All time favourites are of two kinds.
The first kind is what I call ‘love at first sight’. You like them from the start and by the time you are done with them, you know they are going to become an all time favourite. Your appreciation for them peaks at or towards the end of your first experience with them and future reflection upon them does not increase your liking much higher.
In the second kind, much rarer, you don’t particularly like the object on first taste. By the time you are done with it, you still don’t exactly love it, though you are aware there is something very interesting about them. It is only on reflection, over the next few days or even weeks that you succeed in unraveling the many layers of quality that wrap around them. You fall in love slowly, the process is intrinsic rather than external and the eventual effect is a powerful, permanent one.
I am not trying to imply that one kind of favourite is superior to the other; nor am I saying the opposite. The above is merely an observation and nothing more.
Examples of the first kind in my life: Harry Potter, The Fountainhead, Surely you are joking Mr. Feynman, Saving Private Ryan, No Man’s land, The lives of others, Chungking express, When Harry met Sally, Satyajit Ray movies, most Tarantino movies, Top of the World, El Condor Pasa, Carmen, Dvorak’s 9th symphony, solution to IMO ’99 problem 3.
Examples of the second kind in my life: The Great Gatsby,The old man and the sea, The outsider, American Beauty, most Polanski movies (particularly Bitter Moon), Strawberry fields forever, Bangalore, TJ Bolivian blend coffee.
Some things however, I can’t decide which category to put in. Examples: Mozart’s music, Hardy’s Apology.