How many times have you been asked that question? I'm always surprised when people name a certain author or novel as their benchmark reading experience because my favourite novel is usually the one I'm reading at the time.
I don't even have a favourite genre as it all depends on how a novel is written and the subject matter which combined, make it enjoyable.
But inevitably, once a book is finished I move on to the next experience. So although Zusak will stay with me, I'm now involved in Peter Ackroyd's, The Clerkenwell Tales, a scholarly race through London streets in 1399. These stories of spies, friars, nuns and secret societies are richly imagined and strange, yet so realistic you could be one of their neighbours living in the shadows of St Paul's. I have lived and worked around Clerkenwell, so although the writing is intriguing, my familiarity with the setting also draws me in.
That's often why I find myself scouring the shelves of my London library for Australian writers. Sometimes it is the desire to return to your roots that makes a story particularly enticing. I read Bryce Courtney's, The Potato Factory while here in the UK. I had spurned it when living in Australia but feeling homesick and looking for something familiar, I enjoyed the history and settings of London and Van Dieman's Land.
Many readers heading off on holiday like to take Lorca to Spain, Michener's, South Pacific to Vanuatu, or Lampedusa to Sicily because it gives both their holiday and their reading another dimension in time and place. To take Jane Austen to the Kalahari, for example, would not do justice to either the work itself or to the desert. On a Nile cruise, Agatha Christie may turn into your favourite author.
It takes all sorts to make a book memorable, to have significance for the reader and to make it a favourite. I don't think I could settle for just one.