Book Book Resolution – Catching up to 2014

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

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Going Down the Rabbit Hole

What better way to begin a journey into a promising life of adventure, thrill and mystery then to follow the white rabbit and jump head first into the rabbit hole? Don’t be sceptical; I know it’s a children’s book, and yes it was intended to be written as a children’s classic, but did you know, this fantastical adventure of protagonist, Alice in Wonderland follows her experiencing extraordinary changes in her size, swims in a pool of her own tears, and attends a Mad Tea Party, to the say the least.
Wonderland is no simple place. Lewis Carroll is no simple author, and his mind definitely no simple world. With characters quite like any one would imagine, let alone meet in a ‘real world’ has brought about much interest into the debate of whether this popular classic is indeed meant just for children.

Before understanding the author, let’s pursue Alice in her great adventure in Alice in Wonderland.

“”But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.””
– Alice in Wonderland

The beauty about this novel really, is the dreamlike quality it has from the very beginning, and never once does this feeling leave the reader. In fact, it does not leave you even as you finally put the book down, close your eyes and wonder what you just finished reading.
There is a beautiful play on words and a style of writing that not only appeals to children, but will definitely make you smile through your years to come. It’s a dream. One that reminds people in this tough day and age a very important lesson.

““Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.””
– Alice in Wonderland

Alice is not portrayed as a ‘believer’ through the story, she is well, ‘logical’ in a contemporary sense. She questions, she wonders, and she questions again. The reader is really pushed to question themselves after a certain point in the story, especially when a smoking caterpillar constantly indulges Alice with questions that I believe in today I would not be able to answer. However, Alice’s replies, not only are they simple, but oh so simple, that they would definitely make you smile.

“”Who are YOU?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.””
– Alice in Wonderland

Take a moment now, would you like to ask yourself this question?
“Who are YOU?”

I believe Alice taught me a very important lesson, she let me explore and understand the idea that my experiences can and do change me and has shaped my outlook, possibly even opinions.

For those who are possibly more interested in the story, the characters and the flow of narration; it is impeccably strong, flawless and as Alice rightly says, “Curiouser and curiouser.” It’s rather interesting, that at any point of time in life, one simply has to pick up this book, disconnect from the world and follow Alice as she tumbles down the rabbit hole, where nothing less than a lifetime of adventure awaits her.

My personal opinion, this book is something that I will keep close to me through my time growing up, and I specifically say growing up, because all the way, as years pass I will always have a copy on my bookshelf. Alice’s journey will always teach you something, a new lesson perhaps, a way of looking at the unknown.

Today, in a world filled with uncertainty, there is only one certain that I will always believe, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland– where being mad is the only normal you should fill yourself with.

The Curious Adventures of A Librarian

Most of my friends have come to believe that due to the ever increasing pile of books around my room, some scattered, some under pillows, while some neatly stacked in shelves, that I would at any given point of time be able to answer their odd question, “Tell me what to read Richa !”
Fortunately, it was after being asked this question for the millionth time that I decided to come up with a sort of story, of my journey with all the books that I have read so far. Resulting in a blog that would become the ideal answer to the much asked question.

When I think of books, I think of them as secret adventures that an author takes with his reader. He chooses his words, carefully and constructs his sentences wisely. He allows the reader to travel, all the while from her comfortable sofa. She could be a thousand miles away, perhaps in another galaxy, or in a secret garden, or maybe even down the rabbit hole. But with sparkling eyes, and a glasses falling down her nose, possibly even with her mouth slightly open, she reads and reads, book after book, travelling from one heart felt journey to another. Mind you, this may just be a faint hint of what I usually seem to be doing on lazy afternoons or long, cold nights, but I am sure that all avid readers, like me, tend to sigh, cry, giggle or even through a tantrum when a dear book, as dear as a friend, in in their hands.

When I start a book, it’s for any number of reasons actually- sometimes I can go far enough to say I read one of the most beautiful books in my life, merely because I liked the cover; shocking, I know, but this is a story for another time. For now, I want to tell you a story of me and and my adventures with books, how they have managed to make me understand the strongest part of me: That a book and I is the greatest company I can have.
It started too long ago for me to remember, but ask anyone who knows me for more than a few minutes, and they will tell you that I always travel with a book, I always keep a back-up book, I always have one unfinished book and there’s always one within grasping distance before I go to sleep, and when I wake. I also prefer holding a book, feeling the pages and the words as I reach them, as opposed to the modern versions of books today. (But, this has absolutely nothing to do with this blog, your wish to read will be my command to supply.)

So, come along on this adventure with me. For a second forget your age, your gender, your religion, your purpose… and learn how to absorb yourself into the pages of a book, for it is there I believe you find your strengths and weaknesses, and it is here, you will find true love.

Let me share my adventures with you, and I hope you find your great story hidden within the pages of a book. Here’s to the Curious Adventures of A Librarian.