Of Books, Stories and Life…

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The starkness of winter in black and white!

A few days ago, I had posted this photo on Facebook, and Ms. G commented on how it strangely reminded her of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Ever since she mentioned the book, it has been haunting me… just like the story haunts me every time I read it. I was in my early teens when I first read Wuthering Heights and from then on, every time I have read it, I have been completely taken in by its brilliance. Some of you may disagree, but the darkness of the setting, the tumultuous relationships, and the ruffian, Heathcliff, all have the ability to grip your soul in a weird manner. I have read the book at least five or six times, and I have a strong feeling that I’ll be picking it up again, soon.

My first books 🙂

My relationship with books started very early, with picture books that I used to flip through as a toddler. My fascination for books probably began from there and the fact that my father is an avid reader definitely had an impact too. As a child, I would listen in awe when my mother read out stories from Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales and a series with characters called Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Possum and others. As I began reading on my own, comics caught my attention and so did Amar Chitra Katha and Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five mystery series. I soon leveled up to Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Hercule Poirot and the brilliant series of Asterix and Obelix (by René Goscinny) and Tintin (by Hergé). My love affair with mysteries continues to this day, even though I tend to lean toward familiar authors over and over again.

I was a voracious reader during my school days and from there I went straight into college to study English Literature; there was no dearth of books there either. It was in college that I took my first formal library membership, at the British Council Library (BCL), mainly for academic purposes. Though BCL, and later, the American library were well-stocked and impressive, one library that left a lasting image was the the Madras Literary Society’s library in Nungambakkam. Its red building enveloped in history, the tall, stacked shelves and the musty smell of old books still linger in my memory. After moving to the US, I was thrilled to learn that public libraries offered free membership. Our local library system allows members to check out up to 50 items at a time (all books or a combination of books, audio books, CDs, and DVDs). What more could a bookaholic ask for, right?

Sorry, I went a little off track there with the libraries. Coming back to books and authors, one trait of good writing that has always amazed me is the author’s ability to paint a picture with words. Some authors are so descriptive that you can visualize the scenes as you read. For instance, I haven’t read a Famous Five book in almost three decades, but can you guess what comes to my mind every time I walk through dense fog? A description from The Five Go to Mystery Moor, where the five kids get stranded on a moor notorious for an extremely dense fog. The author has described the fog as being so wet that it felt like a wet hand touching your face, and the first time we experienced something like that here, I told Mr. P about the description. I may occasionally forget why I walked into the pantry, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget the wet fog as described by Enid Blyton. That is the kind of impact good writers can have on you. Similarly, every time we watch the Harry Potter movies, Mr P asks me if the books have a similar fantastical effect and my answer is always ‘Yes’. He finds it difficult to wrap his head around how words can bring out the same result as visual presentation, and I tell him he has to read it to experience it because only those who read know how books can make us cry, laugh, fall in love and experience all the emotions one goes through in everyday life.

As I sat down to write this blog, I came across 8 Benefits of Reading (or Ways Reading Makes You Better at Life). I completely agree with the writer who says that reading can reduce stress, improve analytical thinking, increase vocabulary and improve writing skills among other things. I do strongly believe that it is my love for books that instilled the interest in writing and over the years, the books I have read have definitely played a major role in enhancing my vocabulary, knowledge, and overall appreciation for the art of writing.

I have been talking so passionately about books and how they impact us, but unfortunately, I haven’t been reading as voraciously as before. I used to be able to read for hours on end, but these days it is a miracle if I can read even for 30 minutes straight. I blame ‘adulting’… only because I have to pin the blame on something other than my lack of motivation to read! In my post Has Your Screen Time Gone Up or Down During the Pandemic?, I had mentioned that I was going to try to read more. I’ll be lying if I say I have succeeded, but I can surely say that there has been an improvement. Though I am not a fan of reading on devices, I recently downloaded the Kindle App. It doesn’t match, in any way, the feeling of holding a book and feeling the pages, but I have been reading random ‘free’ books on it. Some were good… others were blah, but I have been reading! As of today, I have about 4 good titles waiting in the queue. I also bought myself a copy of Obama’s A Promised Land, to give non-fiction a try.

Regardless of whether you are a former-avid reader trying to get back into the habit or someone trying to cultivate it anew, get yourself a library membership, check out e-readers, get title suggestions from people who read and take the plunge. This is one hobby where you have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.

You may have a different taste than mine when it comes to books, but if you want to give my picks a try, here are a few that I recommend in no particular order:

1. To Kill a Mocking Bird – Harper Lee
2. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
3. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
4. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
5. Beloved – Toni Morrisson
6. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
7. The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown
8. Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
9. Malgudi Days – R. K. Narayan
10. Swami and Friends – R.K. Narayan
10. The Shiva Trilogy – Amish Tripathi
11. Asterix and Obelix series
12. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

I wrote this post hoping to inspire myself and you to read more. Which book are you going to pick first? Do share. Here’s to the precious galore of books that lies before us to be explored! Happy Reading!!!


2 thoughts on “Of Books, Stories and Life…

  1. My reading habit started with the Malayalam books that came in annual git boxes, 12 books every year. Then there were books such as “Sanjayan” (Malayalam satire), Aithihyamala” (myths and legends of Kerala) and of course authors such as VKN, Vaikom Muhammad Bashir, MT Vasudevan Nair, Nandanar etc that caught my fancy. Reading English books came a bit later. We had a Padre name MC Joseph who taught us English and Special English from class 8 to 10. in classes 8 nd 9, we were not taught out of the text book much other than the grammar sections. We were told t bring pronunciation dictionary and Wren and Martin Grammar books to his classes.
    He used to bring his own books and make each one of us read and correct our pronunciation. Meanings of tough words were also explained. Grammar was taught out of the Wren and Marin. My father became a member of the British Council Library in Trivandrum (unfortunately closed down in early or mid seventies). I used to read Enid Blyton, Biggles, Rudyard Kipling, Kenneth Anderson, II WW illustrated books etc. One book I liked much was “Tom Browns School Days”. I own a copy these days too. Then with age the reading also shifted to James Hadley Chase, Perry Mason, Harold Robbins, Alistair Maclean, Arthur Hailey etc. Mr D who is more of a friend to me than a relative initiated me to books by James A Michener, Hawaii being the first book by him that I read. Drifters was one of my favourites. Gone with the wind came to my life when a relative of mine staying with us doing her MPhil used to discuss about that book. Her dissertation was on the character of Rhett Butler. Then came an unorthodox Italian author, Giovani Gureschi, with stories about a priest and a communist mayor (Don Camillo and Peppone) from a small village on the banks of River Po. I have a good collection of most of the out of print books. Some of the books are older than me, printed in 1954.
    To kill a mocking bird was an accidental reading. I still read the book once in a while. Catch 22 has many service life occasions that we could equate that in the Indian Navy and became another favourite. John Le Carre, Gerald Seymour and Joseph Kanon are my current favourites.
    Whenever I feel mentally down, I pick up a book and read, Mostly Don Camillo or John Le Carre, to get over the blues.

    Liked by 1 person

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