This is like asking for my favorite flavor of ice cream -- why do I have to choose just one? (If I do, it's fudge ripple. But sometimes strawberry. And rum raisin is good, too.)
So if I had to pick only one, it would be "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," a George Harrison composition on Help. It combines all the tuneful cheer of classic Beatles pop with heartwrenching adolescent angst ("Gather round, all you clowns/Let me hear you say/'Hey, you've got to hide your love away'"). Favorite Lennon/McCartney composition: "A Day in the Life," a whole life in one song. Favorite Beatles album: Revolver, which was every bit as revolutionary as Sgt. Pepper.
Important correction, posted 12/28/06: "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" is, in fact, a Lennon/McCartney composition, written by John Lennon but credited to both songwriters. I am mortified. Thanks to Scott Phillips for the correction -- this is what I get for writing about music when I'm away from my CD collection.
What's your favorite? Leave it below.
Best Things I Read in 2006 (Part Two):
Robert Greenfield, Timothy Leary: A Biography. Greenfield accomplishes the near-impossible here, making a compelling book from the life of a genuinely rotten human being. Essential cultural history.
Robert Littell, Legends. Retired spy Martin Odum can no longer remember which of his undercover identities is the "real one." Legends digs deep into the question of identity, and was so gripping I lost a night's sleep over it.
Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job. The right book at the right time for me; the story of beta male Charlie Asher, who finds himself an instrument of doom in the wake of his own wife's death. Hilarious, sad and deeply compassionate.
Mary Roach, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. Another book I read at exactly the right time. Roach follows her fascinating Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers with this look at scientific research into heaven, reincarnation, spiritualism and more. Spook manages to be both respectful and funny, and left me feeling optimistic.
Anne Tyler, The Amateur Marriage. Anne Tyler is our generation's Edith Wharton. She covers most of the 20th century in this story of Michael and Pauline's troubled marriage. This is the book that I wanted Alice McDermott's After This to be.