What’s your favorite book of all time?

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Of all the books in all the world, of every book I’ve read, heard of, and haven’t read yet, I have one that is simply nearest and dearest to my heart. I have read it dozens and dozens of times, I will read it many, many more times, and sometimes I pick it up and flip to the middle just to absorb the beautiful words. I’ve read it to my daughter, it was the first book I ever read to her. She was still an infant then, and didn’t understand a word of it, but I didn’t care. I wanted her to have heard every word so that somewhere, this book would always be somewhere in her heart, even if she doesn’t know it.

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This book is Peter Pan, or Peter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie. I have multiple copies of this book, and have even gone so far in my obsession as to owning two of the first U.S. prints of this book, from 1911 and 1912. They are some of my dearest treasures.

This book has some of the most well-written passages I’ve ever read:

“I don’t know if you have ever seem a map of a person’s mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child’s mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island; for the Neverland is always more or less and island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose.”
― J.M. BarriePeter Pan

“Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children’s minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this and you would find it very interesting to watch. It’s quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on Earth you picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek, as if it were a nice kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out the prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.”
― J.M. BarriePeter Pan

“She was a lovely lady, with a romantic mind and such a sweet mocking mouth. Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East, however many you discover there is always one more; and her sweet mocking mouth had one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner.”
― J.M. BarriePeter Pan

There is something brilliant and simple and honest about Barrie’s writing that I can just never get over. There is something very admirable about Wendy’s decision to grow up, and something very romantic about the notion that there was ever a choice. Also, Neverland is just so perfectly described. That is exactly the place I lived and played and had adventures in as a child. “When you play at it by day with the chairs and table-cloth, it is not in the least alarming, but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very nearly real. That is why there are night-lights. ”

The Neverland is now the place in my mind from which I draw inspiration to write. It’s the place where all my characters live, where the rivers and waterfalls are made up of  words, flowing freely through a lush and busy landscape.

I think we often forget that place when we grow up. We are so busy with work, school, family, life in general that the doorway becomes neglected and overgrown, ivy or kudzu taking it over completely.

Don’t let that happen. Prune the door to your imagination, and walk through. The door may stick at first, and the hinges may squeak, but keep pushing until you’ve rediscovered your Neverland. You’ll realize it’s been waiting for you a long, long time.

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