On the one hand, I am not a fan of condensing almost two decades of reading (Yeshu Christu I am getting old!) into a list of a few books. On the other hand, it is a good opportunity to reminisce about all the great and not so great books I have read and also to introspect about what books have really influenced me. I think it deserves more than a short Facebook post and hence this blog (I have an exam tomorrow which is always a motivation for me to do something else, so why not something creative!)
A chronological order seems the best to do so. It is unfortunate that a lot and it is really a lot of books that would not be part of this list because of sheer paucity of this list as well as of my memory. I mean no disrespect of course and I might come back and edit this list if I feel I missed out on something significant. I am hoping to make a list of the books that have shaped me the most and will be describing why. There will be spoilers of course so tread carefully if you will.
1. Explorers on the Moon, Herge – My dad reading Tintin and Asterix stories to me with different voices for different characters is one of the most delightful memories of my childhood that I have. My love for reading has to be attributed to the many stories I heard from my mom and grandmother as well as my dad insisting that I read a paragraph of something before he reads out the rest to me. I include Explorers on the Moon to this list because the first paragraph in it with the suspenseful panel where Tintin and co are still out cold and Earth control is nervously waiting for any sort of response from them.
2. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens – I think I have never got around to reading the unabridged version of this book but I still remember the anguish I felt while reading the abridged version when I was 7 or 8. The death of character after character who were important to David, “Crorkindills”, Peggotty, Uriah Heep and the Micawbers are some of my most vivid memories about this beautiful book of love, loss and eventual happiness
3. The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas – Swashbuckling musketeers, swordfights, treacherous evil villains, gold, revenge, how can this book not captivate an imaginative boy! “One for all and all for one”, the evil machinations of Cardinal Richeliu along with being confused (still am confused) about how to pronounce D’Artagnan (as well as pretty much everyone with a long name), frustration at his youthful jumping into everything idiocy, reverence for Athos, admiration for Aramis and a feeling of camaraderie with Porthos are the things I remember most. I read Man in the Iron Mask much later but despite being a really good book do confess to not getting the same rush from reading it as I did with The Three Musketeers
4. Valley of Fear, Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite characters of all time and I will defend him over the various “cerebral” oddities of Agatha Christie with my life. To be honest, I loved the many short stories of Sherlock Holmes more than the novels. The Adventure of the Dancing Men, Lion’s Mane and Speckled Band are my three favourite short stories among them. I am not including short stories in this list for the obvious reason of this list never finishing. In case of novels, it was a toss up between The Valley of Fear and The Hound of the Baskervilles for my favourite Sherlock Holmes book and this wins out mainly because of the frustration I felt at pronouncing hound rhyming with wound all the frigging time! The tense atmosphere throughout this book is something I hated and loved at the same time.
5. The Prisoner of Azkaban, J K Rowling – I include this over Goblet of Fire despite loving that more because this is the book in the series that I read first (I read in the order 3, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7, yea I know I am a weirdo :P)and thus got me hooked into the wonderful world of magic, muggles, wizards and quidditch. The movies after part 3 were terrible just fyi.
6. Foundation and Empire, Isaac Asimov – The GOAT of science fiction writing in my opinion (of course, this is my blog duh), Asimov’s Foundation is possibly one of my favourite series ever. The sheer scale of the stories, the magnificent concept of psychohistory, Daneel Olivaw, the Mule, Gaia, so many wonderful memories from this series! I list Foundation and Empire because again I read this one first (order of reading 2, 4, 5, 1, 3, 6, 7) and also because the part where Ebling Mis and Bayta Darrell are trying to figure out where the Second Foundation is absolutely spellbindingly pageturningly tension-filled masterful writing
7. Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien – I am going to cheat here and mention the trilogy here as a single book because Tolkien did publish it as a single book :P. The godfather of fantasy writing, my reverence for Tolkien knows no limits. The fact that he was philologist creating a mythology for the languages he loved to make absolutely captivates me. The scale of Middle-earth, the wide range of strong characters, the wonderful battle scenes which capture the glory and tragedy of war, Gollum and the Nazguls, and the almost countless other beautiful details, Lord of the Rings is my favourite work in fantasy fiction. I noticed a recent trend in consigning Tolkien to a children’s author with the current rise in popularity of the Game of Thrones franchise but that is absolute unadulterated nonsense. Tolkien is basically the guy who invented fantasy and we can disrespectfully disagree over whatever your conflicting opinions about this are 😛
8. Wizard and Glass, Stephen King – This is the fourth book in the Dark Tower series. The Dark Tower series was written by Stephen King over a time of nearly 30 years and it is a masterful work of fantasy. The way in which you grow to love the eccentricities of the main characters and feel a kinship with them, the concept of Ka and Ka-tet, I confess to being absolutely distraught at the conclusion. Drawing of the Three and Wolves of the Calla are also wonderful books but Wizard and Glass is my favourite because of the stories of the young Roland Deschain.
9. Mrityunjaya, Shivaji Sawant – I read the English translation of this Marathi epic and was left wondering how good the original is if it was even better than the English one according to people who have read both! This epic does a magnificent job of telling the story of one of the most interesting characters from it, Karna. Cast aside by his mother, mocked by his brothers, used by his best friend and still strong in his convictions, Karna is definitely my favourite character from the Mahabharatha and this book reinforced that feeling. With its wonderful poetic prose :), switching points of view that narrate the story in a beautiful way and the obviously gripping story as anything related to the Mahabharatha is, Mrityunjaya is something for everyone’s shelf to read and reread.
10. Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby – The book that made me realise how good sports fiction as well as a book about a random person with nothing distinctive about him can be. This is the story of an Arsenal fan and I could relate extremely well about how once you are caught up in the football fever, everything in your life revolves around it. The narrative follows a really interesting way of describing life events in terms of Arsenal matches. A must read for all football fanatics.
I am already regretting making this list because of the books that I have not listed! Opinions and comments are welcome 🙂