Of Your Books, Which Is Your Favorite?

Which book that you’ve written is your favorite?
It’s a question I get asked a lot. 
Answering it isn’t as easy as you might think. For an author, picking a favorite book is a little like asking a father if he loves one of his children more than the others. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but when you spend several years of your life consumed in writing a book, the finished manuscript becomes much more to its creator than ink, paper, or in today’s world, electronic text.
I realized one day that I frequently mark important dates in my life by the book that I was working on at the time. If you asked me what I was doing in 1988, I wouldn’t have a clue until I recalled that between 1987 to 1989 I was inside the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, doing research for The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison. Once I remembered that, I would be able to fill in the memory gaps about other events that had happened in that same time period.
My books are touchstones for me.
Each book also brings back specific memories, especially about the characters whom I met while researching it. When I think of  Confessions of a Spy: The Real Story Of Aldrich Ames, I remember meeting Aldrich Ames, the CIA traitor, in the Alexandria jail without the FBI or CIA knowing I was there and being impressed by his quick wit. How could such a likeable fellow have caused the execution of ten U.S. spies and sent a dozen others to prison without blinking an eye? I remember when I flew to Moscow and discovered my interpreter had developed the chicken pox, leaving me to navigate the city. 
When I take Prophet of Deathfrom my book shelf, I think about how easy it was for Jeffrey Lundgren to persuade his young followers to kill in the name of Jesus and  how sore my butt was after sitting in a jail on a steel stool for six hours listening to Lundgren explain his twisted biblical theology after he was arrested and sentenced to death. 
If I grab Super Casino,my mind flashes back to the High Roller pit inside the Luxor casino on the Strip and the night I stood next to a pit boss who explained card counting to me while we watched the current governor of California –then only a Hollywood movie star – playing blackjack and smoking his signature cigar.
If I judged my books on what impact they have had, well, Circumstantial Evidence would be near the top of the list because it played a small role in helping free a wrongly convicted man from death row.
But if I judged my books on which one had the biggest impact on me personally when I was writing it, then I’d have to say The Hot House. You can’t spend 23 days inside a Lord of the Flies environment such as a maximum security prison  – even as a reporter – without it causing you to think about who you are and question what you value in your life. I remember seeing an inmate get stabbed in the back with a 14 inch shank (homemade knife) that was punched into him so hard that its point came out of his chest. You don’t witness that sort of violence and not have it give you nightmares.
If I judged my books on which were the most fun to write then I’d have to mention my three novels. They came from my imagination and there wasn’t a morning that I didn’t get up eager to continue telling the story of the characters being created on the computer screen and the problems that I had created for them to solve. It is ironic, but I enjoyed writing fiction much more than nonfiction. 
Thankfully, my novels got great reviews. A New York Post critic called them a “cut above” the popular thrillers of John Grisham and Tom Clancy. But the highest compliment came from Alan Cheuse at NPR who described Lethal Secrets, in a review as a “blast.”
Regrettably, those reviews couldn’t make up for lackluster sales and the chances of me writing a fourth novel, especially during a recession, are now remote. 
Of all my books, however, CRAZY, was the most difficult to write and it is the most important to me. The reason should be obvious. It is about my son, Mike, and our struggles together in his battle against a mental disorder.
CRAZY changed me from being a journalist and an author into an advocate. It opened my eyes to the suffering of others and I always have believed that journalists/authors are obligated to help expose and attempt to correct wrongs.
CRAZY gave me a chance to do that and it is why it will always be my favorite.
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. I have purchased dozens of CRAZY books to give to friends and community members. This book reveals what a family members must go through when they are hit with a loved one who ha a mental illness. I thank you for your advocacy.