For the Love of Reading

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one – Jojen(Game of Thrones)

To say that I love reading would be an understatement. The habit which commenced when I joined one of the local libraries back when I was in class III (many many years ago) has kept me in good stead even today. The library was an old structure on the first floor of a dilapidated building with wooden floor that creaked with every step. It was dusty and cramped with old books from floor to ceiling and also shelves in between. It was probably not much bigger than a regular bedroom but for me the place seemed enormous. The first thing one noticed when they entered the library was that smell of old books which only a book lover would be able to relate to.

I still vividly remember the books I started with when I was in class III. The librarian initially wouldn’t allow us( my sister and me) to borrow more than one book per week but when he realized that we were such voracious readers that during our summer holidays we would return that single book the very next day having completed it, he gave us the liberty to borrow as many books as we fancied and thereby making a hefty profit at 2 rupees per book. Sometimes we would take as many as 5 books each and return all 10 within a week after reading them. Probably the first ever book I borrowed was The Secret Seven – The team of Peter, Janet, Jack, Barbara, George, Pam and Colin created by Enid Blyton. It was the book that really set off my imagination. At that age, I was so in awe of those kids who solved mysteries that I would convince my neighbours to form a similar team and look to solve non-existent mysteries. We would go around the neighbourhood looking for clues and evidences. It would be as silly as finding a cigarette butt somewhere and then trying to figure out who had been smoking in the neighbourhood. When I moved on to Blyton’s next classic The Famous Five of Julian, Dick, Anne and Georgina – and George’s dog Timmy, I even tried to convince my dog to join the team and sniff out the culprits but disappointingly he would only sniff out the places to pee and poop. By the time I reached class 7 I had finished every book of the above mentioned teams and moved onto the Three Investigators – Jupiter Jones, Peter Crenshaw and Bob Andrews created by Robert Arthur Jr. My sister and I would often argue as to who the best character was among the ones mentioned in the three series and somehow we would never come to the same conclusion. Also during these 5 years I read a lot of Tinkle by Anant Pai and was very fond of Supandi for some reason. But Tantri the Manttri, Kalia the crow, Shikari Shambu, Ramu and Shamu were also most loved characters. The other beloved comic character was of course Chacha Chaudhary and his side kick Sabu and as a kid I was always impressed with Chacha’s wisdom and Sabu’s strength. And then there was Champak and Amar Chitra Katha to round up the pre high school reading.

I find telivison very educating. Everytime somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book – Groucho Marx

As I grew older the books I read began to change slowly. Entering high school meant I had to stop reading kiddish books. High school brought with it new mysteries. And those had to be solved by Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys both created by Edward Stratemeyer. Again, my sister and I would spend hours arguing whether the boys were better or the girl. If only we argued now, I would definitely support Nancy Drew. My visits to the same library continued without any changes. It was there, I saw someone reading Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie and I was curious enough to try it. And yes, I was floored. This was another level of mystery solving for a teenager. This was followed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I still remember those days fondly when I would try to decipher the killer fully immersed in the stories not a care in the world. No mobile phones to Whatsapp or Instagram. No computer screens for Facebook and no tablets to strain one’s eyes. Read and read was all I did. A couple of times I did accidently lay my hands on a copy of Deboanair placed by someone carelessly in the wrong section which the librarian promptly snatched from my hands, unfortunately.

Though my love for comic books remained the same as that when I was in primary school, I added new comics to my repertoire like Archie with Jughead the glutton being my all-time cherished person. He is still the envy of many as he can gulp food without putting on an ounce of weight. It was as if Riverdale was another home for us because life seemed so exciting there and reading about it made us feel that we were a part of it.

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing – Benjamin Franklin

Come college days, the pressure of tuitions and preparing to get into a good college to forge a great career and then make loads of money so that one can live happily ever after thankfully didn’t put a dampener on my reading habits. I gradually shifted to John Grisham the lawyer whose books have to be read even if you aren’t one. His book THE CLIENT is a classic which I liked even before I saw the movie. Then there was Frederick Forsyth, the master of War mysteries and crimes. His book THE DAY OF THE JACKAL is probably one of the best war mysteries you will ever read. I also read a little bit of Harold Robbins ,though I am not very proud to say it, I did like it! Amongst all these I also read Harry Potter and got lost in the world of fantasy for the first time. It took me 2 years later than the first released book to start reading it but once I did, the whole new world of Hogwarts, magic spells and Quidditch was spellbinding.

The only time I did stop reading was probably during my professional course which was filled with too much stress. In the hindsight it’s probably one of my greatest regrets as I feel I still could’ve read during those times, not only to keep up the good habit but to also release the stress. Thankfully, I still read and fall in love with a book now and then. Some of the books which have left a lasting impression on me are –

  1. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  2. And the Mountains Echoed by Khalid Hosseni
  3. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  4. Dongri to Dubai by Hussain Zaidi
  5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  6. Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela’s autobiography
  7. Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

That is not to say I don’t read Indian authors. I enjoyed every book of Chetan Bhagath though none of his later books compare to the charm  of Five Point Someone. Also Amish’s Shiva’s Trilogy is simply a brilliant piece of work. I do read Preethi Shenoy, Durjoy Datta’s books too as I find them light romantic pass times.

But the one author who I think is a crazy genius just for even attempting something as massive as he did is George RR Martin. Most people may not agree with me but for me he is the epitome of where a wild imagination can take you. It has no boundaries. I have read every book released so far of the Song of Ice and Fire which is popularly known as the Game of Thrones and I am in awe of him. He created a parallel universe and how! Hats off!

Among all these books I’ve read, I missed out reading Tin Tin, Asterix, Marvel Comics which I’ve heard others rave about so much. I probably will try them someday soon.

So this was all about the books I read. I hope to continue reading more and more. Infact I often worry about so many books being out there and whether I would ever get to read them all. Do let me know which are the ones you’ve enjoyed and any book recommendations are always welcome!

This post is a part of #MondayMusings hosted by www.everydaygyaan.com

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