We humans as a species are addicted to stories. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up at night, telling itself stories.
I literally have been brought up on literature. So its only natural that i give something back to the world. Which was my reason for starting this very blog. So in this post I have decided to list all those authors, novels, and short stories, which kind of became a part of who I am. Read on and enjoy, and I hope you can relate to them as well.
Disclaimer: The post is quite long. I want to stress that in the very beginning. Its a post not only about the good books I have read, but also about my dynamics with each of them.
- Enid Blyton: My childhood in a nutshell. The very first book I managed to read on my own was “The Enchanted Wood“. Immediately over the next few months “The Faraway Tree Series” and “The Wishing Chair Series” were completed. I was in class one, and my head was full of pixies, goblins, gnomes, dwarves, enchanters, wizards, witches, talking animals and stuff. Another thing I really loved about Blyton’s works was the sibling camaraderie in each of her books. I started drawing the various places where the adventures took place and at night I was dreaming about them. This phase lasted for a year or so. In class two, I happened upon “The Famous Five“. Trust me, the book “Five on a Treasure Island” sent chills down my back the first time I read it. I read it again and again, before I visited the Oxford bookstore in Park Street. The next few books in the series flew by, and soon it became a little boring. So I abandoned the series after reading 6 or 7 books. However what makes the series stand out for me is the fact that this was the first adventure genre books I read. Later I found the “Five Find Outers series” and I found it better than the Five in many aspects. That was in class 4, and I soon tried to adopt the Fatty way to react to things in my neighbourhood. It still makes me crack up when I think of how retarded I must have appeared to my classmates. But then my mom understood. Always. Another notable series I would like to mention is: “The St. Clare’s series“. It taught me many things about school life and true friendship. In fact to me, its the best journal of teenage there ever is. There are a lot of things which I could experience only through her books. Thank you Enid for making my childhood magical.
- Agatha Christie: I started the Christie series in class 5. Ideal time for proper detective stories my mom told me. I initially bought some books, but soon my parents found out that i was going through the books in less than a day. They got special dispensation from our school principal to let me use the library( the age for using it properly was class 6). I must really mention this here. Don Bosco has really contributed into making my personality. I mean in senior classes everyone gets involved in organization and leadership in one way or the other, but it was during this time… these formative years that my teachers stood beside me and helped me become what I am today. Well back to Christie. I can proudly say that there is no Hercule Poirot book I left untouched. Who can resist the antics of the quaint little Belgian in a bowler hat who was obsessed with “Order and Method“. I learnt the true meaning of “The Little Grey Cells” long before any biology class delved into the internal structure of our brain. In fact sometimes I wish while watching Sherlock nowadays, that I shouldn’t have read “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd“. That one book was enough to sidestep me from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his detective stories. There was a period when I was so obsessed with Christie that I even started devouring her plays like “The Mousetrap“, “Verdict“, “Towards Zero“, “Go Back to Murder“, “And Then There Were None“, etc. In short Agatha Christie gave me a solid start to middle school. So thank you too Dame Mary Westcott.
- Arthur Hailey: I started Hailey in High School. And I still have a long way to go before I can declare that I am done with him. I have read only three of his books so far, with all the pressure if entrances and stuff. The 3 are: “Hotel“, “In High Places“, and “Detective“. After completing each book I got the feeling that this is one author who I can milk for another couple of years to say the least. I mean you have to read only one of those 3 and you will understand what I mean to say. As I was reading the three books I almost was visually directing my own movies. It had that kind of an effect for me. Frankly after reading “Bourne Identity” I never thought that there would be an author who could arouse my imagination in this kind of a way. I was glad to be proven wrong. Oh so glad!
- J.K. Rowling: I belong to the Harry Potter generation. And yes whenever I see spinoffs and crossovers and glimpses into future lives of the Wizards on 9GAG I devour them completely. To me the books are more than what they appear. To our full batch it is a legacy we pass down to our children. We can proudly say that this is our answer to Lewis Caroll and Roald Dahl, and personally, I think we have answered back pretty well.
- Jim Corbett: The understated hero of the literary world. His lucid language, whether he is reminiscing about his childhood (“Jungle Lore“) or trying to create the atmosphere of terror, adventure, despair and victory(“The Man Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag“), or simply trying to write a journal about his hunting days (“The Man Eaters of Kumaon“) is worth noting. I was personally inspired by his style and always strive to emulate him while writing journals about travels and such.
