Saturday, April 14, 2012

On Reading......

I was born with a reading list I will never finish.
- Maud Casey

So were many.

My fondest memory of reading goes back to the days of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) and Enid Blyton. Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales and My Big Fat Book of Bedtime Stories were amongst my other favourites as a child. In those days, mythology and adventure ruled the roost, at least for me. The best part about ACK was undoubtedly the illustration. Skillfully drawn images of Gods & Goddesses, kings and queens, in all their beauty and grandeur adorned the pages of these story books. Each book carried a descriptive and well written story about the lives of these divine souls, said to have lived and died for the glory of mankind. I was clearly smitten by these books and if it were not for Uncle Pai, who knows, I may have even thought Dashavatar is James Cameron’s next!

All credit goes to my mother, who used to write to ACK’s office in Mumbai and have the books home delivered. When she realized I could slowly progress to novels, she enrolled me at a library in the neighborhood where I could pick up one or maximum two books at a time. Books were one of the few luxuries that I was allowed as a child. I clearly remember this “library” was just a small room with books crammed into shelves, bursting at the seams. The librarian was a petite bespectacled lady who sat at the entrance, amongst a pile of books, eagerly waiting to make conversation with any living being that walked through the door.

In those days, I used to think the Famous Five was the next best thing after super heroes. I remember having stumbled upon a Famous Five video cassette at a local video lending library, and I nagged my mother so much that finally after a number of promises (associated with home work, tuitions and such!) she was forced to give in. I would have seen the movie a zillion times. Looking back, they are not even a tiny patch on the books I realize.

Secret Seven, Nancy Drew also featured in my library list, and no offence to the opposite sex, but I never liked Hardy Boys. Tom Sawyer, Oliver Twist, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice were amongst my first classics. There were also Tinkles, Chacha Chaudhrys, and Archies which I used to read in the passing, and in between textbooks. :D

A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever.
- Martin Tupper

Along with Teenache, came Sidney Sheldon, John Grisham, Jeffery Archer and of course Sweet Valley High! SVH laid the foundation to chick lit and soon it paved way for SVU (Sweet Valley University) as well. It was also around that time that I started snooping around Femina, Savvy, and the like till my mom used to lock them in her cupboards saying these were magazines I could read later and not now!

I discovered the Ramses Series by Christian Jacq thanks to a close friend. As mentioned earlier, mythology, that too Egyptian was a must-read. Even today, when I come across a good book on any Pharaoh, I look at it longingly and we all know what happens next. :) Jokes apart, The Ramses Series by CJ definitely adds value to any bookshelf.

As destiny would have it, the miniscule library and the librarian disappeared one fine day, and yet my beloved mother never gave up. In fact she discovered one of the best libraries in the city and enrolled me and my sister there. Eloor Lending Library, one of the best libraries in Kerala, has played a huge role in my love affair with books and if you happen to stay in Cochin, it is worth a visit. They have a pretty good collection in the Bangalore branch as well.

With a better library in my life, my horizons were broadened, although my mom was not very happy with the direction in which there were broadening! I began to sneak home Cosmopolitan (Like. Really!?) Good Housekeeping, Vogue, and the other fashion and lifestyle magazines. Mom tried her best to remind me I had to wait a little longer for later to arrive!

I also started to read Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Robin Cook, Earl Stanley Gardner, Yann Martel, Mitch Albom, Michel Crichton, Robert Ludlum, Mary Higgins Clark and of course many more classics. I did try my hand at reading Vladimir’s Lolita, but I never succeeded then. Maybe I should re visit it now.

The Little Magazine was introduced to me by a dear friend and that is how I got a taste of a literary journal for the first time. This magazine is a great read if you are in the mood for some poetry and prose.

There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
- Joseph Brodsky

Ahem. Truth be told, this was one phase in my life where I rarely read, apart from text books that is.

College (that too away from home) was a phase of new found freedom, closely accompanied by limited pocket money. Given the circumstances, naturally there were better avenues to explore and indulge than books. Heh!

Also, while doing a UG course in Economics where you are reading J M Keynes, Adam Smith almost every other day, reading any other book seemed like too much of an effort then. In my attempt to be in touch with books, I also joined a book club in college, but ended up either sleeping or playing tic-tac-toe through those classes as well. Strange!

But David Baldacci, Jean P Sassion and some random chick lit books did feature somewhere in those three eventful years. Not a single Mills and Boon, I find them awfully BORING!

