Books that made me

As a tiny tot, I was their worst nightmare.

I would rip books from cover to cover, page by page, and have my thin arms quivering with exertion while the paper trembled helplessly in fear. But all that’s in the past now. We’ve buried the hatchet.

And now we’re inseparable.

The innate art of reading took over with brute force, and as a child, I found myself often reaching out for the book on the higher shelf. Reading books aloud to mum, sitting on the kitchen counter while she cooked, seemed so natural, at ease. So, I would be joking if I said that books played no part in making me the person I am today. I would be committing a sacrilege if I said books were not the reason for me being an avid dreamer, by day and night, in monochrome and technicolour.

Of course it’s difficult to remember ALL the books I’ve read since childhood that affected me in some way or the other, but here’s a list of the ones that left an impact.

Enid Blyton
It would be gross injustice if I started the list with anyone else. Enid Blyton has probably handheld many children into the world of reading. Right from The Famous Five to the Five Find-Outers, Secret Seven or even The Naughtiest Girl series, I’ve devoured every book of her’s I could lay my puny hands on. And what was there not to love, adventures, secrets, villains by the dozen, caravan stories, picnic lunches in the warm afternoon sun… ah, it seemed like I was there in the story myself.

Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew
Another set of whodunnit stories, these were my favourites as a kid. Not to mention harbouring a crush for Joe Hardy. Ha! As children we’re always in the mode of discovering new things, and thanks to a ready appetite for such genres, I would imagine embarking on similar adventures.

Doctor Who
At a time when I had absolutely no clue about the original televised Doctor, I was heavily into reading the spin-off novels. And they were brilliant. Even though the school library was well stocked with these, the librarian never understood why I was the only one who would keep coming for more. Doctor Who and the amazing galaxies filled with the weirdest of species, whet my appetite for creature-features, science fiction, space travel and the like.

A Pocketful of Rye, Agatha Christie
Her books marked a milestone in my life, in my journey of reading, transitioning from a child into a young adult. And I remember, my first Christie at the age of ten, had the word ‘sexy’ on the first page. And I happened to be reading aloud to my mum. What a tough situation. I didn’t want mum to know that I knew what the word meant. So I sweetly asked her what it meant, and boy, did she get uncomfortable.

The Lost World, Michael Crichton
Thanks to my insatiable reading habits, in class ten (my first board exams), I was barred from borrowing books from the school library. And when your mother is the primary headmistress in the same school, the librarian must also comply. I always borrowed books, so I never had much of a collection at home. So, effectively, that entire year, I read and reread The Lost World.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
There are some authors you know are great, and yet you haven’t found time or place to read their supreme literary offsprings. I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez extremely late in life, ie., if you can call being twenty four ‘late in life’. I started with Love in the Time of Cholera, and from one word to the next, I was hooked. Gabo’s writing style is rich, luscious and dripping with emotions and descriptions. Even a novella like No One Writes to the Colonel said so much in so few words. His works are extraordinary, and makes reality seem so paltry, so dry.

A Fine Balance, Rohington Mistry
This book holds the honourable distinction of making me weep. YES. I cried buckets and buckets while reading this book, and also managed to make a disaster out of my last Calcutta trip since I took this along. Imagine being on the upper berth in the Rajdhani and pulling the curtains to ensure no passing fellow passenger or stewards can your tear-stained face and swollen eyes. But THAT is the impact of this book. It’s brilliant in painting a rather dismal reality of changing society in India. I can’t say if it’s exaggerated, but it could have been someone’s story. It could have been anyone’s.

Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto
I’m in awe of Japanese authors, and this one has a living soul of dread, despair, and mourning running right through it. A story related by a young woman whose living relatives are no more, talks about the events that take place after her grandmother dies, and when she has no one to turn to. This one makes for a short, yet interesting read.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
A book on everybody’s must-read list, The Bell Jar is left me in a state of serious introspection. It’s easy to laugh away your days, with friends at bars and late-night parties, but this book is bound to jolt anyone to attention, and face facts. The period of coming of age changes from person to person. A person either realises his dream, or he doesn’t. The stories of adulthood we heard or witnessed as children, takes over a rather different form when we ourselves turn into adults. And when things don’t go our way or take a different route, it takes all our strength to keep pressing ahead.

Sybil, Flora Rheta Schreiber
This book was an eye-opener. Talking about mental disorders, child sexual abuse and a whole lot of weirdness. But, what struck me the most, was how do you have faith and belief in yourself when you don’t know which one is in the present. An insightful book into the minds of humans, and one particular person with ‘multiple personality disorder’, wherein Sybil is known to manifest sixteen personalities. Get your hands on this book NOW.

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
“Is it better for man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?”
It may take you a while to get the hang of Nadsat talk, but once you do, boy o boy, what a brilliant story shall you unravel. The reason I like this book is because of the central theme – ‘freedom to choose’, and how in Christian teachings we are taught that God loves us, hence He gives us the freedom of choice, but we must bear the consequences of our words, actions, and thoughts. Another aspect that rises is the largely similar narrative in Christ’s life and Alex’s, and how they must suffer through the injustice inflicted by the ruling body.


This post has been written as part of the BlogChatter prompt ‘Books that made you’. 


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