- Jules Verne: The man behind masterpieces like “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea“, “Around The World In 80 Days“, and “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth“. The richly detailed texts with accurate scientific inputs and wildly imaginative scenarios make each and every book of his a delightful read. I first got the 20 thousand leagues for my 12th birthday. Didn’t understand most of the context. Every year hence I started revisiting the book to make some sense out of it. As my maturity developed, and scientific horizons widened I started to grasp the true impressions of the novel. All his books are like changing treasure troves. Every single time you visit them, they throw some previously unnoticed treasure at you, which you can then sit down and relish with joy. That’s Jules Verne for me.
- Chetan Bhagat: IIT Delhi. IIM Ahmedabad. He could have easily got into Google or Microsoft or Facebook and lived life king size. However he did not do that. Instead he chose to settle down and relate with the youth. He chose to feel the pulse of “Young India” as he called us, and churned out bestseller after bestseller: “One Night @ Call Centre“, ” The 3 Mistakes of My Life“, “Five Point Someone“, “Revolution 2020“, “Two States” and “What Young India Wants“. These fictional, semi autobiographical novels captured the imagination of our youth and we sat down to read his books. No sorry, devour them. I still remember finishing Revolution 2020 in between the breaks we got during our rehearsals at the annual school concert. Hats off to his clear and unaffected style of English which appealed to this huge audience base, and spurned a trend of contemporary fiction based on love and youth life in the book stores.
- Amish Tripathi: The man who changed the way Indians looked at their Epics and Traditions. The Shiva Trilogy is really one of its kind. It takes age old myths and busts them in a wildly refreshing manner, so much so that I find all kinds of allusions to original characters and events of the Puranas and Ramayana woven into a delicable pattern. I am literally waiting for the teaser which Amish left us with at the end of the “The Oath of the Vayuputras” about writing some books based on the Mahabharata. If such books surface anytime in the future, the first book will be off the racks no sooner than it hits it. That’s my promise to mankind.
- Robert Ludlum: He was a personal favourite of my grandfather who introduced me to his books by raving about them. Incidentally, I never started with the “Bourne series” or the Covert One Series or the famous ones like The Tristan Betrayal. They happened much later. In a selected edition of Reader’s Digest, I found this story called “The Ambler Warning“. That was my first foray into the thriller genre, and since then I never looked back. Having never read Ian Fleming’s Bond novels; for me this is as good as it gets.
Classics and Novels
- My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell :The guy who captured my imagination with a single blow. Imagine if this is the first paragraph the pandemonium that follows in the rest of the book:
“This is the story of a five-year sojourn that I and my family made on the Greek island of Corfu. It was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made a grave mistake by introducing my family into the book in the first few pages. Having got themselves on paper, they then proceeded to establish themselves and invite various friends to share the chapters. It was only with the greatest difficulty, and by exercising considerable cunning, that I managed to retain a few pages here and there which I could devote exclusively to animals.”
My Family and Other Animals may be one of the best pieces of literature I have ever read. Rib tickling humourous analysis of the eccentricities of the various people , amazing descriptions of Corfu and its surroundings, and the innocence and wonder infused into the book regarding natural history makes it a must read for any person. The later books like “A Zoo in My Luggage” and others are good too, but if they ask me to choose between this book and Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K Jerome, every single time I would choose this book.
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell: Many of us know about the diary of Anne Frank, a girl who was barely a teenager when she succumbed to the holocaust. Anna was about the same age as Anne when she died, and she wrote this whole story on her deathbed. Rarely will you find such stories where you empathize to this degree with the protagonist of the tale. The whole “autobiographical” novel keeps any lover of fiction glued to the pages and it is only after you read the last line that you can sigh and put the book down. Almost like Blackie.
- Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain: Writing this blog made me tired. However I couldn’t rest until I found a suitable review which echoed my sentiments and thoughts about this book. A last word, if you are a boy and you haven’t read this tale you surely missed out on a lot of pointers on life.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley:The fact that surprises me most about this novel is that how many have actually read the book and yet almost everyone seems to be aware of it. The most common mistake I find prevalent in media and in people’s minds is the fact that Frankenstein is the name of the monster. Stephen King in his book Danse Macabre points this same thing out. If you haven’t read the book, I wouldn’t spoil it for you but do check out this short and extremely well written blog which sums up the novel in the most apt possible way. Also the comments I found were delightfully real and I assosciated with some of them.
