The Best Book in the World

A few months ago I had the pleasurable experience of being kidnapped by my family, wrestled into the room of my older daughter, Diana, smooshed down on the bed, and held still to hear them read aloud a book that all three of them—both daughters plus my husband–agreed was the best book. No qualifiers, no hesitations, total agreement among three very different readers. Just…the best book.

The book? This:


They read the first two or three chapters, and then something happened—bedtime or dinner or something—and we had to stop and then the book was somehow lost and we couldn't get back to it or find it or anything. Vanished.

Over the next few months they all, especially Chestnut, kept asking "Did you read The Thirteen Clocks yet?" And I had to keep saying, "No, do you know where it is?" or "No, did you finish your homework?" and it just kept…not working out.

Until last week.

Last week the book mysteriously appeared on the coffee table. I grabbed it but no, Chestnut was rereading it. I had to wait, but I kept my eye on it, and a few days later there it was, all mine. I took it with me on the subway, and the first thing I did (which is a thing I NEVER do) was read Thurber's introduction, which is so completely wonderful it makes you feel better about everything even if the person next to you on the subway smells really bad. It seems he wrote the book as a lark. And that is just what it feels like.

The book? It's just fun. And delightful. And bizarre. It's perfect for reading aloud to a small person (or a large one, such as myself), or for taking off with you somewhere to enjoy all on your own. It's silly and thrilling and comforting and surprising. It's a wonderful thing to read. Is it the best? I feel like I can't even tell, I can't come up with that sort of overall judgment in the whole world. But at the same time, my family's pretty smart. So I'm pretty sure they're not wrong.

At any rate, you ought to try it.

5 thoughts on “The Best Book in the World

  1. I just read it the other week after seeing it mentioned here briefly in another post. It was a complete delight!
    Although at this time of year, if you ask me, I’ll have to tell you that the best book in the world is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.


  2. Thurber is my father’s favorite author, so I have very fond memories of that book. Have you read his other “children’s” books? Many Moons, the Wonderful O, the White Deer…


  3. Yes!! Another one finds The Thirteen Clocks! It really is the best book in the world. My brother and I both loved it as kids and the best gift he ever gave me was to let me keep the family copy, even though it was really his. I think I now have three copies on my shelves.
    And I second the recommendation for the other Thurber books, too. Of course, I’m a big fan of Marc Simont (the illustrator) too and the two of them just worked beautifully together.


  4. I, too, loved that book as a child. When I was in 8th grade, my reading teacher adapted it for a class play and I got to be in it!


  5. I always think that Thurber is the ideal companion for those awkward in between reading years (12-14) when you’re feeling too old for children’s literature, too young for “adult” literature and not up to the high drama of “young adult” literature.


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