I was nominated for the 10 Books Challenge, by an old friend, on Facebook. I tried to get it through in a status-update, but couldn’t.
It’s been a long time since I updated my status to actually say something, instead of sharing a photo of someone saying something. That’s because these days, everything seems to occur to me in 500+ words. And 500+ is not a Facebook-friendly word count!
Now, to the challenge. I’ve been asked to list 10 books that stayed with me. Not the 10 that were closest. Not the last 10 I had read. Not even the best or the worst of all I had ever read. But those that stayed…
Books stay with people for all sorts of reasons. There could be as many reasons as many there are people. In my case, a book would stay with me long after I have turned the last page, if it has:
- introduced me to a world I was hitherto ignorant of,
- answered a long awaited question, or long awaited questions,
- made me fall in love with, or believe in, something,
- got me thinking, or
- surprised me!
It is based on this criteria, that I’ll be listing the 10 books that have gone beyond just staying with me, to becoming a part of who I am today.
Here goes (three at a time):
The Harry Potter Series by J K Rowling
I’m glad I grew up as a Potterhead, and continue to be one, to this very day. I haven’t read much fiction (much of any single genre, really!), but I think it’s safe to say that the phenomenon of Harry Potter stands unparalleled. It gets emotional, even. Doesn’t it?
We literally grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We can still feel the excitement of departing from Platform Nine and Three Quarters for another exciting year at Hogwarts. We can feel the warmth of Mrs. Weasley’s welcoming hugs, the smell of the food in her kitchen and laugh at the ingenuity of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. We can feel the uncertainty and fear of having a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, every year. And can we ever forget the urgency with which we used to rush to Dumbledore so he would connect the dots and unfold the mystery?
I, for one, cannot.
My favourite dialogue from the Harry Potter series: Always.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The name says it all.
And though it is of Shams Tabrizi’s making, rather than Khaled Hosseini’s, I must appreciate the latter for holding the Afghan women in such reverence, that he chose to use it.
I’ve never cried reading a book, like I cried reading The Kite Runner. But A Thousand Splendid Suns pierced so very deeper into my heart, that I was out of all emotion to react to it. I doubt a man can understand why a woman would love that book. But if a man can write it, then I’d give the rest the benefit of the doubt. And of course, women in the West cannot relate to Maryam’s and Laila’s lives, like women in the East can. This has nothing to do with oppression. It’s about culture. It’s about a pattern of life.
In our part of the world, the family, not the individual, is the basic unit of the society. And the lady of the house is responsible for keeping it together. She goes through a tough time doing that, even if her husband isn’t beating her to death, and it is her silence that not only saves the family, but also does the cruelty of letting her pass as an unsung hero.
Also, though the book goes largely against them, in a few instances, Hosseini portrays men in a warm light uncharacteristic of the stereotype that the world knows them by. Those few instances, too, have stayed with me.
My favourite dialogue from A Thousand Splendid Suns: Laila remembered Mammy telling Babi once that she had married a man who had no convictions. Mammy didn’t understand. She didn’t understand that if she looked into a mirror, she would find the one unfailing conviction of his life looking right back at her.
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
Because I never knew melancholy could be so beautiful. Again, I haven’t read many classics, but I haven’t read one better than The Mayor of Casterbridge. The plot may be brimmed with twists and ruthless interventions by fate, but it is through the eyes of Michael Henchard that we see it all happen. And Michael Henchard is a quiet man. Not literally. Psychologically.
It is in the uncomfortable quiet of Henchard’s mystery, that we see his life unfold. We believe at a point, like him, that things might just be turning around for him. But we are wrong, and so is he. He screws them up. Isn’t that what we all do? Screw things up when they are all converging at a point called Perfection? Wasn’t he to himself what I am to myself, or you to yourself? An enemy? He was, and so are we.
But he was also a man of character. That’s because he accepted his wrongs, and strove to right them. He also learned that at no point of time would he transcend human weaknesses and that they would keep coming back to haunt him. He learned, finally, that happiness is but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.
My favourite dialogue from The Mayor of Casterbridge: & that no man remember me. To this I put my name. Michael Henchard.
That’s all for today, folks!