There's one genre that feels like home, one where we spent the majority of our creative and recreational time, the one we have grown up around, our true literary love. Most of our favorite books come from this genre. Well, maybe some people have more than one, but every reader has a preference for a certain kind of book.
This is in small font. It's so that you can skip it if you like.
We are most likely to forgive the faults of whatever comes out of that genre, because it already speaks our most beloved language, so to speak. Just by existing in the domain we know the best, that kind of novel already has a lot of the elements we love the very most.
But you should know something about me: I have a lot of theories, and even though I believe in them passionately, I'm fully aware that they may not be accurate.
Now, for something to make our favorite list from outside our home genre, it has to be really and truly exceptional. This is where we start to use phrases like TRUE ART and MASTER WORK and MAGNUM OPUS and THE BEST THING EVER. It has to be the very best of the best, the cream of the crop, the stand-out.
My theories just sound so plausible. My mom calls me the Princess of BS (my father is the King), so I can make said theories sound good. That's what makes them dangerous.
You have been warned.
In other words, those books need to be the Best Versions of Themselves. (Do you like how everything cycles back to the B.V.O.T. scale? I'm particularly proud of myself.)
Now, for me, that home genre is the middle grade fantasy series: over half of all the reading and re-reading I've done in my life comes from this subcategory of awesome. That means I'm more than willing to read 500K+ words by one author, following a group of characters from book to book to book, just so that I can watch them grow and change and conquer their greatest fears.
This genre encompasses my favorite, most reread books ever: the Narnia books, Harry Potter (of course!), Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, Madeleine L'Engle's the Time Quartet (although it's a trilogy to me, because I've never read Many Waters), Percy Jackson (also, of course!), Patricia C. Wrede's The Enchanted Forest series, Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness, the Immortals, and The Protector of the Small series.
I could go on, you guys, listing my favorite books until the end of the world - or next December, whichever comes first. :-P
The next related subcategory with the most favorite books is the Middle Grade Fantasy-Adventure novel with Plucky Heroine (usually a fairy tale retelling of some kind): the Blue Sword, Beauty, Rose Daughter, Spindle's End, Crown Duel, Ella Enchanted, Sabriel (but is this YA?), Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Wait Till Helen Comes, The Goose Girl, Graceling (this is definitely YA, but I'm slipping it in anyway).
And dear reader, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I've started writing books that have a foot in each of these realms.
But some of my other favorite books in the entire universe coming from other genres are: Haroun and the Sea of Stories, A History of Love, Everything Is Illuminated, The Alchemist, Middlemarch, Pride and Prejudice, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Bridget Jone's Diary & BJD: The Edge of Reason, the Book Thief, Sharon Creech's Chasing Redbird, A. S. Byatt's Persuasion, Francesca Lia Block's Echo, The God of Small Things, The Time Traveler's Wife, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (no, really - I read this one for FUN), The Last Unicorn.
The funny thing about that last bunch is that most have ended up on bestselling and/or award lists. :-P
But I limited these lists to books that were favorites BEFORE I STARTED WRITING FOR SERIOUS. Which means that the lists don't include what I've read in the last 2 years. From those, I limited myself to books I've read more than once (except for Middlemarch. I didn't finish the reread. I got to the part where Lydgate and his wife are arguing about money for chapters and chapters on end, and then I skipped ahead to the end where Dorothea and Will get together).
Just know, peeps, this list could be a lot longer.
Moral of the Story: People are going to like the books that they're going to like. And they'll surprise themselves by loving the books which are super awesome.