The one-book meme, via Kate's Book Blog and About Last Night:
One book that changed your life
I had a bad habit as a child of going over to a friend's house for a sleepover and instead digging in so deeply to some book I found on the shelves that I became deaf to everything else including the increasingly frustrated friend until I finished reading it. At sixteen or so I remember sleeping over at my friend S.'s dad's house, her stepmother had done a master's degree in English and I pounced upon Roland Barthes's S/Z and couldn't put it down. I knew the name Barthes but only older and more conventional literary criticism had hitherto come my way; this book transformed my sense of what would be possible in my own writing and reading life.
One book that you've read more than once
My most-reread book ever has to be Pride and Prejudice. I had a beaten-up garage-sale copy as a child, with the most hideous Regency-romance cover (a very blond and supercilious Elizabeth Bennett in a pink bonnet, plus very tight-breeched Mr. Darcy and a strange bumpy texture to the physical cover). I read it again and again until the covers fell off and the spine started to split. It is possible that I have read this book as many as thirty-five times, and I almost burned out on it five years ago when I found myself teaching it in two different classes (Literature Humanities and an undergraduate seminar on Austen) the same week. I have lectured on it to Columbia parents, I own at least four (five?) different copies, I have taught it at least six times, at times I have felt so sick of it that I can hardly stand the idea of rereading it. It is definitely no longer my favorite Austen novel. And yet its formal perfection and its strange and remarkably intelligent use of the third-person voice mean that every time I read it again (I think I can safely say I will reread it at least twenty more times in my life, assuming I teach for another thirty-plus years) I find something striking and new.
One book you'd want on a desert island
This is a wholly boring and conventional answer, and yet there is no doubt in my mind that I would have to have the Riverside Shakespeare. Which is of course not itself a boring and conventional book at all.
One book that made you laugh
Cintra Wilson's Colors Insulting to Nature, which should be much more widely read than seems to be the case.
One book that made you cry
Ken Bruen's The Dramatist. Nothing makes me cry, but the ending of this book made me cry.
One book that you wish had been written
Rebecca West wrote a novel called The Fountain Overflows that is my single most cherished top-choice number-one-favorite-novel of all time. It was with some amazement as a teenager that I found on the new books shelf at the public library two further installments in the story of the Aubrey family, both published posthumously: This Real Night and Cousin Rosamund. The story is incomplete, though; a fourth volume was projected, and at the end the editor published West's synopsis of the entire sweep of the narrative. There is no book I would rather read than the last part of that story, and no author I would trust to complete it in West's stead. She herself felt (I don't have the book here, so I can't give you the exact words) that she found herself bumping up against the very limits of her own technique and couldn't figure out how to meet the challenge posed by the story's completion, which included among other things Rose Aubrey attending the Nuremberg trials and hearing an account of the behavior of a (deceased) concentration-camp victim and realizing it was her cousin Rosamund, and that the entire shape of her cousin's life had been meant to bring her to that point.
One book that you wish had never been written
This isn't a book, exactly, but I wish Jonathan Swift had not written the poem "Cadenus and Vanessa." I love Swift, but this poem's combination of bad faith and general creepiness make me hate him instead for as long as it takes me to read the poem.
One book you're currently reading
Anne Burt's My Father Married Your Mother: Writers Talk about Stepparents, Stepchildren and Everyone in Between. This one comes with a funny coincidence: my friend Steve Burt recently recommended an anthology on stepparents edited by his cousin, I followed the link and it sounded interesting but I am neither a step-child nor a step-parent and its acquisition therefore held no urgency for me, though a few days later I sent a copy to a friend who has found herself recently in closer proximity to these issues. Then I found myself a few weeks ago in conversation before Pilates class (yes, yes, it is ridiculous, I know) at the Columbia gym with one of the few other non-undergraduate-age people in the group. And she introduced herself and I suddenly realized that this was Anne Burt, editor of aforesaid volume and cousin of Steve. It was distinctly disconcerting (I had no idea she worked at Columbia) but in a good literary way, and so I immediately ordered another copy of the anthology from Amazon and have been dipping into it. It seems excellent: definitely recommended on grounds of style as well as substance.
One book you've been meaning to read
Sigrid Nunez's The Last of Her Kind. I've got a whole shelf of new novels that I purchased in various fits and/or frenzies this spring and early summer and now don't have time to read....