Recently, I read a friend’s post about her favorite books and it got me thinking that though I’m an amateur reader, I’ve grown and learnt a lot from the few books that I’ve read. So today here am essaying my journey of growing up with these books and as I did the exercise I re-lived some wonderful memories of growing up, like: bending over each word, trying to read before even I could write or talk properly; or sitting in the bathroom late at night and reading so that my mom doesn’t catch me; or skipping a gossip session in the hostel because the book is just too good to put down; or missing my train stop because am just too lost in the book. I’ve realized that books have been my first friends. I don’t have a very good imagination but whatever little I have, it is because of these books. Anyways, cutting short my ramblings and getting to my list:
- Fulwadi, Champak: My first, so-called books. Thanks to one of my uncles, whenever he used to come home he used to get these and other children’s books for us and I’d spend hours bending over them trying to read and understand each word. Panchtantra tales, especially the one with the flying tree and the saas-bahu was one of the repeated reads for me and my sis.
- Enid Blyton books, especially The Wishing Chair: Don’t remember how I started on them but till date they’ve been the best books I’ve read. The innocent fun with flying chairs and trees and pixies. They helped me add color to my long summer vacations. Another set of books that added color to my Gujju-world were Bakor Patel books and Jhaver Chand Meghani stories. During this phase, another big influence on me was Roald Dahl, and especially Matilda. I absolutely loved Roald Dahl books and in a span or 2-3 years I think I read Matilda 2/3 times and I’d be lying if I said that like her I didn’t try telekinesis. 😀
- Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys Super Mystery series: While the murder mysteries were themselves a lot of fun, the added element of whether something will happen between Nancy and Frank made them all the more enjoyable. These days more than the books, I remember the process of getting them from the library, the series was in great demand in school and I had requested my school librarian, “Ma’am, please let me cut the queue for just one day. Will finish and return the book within a day.” Added to this was the ban imposed by my mom, “No reading such books,” and hence late night, furtive reads in the bathroom.
- I then moved on to more murder mysteries of Sherlock Holmes and Perry Mason and while I was still exploring this section, I saw Jeffery Archer’s The Eleventh Commandment. The Jeffery Archer era ended only after I had read all his books available in my school library. My most favorite and repeat-read is Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less.
- Intertwined along with my crime thriller phase was my Stephen Covey phase which started with the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and included all his books and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I learned a lot from these books, especially with the help of one of my teacher’s in school.
- But as I finished school, my self-development phase halted halfway and I got distracted by Sidney Sheldon and Mills & Boons.
- When I got bored of Sidney Sheldon’s larger-than-life characters, I turned to the likes of Frederick Forsyth, John Grisham, Robert Ludlum, and Danielle Steel and ofcourse more Mills & Boons. Bombay is a paradise for people like me who want to read a new book every two days. The road-side vendors carry all sorts of books and take measly 10/20 bucks as reading charge.
- During my post-grad, I got inducted into the world of theology and mythology with Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. And also, thanks to an uncle of my mine for leading me to Devdutt Patnaik and Jaya. Till date, my favorite mythological fiction is Chitra Devakaruni’s Draupadi. Amish’s Shiva Triology was a fun read but not very impressionable. Ashwin Sanghi surely impressed me with Chankya’s Chant and I warmed up to Rasobel Line after an initial state of confusion. Am still exploring this genre with Asuras next on my to-read list.
- In between all these I turned to an odd Gujarati novel or Chitralekha from time to time, thanks to my mom, whose a voracious reader. I remember my Chitralekha phase, I used ask my mom to store them because I was addicted to the short-story there, so every vacation when I went home from Mumbai, I’d sit with the stacks to read Kajal Ojha Vaidya’s Yog Viyog and Tarak Mehta’s Duniya na Undha Chasma. I’ve read a lot of I K Vijlewala and Kajal Ojha Vaidya books and next on my aspiration list is the entire Ashwini Bhatt novel range that my parents purchased last year.
- Since the last few months, I’ve been trying to read books on management, women leadership and empowerment but I often get distracted by fiction from time to time. My aspiration is to read a lot of Indian authors, a lot of different genres in fiction and some non-fiction books like biographies but don’t know if I’ll ever get to it. The only good thing is that I still have a lot of time to find out if I’ll ever achieve this goal.
A big thanks to all my family members and friends and those gazillion road-side vendors in Mumbai who introduced me to the world of books and will surely turn to you again as I am still nowhere done with this journey.