What’s a book you love with all your heart?

A woman keeps out of the hot sun in the shade of a tree while she reads a book in the Boston Common. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A woman keeps out of the hot sun in the shade of a tree while she reads a book in the Boston Common. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

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What's a book you love with all your heart?

That was the question driving Hannah Harlow’s essay this week. Harlow co-owns a bookstore on the North Shore and she used that query to solicit answers from her customers to help decorate her shop’s front windows. We published the piece on Valentine’s Day – but, really, is there ever a bad time to talk about the books we love?

Of course, it’s impossible to pick just one favorite.

Cog editor Kathy Burge wrote:

Like many of the readers who responded to Hannah Harlow’s question, I loved “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” Francie Nolan’s world was light years away from mine, but she loved books and libraries as much as I did. I still remember how this book made me, an only child in exurban Pennsylvania, yearn for the connection of big families and big cities. More recently, I fell in love with Kathryn Schulz’s “Lost & Found.” She writes poetically about grief and love, and how the two are inexorably yoked.

And Cog editor Sara Shukla shared:

When I say I had a third child so I’d have one more to read ‘“A Wrinkle in Time” with me, I’m not 100%  exaggerating. I remember being 9 or so, reading the part about the kids bouncing balls on the sidewalk all at the same time; I suppose I’m chasing that feeling vicariously. And I’m not sure how many friends to whom I’ve gifted “Good Talk,” by Mira Jacob. For a while there, I had it just showing up on people’s doorsteps.

I posed this same question to my college girlfriends’ text group. They wondered what I was doing up so late (and why I was asking), but then the responses came flooding in.

“A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” got another shout out from my friends. As did “The Sound and the Fury,” “The Scarlet Letter,” “Beloved,” “Night,” “Americanah” and “The Things They Carried," along with several books from our younger years: “Where The Red Fern Grows,” “Bridge to Terabithia,” “Cat’s Eye.”

In her essay, Harlow writes that declaring your favorite book can signal something about who you are — and how that can be scary. I think that’s true. Annie Dillard, Isabel Wilkerson, Katherine Boo: they get prime shelf space in my living room. But, for me, the affection I have for a book is as much about who I was — or what I was doing when I read it — as the book itself.


Thanks to three little kids and mid-life, it takes me forever to read a book these days. But when I think back to a favorite read, the first book that comes to mind is “Random Family” by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. I read it in my twenties, when I lived in New York City.  I remember reading it on the subway, in coffee shops and lying on a blanket in Prospect Park. It took LeBlanc more than a decade to write it. I’m still in awe of her commitment to the story, and the humanity she brought to it.

What’s a book you love with all your heart? Email us. We’d love to know.


Headshot of Cloe Axelson

Cloe Axelson Senior Editor, Cognoscenti
Cloe Axelson is an editor of WBUR’s opinion page, Cognoscenti.



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