Then it was time for post graduation and things changed for the better, well a tad bit. But the genre was completely different. Thanks to projects, assignments and class presentations, I had to read Harvard Business Reviews (HBR), books such as “Who says elephants can’t dance?”, “Blue Ocean Strategy” and the lot. Phew! Once in a while there would be a fiction, but nothing to write home about. One book that I remember clearly reading was “Snapshots from Hell”. Before you jump into conclusions, the 2 years I spent doing my MBA were far from hell, closer to ummm…..never mind!;)

The college library was a storehouse of books and magazines, and as a management student I know I was expected to be abreast of all what was happening in the global economy, but honestly my list consisted of mainly HBRs and now and then the newspaper. (Disgrace I agree!)

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.
- Walt Disney

I was clearly going through an All work and more books please phase. When I started earning my own grub, was when books were back in my life and that too with a vengeance, if you will! At least one or two amongst my flat mates, colleagues and roommates was a book lover and in those days books were lent and borrowed religiously. Every now and then, authors and their books too would feature in our daily gossip sessions.

Around this time, I also took a deep dive into Indian fiction and devoured many a book by Anita Nair, Anita Desai, Shashi Tharoor, Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy, Jayshree Mishra, Chitrabanerjee Divakarunni, Raj Kamal Jha, Kamala Markendeya, Pankaj Mishra and so many more. The list is almost endless. (Another day, Another Post)

I also used to scout around for good bookstores and spared no book exhibitions. From my four precious years in Bangalore, I’d recommend Church Street and Brigade Road, which has some of the leading bookstores like The Bookworm and Blossoms. I could spend a whole day in the latter! There was also an old uncle who had an amazing bookstore near Koshy’s, but I think a year or so back, they shut shop.

Online reading slowly picked up pace during these years and Amazon was a dear friend when it came to reading about books and reviews. However Kindle is strictly not my cup of tea because I have never read an e-novel and I don’t think I ever will. At the risk of getting shot by JKR fans, I must confess I really enjoyed reading Harry Potter but I am more of a LOTR person.

I am also grateful that I came across Haruki Murakami, Mark Haddon, Milan Kundera, Khaled Hosseini during these years. Some brilliant authors, whose impeccable style of writing and imagination has left me in just total awe. And of course, there were many others, whose books I did struggle to finish. :I

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
- Mason Cooley

I must confess that now I don’t seem to reading as much I would love to. A huge percentage of reading can be accounted to online journals and blogs. Off late, a lot of short stories and anthologies feature in my reading list, and of course The Caravan. I urge you to subscribe to this one, if have not already. I am not at all a fan of politics, but this would probably be the only magazine where I survived a 15 page write up on a Chief Minister!

Flipkart tops my bookmark lists and I also occasionally visit a second hand store. Just a few weeks back, I finished the first book in the Millennium Series, and boy was it riveting and how! An excellent whodunit story, after ages.

Recently one of my friends shared her “Must - Read” list of books, a pretty exhaustive list that will take me a while to complete I realize. Sigh! Is there any job where I can get paid for reading and then some more reading, anyone??

At the moment, Songs of Blood and Sword by Fatima Ashraf seem to be screaming for undivided attention.

There goes my scribble.


  1. Wow!Nice one Piya!You have now added big time to my list!

    1. Thankuuuu!! Glad I did.
      Pls visit Blossoms, u will find all the good ones there :)

  2. It was lovely reading about your journey through books. Mine was pretty similar to yours in terms of the childhood books. The first book I ever read (I remember bringing it home from the school library) was from the Noddy series. Later I got hooked to Famous five, Secret seven and Nancy Drew, just like you :) Branched out a bit after that. Books do enrich our lives so much.

  3. Spot on Sumitra. There is nothing more enriching than a good read. :)
    Glad u enjoyed reading about 'reading'!
    Maybe one day I shud write a post about my fave books too.. mmm..

  4. I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said I can relate to almost everything you have written here! To be honest when I was a kid my biggest dream was to finish reading all the books that were ever written! Now I know that's impossible. But I still have a reading list that gets longer day by day and time is something that's hard to come by. But I do hope I get though a wee bit of it. I even dream of heaven as a library you know!! AM that addicted when it comes to books. hehehehehe.. :P

    1. Glad to know this post brought back some memories.:)
      Let's not even talk abt reading lists! Sigh! Its like an ocean ....really!! :P


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