan societal developments hundreds of years into the future. While Asimov may have meant well, he was sympathetic to collectivism and was a progressive his whole life. He was typical of the engineer/scientist type who is smart and because of it arrogant enough to think that problems in complex societies can be dealt with effectively if the right people were in charge. While the action in the Foundation trilogy is quite good the philosophy is not.

  17. Vangel:

    Must have been a very limited poll. Tolkien's books are about the danger of power; a commentary on Acton's, 'power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.' The LOR was a warning about the dangers of the concentration of power. The Foundation glorified the concentration of power in the hands of social engineers. It was a utopian vision of something that could never be true in human society. In the Modern Library Readers' list of 100 best novels LOR comes in number four. The Foundation is nowhere to be seen.

    Of course, the poll you are thinking of could have been about the best trilogy to promote a progressive vision of a utopian future.

  18. Abe Froman:

    My favorite book is "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Graham. It was suggested by the librarian in my high school. I was in 10th grade at the time. I wish I could thank her now. I am 67. I've read it probably a hundred times. It never gets old. I have a dozen different editions of it. I prefer the one with E. H. Shepard's illustrations. I've never watched an animated film of it. It could never do the book justice.