The year is now coming to an end; everyone is busy planning their new resolutions or wondering what happened to the ones made the year before. There was a resolution that I had to, several actually to be precise.
1. Explore my literary purview: Discover new books that I would have otherwise never ventured to read.
2. Choose a book by its cover.
3. Write. Every day for 365 days – write something; for me, for the world, a letter, a blog post; anything in the world.
And this is what I will share with you as my precious year of 2014 comes to a nearing end. Mind you, the list of resolutions I had went on till 20, but that’s a story for another day.
For those of you who know me, and those of you who are getting to know me, the one absolute essential fact about me that will, rather, can’t ever change is the fact that I find solace in literature. There has never been a familiar process by which I choose a next book; it’s either been spoken about severely, or a recommendation, or just a whim at times. But when it’s chosen, I patiently await it’s arrival- yes, one of the flaws of shifting to a new city is that the only bookstore here is too far, and too small to suit my needs- as I was saying, online shopping, as I excitedly await the arrival of my book.
One of my major dilemmas here is, what is a ‘good’ book exactly ? To me, they all would be. Fiction stories that take you through time and dimensions, horror mysteries that with a wild enough imagination makes every bump in the night-time a startling one, or even the autobiographies that take you inside a person’s home, heart and mind? What exactly are the characteristics that a good book is made of, what should it contain? Depth? A heart-breaking narration? A journey of two soul-mates?
After much thinking, and even finding several lists such as TIME magazine’s ‘All Time 100 Novels’ list, or the Goodreads ‘Listopia’ I decided to focus on my New Year’s Resolution for 2014, to give you five books that defined, and I would go so far as to say, both created and destroyed my year in terms of literature, hope and that left me with a great yearning to write.
So let’s begin this journey, you and I. Let me show you how 2014 turned out to be.
To begin with, I have a confession to make. When it comes to choosing books, I instinctively reach for genres and authors that give me the most comfort. Again, another fact about me, Paulo Coelho, not only do I find his writings inspiring, but even comforting. He’s one author I go back to several times in my life. His works, I believe have the ability to strongly connect with the reader- Again, I have distracted myself with his name. Not today, but I shall definitely speak of his works soon.
When I decided that I would choose an author, or genre that I have not yet explored or always had an inhibition towards, it took a great deal out of me to choose a book from one such genre. I spoke to many people, read a lot of reviews online and decided that the genre would be Indian Contemporary Writers. I decided to choose an author at random, maybe popular on Twitter, no, not Chetan Bhagat (my apologies to his fans) and this is where I was introduced to The Last Song of Dusk, by Siddharth Sanghvi.
I must say, this book took me by surprise. Set in India in the 1920’s, the story follows Anuradha, with beauty like no other and a voice none can match, and her fairy tale marriage and love. Her life then follows a heart breaking twist of fate and the two lovers are thrown into chaos and tragedy. They move out of their home, with the hopes of starting a new life, but Anuradha is gravely affected and her songs have come to an end. It is here, they meet the dazzling and devious Nadini, an artist with a trace of leopard blood in her veins. We are then taken on a journey with Nandini following Bombay’s art scene and a torn-apart couple attempting to mend their marriage.
With a sensuous and electric style of writing, Shangvi moves you; makes you laugh and cry in a manner I have never witnessed before with an author. This tale is one of fate that will no doubt haunt your heart with an old and beloved song.
The second book that I will mention here in this list is The Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.
A Japanese author who takes us on a spectacular journey with a nostalgic story of loss and flourishing sexuality. The reader follows the life of Toru Watanabe, who reminisces his college days- his developing relationships with two distinctly opposite women, the beautiful and emotionally troubled Naoka, and the perky and lively Midori. Set in 1960s Japan, this story met me when I was in a state of mind similar to Naoka. Her journey through the book and Toru’s relationship with her was one that seemed foreign yet with moments of familiarity. It is definitely a book that not only fills you up from within, but keeps you aching for more. This is one book I truly wish I could read again with new eyes.
For my third book, after much thought I have decided to choose a book that left me visually stimulated and literally spellbound, to say the least, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. To be honest, I am still unsure of where this book would lie; it is a brilliantly intelligent, a masterpiece I would go as far to say, of fiction, children’s literature, historical fiction, all sketched out neatly as a magical graphic novel. Hugo Cabret, an orphan lives in his secret home, inside a wall, etched out in the crevices of a train station in Paris. His dull life as a part-time clock keeper and part-time thief changes erratically when he meets an eccentric, bookish young girl and her angry grandfather. Little does he know that this relationship will not only change his life forever, but let him connect with his past, his father, one last time.
This book showed me a combination of the power of imagination, the depth of drawings and the spell that it casts on you as the two merge together.
The fourth book I believe deserves a mention here, not much for it’s storyline, or characters portrayed, but just to understand the beauty of a simple story and how it can simply please the avid reader. Life Is What You Make It, by Preeti Shenoy is one book that I came across unexpectedly. A deeply moving and inspiring story of Ankita Sharma, a college student with the world at her disposal, and a struggle that questions ones beliefs. It challenges the way you think about the basic concept of life, loss, love and survival- this is one book that showcases the power of determination and faith, and most importantly, family.
As much as I hate that this has to come to a final end, I must admit, the choice for a final fifth book is one that I am struggling with. Of all the books that I have come across this year, to pick just five is, close to impossible. Yet, this has to be done, and done it shall be.
My final and fifth book, my secret book. I came across this one as I passed my day away in a new-found library. As I walked through the aisles of books surrounding me I found a box with heaps of books stacked inside. Curiosity got the better of me, and I hunted through the pile and it was here, I found one of the most beautiful books that I have come across, a book that I solely bought because I judged the cover. Never, have I ever made a decision more precise. The Girl With Glass Feet by Ali Shaw, the story is straightforward- exactly as the title suggests. Ida Maclaird has feet that are turning to glass. Expectedly no doubt, this turns out to be the novel’s crisis too. This is a European fairy tale drawn from the woodlands of the North. It’s got all the elements too; with majestic creatures, intoxicating landscapes and the mysterious aliment that turns people into glass. Read this book, meet the characters, the truth and simplicity in them will no doubt surprise you. Let them confess their secrets to you, leaving clues behind to the story. Follow them on an existential mystery, why do people fail to live bravely?
And with this, marks the end of my list, the Five Books To End The Year with, the five books that I began my year with. Find a story, fall in love with a character, follow a troublesome Hero and let yourself be shown a new way to see the world, and more importantly, understand yourself and the people in it. For in the end of it all, we are all characters in great big tale. Wake up and find your heroic heart.
“Have you ever hoped for something? And held out for it against all the odds? Until everything you did was ridiculous? ”
― Ali Shaw, The Girl With Glass Feet