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: A tale of drama, oppression, love, revenge, sacrifice and thrills… this book is not for the faint hearted. A novel set in the heart of the French Revolution, we get a glimpse of the politics and the lesson how power changes people. The love triangle between Lucy, Evermonde and Carton remains one of my favourite love stories of all time. A small background on the novel is provided here.
- David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: An autobiographical novel, certainly one of Dicken’s personal bests. That in itself should compel you to read the novel. I am personally attatched to this novel because I relate with the romanticism of David. The way he succeeds in developing a soft corner for Li’l Emily, the way he is obsessed about Dora, and then finally finding a soul mate in Agnes left me with no illusions that life tests one thoroughly before rewarding us. Characters like Pegotty, Steerforth, Aunt Trotwood are actually present more or less in real life, and this huge array of characters and events made this one journey of life stand out in my mind above many others.
- Treasure Island by R. L. Stevenson: An unlikely coming of age story. Once again not for the faint hearted. This tale of grit, mutiny, righteousness, ruthless decisions, and of course the ever prevalent “Good triumphs over Evil” theme. Complete with stowaways, hostages, gripping battles descriptions and a treasure hunt, this one is worth revisiting, time and again.
- Heidi by Johanna Spyri: The ultimate feel good story you will ever read in your life. All of us need Heidi in our lives. The only book which taught me that sometimes being Peter is not wrong, and sometimes being a recluse because of the society makes you miss out on life. And mind you, going by Heidi’s principles, there is a LOT to it. Set in Germany, the beautiful descriptions of the alm, and equally picturesque descriptions of Frankfurt almost give a poetic feeling to the whole story. A must read for anyone who wishes to be infused with instant innocence.
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: Less famous than its counterpart “The Three Musketeers“(I absolutely don’t understand why), this is one classic spruced with the elements of drama and revenge throughout the plot. Unforgiving and rarely losing steam, you will skim through the pages trying to keep up pace with the wronged protagonist and his actions. The ending however brings peace and calm to this furiously paced novel and this in itself makes this classic a must read.
- Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe: I think no introduction is necessary for this one. One of the very rare books which almost all of us know about. But if you haven’t read it, go ahead and try it out. If not for the adventures, at least you will learn how to build a life from scratch…….. and defend yourself against cannibals.
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: Easily one of the most famous books of our generation. The book which taught me to trust in omens. The book which taught me that each and everyone/thing has a destiny to fulfill. Small read in volume, extensive lecture in philosophy and how to court life and our dreams. Also any book that is a favourite of Will Smith and Madonna is worth a read if you get my hint.
- And The Mountains Echoed by Khaleid Hosseni: A gripping story with multiple tales seamlessly blended into each other. This book made millions of hearts wring every few pages. Perhaps the best critical review which I could find was by Marcela Valdes in The Washington Post who writes:
“It’s hard to do justice to a novel this rich in a short review. There are a dozen things I still want to say — about the rhyming pairs of characters, the echoing situations, the varied takes on honesty, loneliness, beauty and poverty, the transformation of emotions into physical ailments. Instead, I’ll just add this: Send Hosseini up the bestseller list again.”
- The White Tiger by Arvind Adiga: In a nutshell you have the real India depicted within 300 pages. Check out this link if you want a clear idea of what is in store for you.
Lastly, if you are an aware Indian, I can promise you goosebumps with every line that you read. If you are not an aware Indian, congratulations. You can sit down and enjoy a racy thriller without the added burden of conscience.
- The Seventh Secret by Irving Washington: I almost forgot to include this one, but truly speaking, this is the mother of all conspiracy novels. This is basically “Truth wrapped in lies to make it more palatable” stuff. A teaser for all of you: What if somehow Hitler faked his death in the second world war?
In Bengali we have a saying about Short Stories which roughly translates to: A short story is a story which ends…. but not quite. Each of the reads mentioned below are true to this pattern. Unlike my take on the authors and the novels, I am not going to describe any of them. You will just have to take my word for it, that these will be worth your time.
- The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
- The Last Leaf by O. Henry
- The Open Window by Saki
- Mrs. Packeltide’s Tiger by Saki
- The Postmaster by Rabindranath Tagore
- Kabuliwallah by Rabindranath Tagore
- The Two Friends by Guy de Maupassant
- The Diamond Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
- The Sphynx by Edgar Allan Poe
- The Fly by Katherine Mansfield
- The Monkey’s Paw by W.W.Jacobs
- The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
- The Third Thought by E.V.Lucas