My favorite book of all time — all genres — anything — is The Lord of the Rings.
My favorite movie of all time is The Lord of the Rings.
The Lord of the Rings is neither the best book nor the best film ever made.
And too many people see a contradiction in those three sentences.
What is “best?” It’s hard to say exactly. In art, it’s easy to see MASSIVE differences in quality. Citizen Kane is an objectively better film than Twilight and, I can admit, Lord of the Rings.
But when quality difference is subtler, distinction becomes much harder.
Who’s to say American Hustle is better than The Wolf of Wall Street?
How can you objectively state that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is better than To Kill A Mockingbird?
The answer of course is that you can’t, though the artistic criticism industry would love to believe that you CAN, because that would justify the existence of both their industry and their paychecks.
However, “favorite” is subjective and therefore, interestingly, much easier to define.
The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book AND movie because I can read/watch it over and over and over again. I have never grown tired of it, no matter how many times I’ve re-experienced it. I ALWAYS want to watch it again. I might do another marathon soon and watch them all in a day. I read the book once a year.
THAT’S favorite. That’s easy for me to define.
Some other people have more of a problem with this. Some people “can’t pick just one.” It can help to picture a gun to your head and a man in a mask, or it can help to imagine yourself stranded on a desert island with a genie who will grant you one wish, except he’s a crap genie because you can only wish for a single book to read for the rest of your life.
But if those scenarios don’t force people to decide, I have a trick. I say, “Okay, well tell me some of your FAVORITE books.”
In my own head, whatever book they say first is their favorite. At least subconsciously, they associate that title with the word “favorite” more than the others on their list.
It’s not a perfect system, but it works.
No one will ever be able to clearly define the “best” in any art.
But you can decide on your favorite.