Needless to say, books impact our lives a lot. I also believe that books shape us, our characters and a lot on how we think about many aspects around us. That is why being well-read was a very important trait for me. The ONE thing I was particular about my life-partner even as a young girl was that the boy I would marry would be well-read and should be able to talk and hold conversations on books. If not anything else, we’d at least never run out of topics to talk about.. :)
I am a huge fan of Haruki Murakami, his books, his style of writing (with due credit to his translator) and the world he weaves in his stories. I’ve learned a lot and read up a lot after finishing each of his books because of the many references he gives to many topics in his books, all those that he likes or he draws his inspirations from. So when his 1Q84 was due for release last year, there were a lot of articles on him, his living, his books and his inspiration for 1Q84 itself and the various things in the book that he refers to. First and foremost on the inspiration list was that he titled the book on the lines of George Orwell’s 1984. Now, until then, I’ve obviously read and heard a lot about George Orwell but was never compelled enough to go and read his books. But to read and understand and to not miss a single reference that Murakami would give in 1Q84, I decided to read 1984. This is first of the many things I did in 2012 to gear myself up to read 1Q84. Yes, that is/was how important it was for me to understand the book and Murakami, and the book. I am currently reading this book, but more about this later, in a separate post which this book totally deserves.
Now, 1984 – from the minute I finished reading this book, I cannot tell in how many ways this book has impacted my thinking. From the outline of it, its not a great story. Its set in a dystopian society ruled by a dictator where people are forever forced to think in a certain angle. Obviously, the setting is brilliant, the story telling is awesome but what’s more awesome is how this book has been in my thoughts forever. Every time I think of past, and how I would like to change it, like the old photographs on my food blog, or the posts on this blog, or changing certain aspects in my Facebook Timeline, I cannot help but think that I am trying to change history, one of the most important points of 1984. Its shocking how deep an impact the book has made, because of all the things that have crept into popular culture from this book, the only thing that stuck to me is trying to change history. Trying to change history is trying to change who we are, and in effect changing our own identity. This thought has dawned on me only from the book.
And that is how I began to think of all the books that have impacted me , changed the way I think about certain things and shaped the person I am today.
First and foremost on that list is Gone with the Wind and Scarlett O’Hara. Every time I think of survival, I think of Gone with the wind, and how Scarlett survives the war and saves her family and those around her. Its the image of Scarlett stomping her feet and saying – I’ll live through this day, and when I do, I’ll take care I’ll never have to see a day like this forever, this is the image that will never leave me, and come to my mind every time I see a challenge, or something that might weaken me.
I am a huge Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling fan, but what I love best about this book is the image of love it has created in my mind. To me, all the 6 books are a prelude to a beautiful love story which unravels itself in Book 7, when Snape wants to look into Harry’s eyes as he dies. Also, when I think love, the one other book that I can never forget is Love in the time of Cholera, and the image of a young man being turned down in a market and resolving to win over the girl some day, even if he has to wait for it for a lifetime.
Love is a vast subject, there are various angles to it, and it is one of the most written about topic too, but there are some books which stand out. Always. Like Wuthering Heights, for example, which will forever evoke an image of a doomed love in my mind. Ralph Fiennes had a lot to do with this, but the image of the enraged Heathcliff and headstrong Katherine will never leave my mind if I were to think of love, and the pain it causes. Oliver’s Story , and the image of Oliver Barrett running by the river Boston and stopping, heaving is an image of a young man who has decided to live the reminder of his life thinking about his love, Jennifer. Also , Gatsby’s crazy neurotic love and the things he does for it create another irrevocable image when the talk of love comes up.
From the time I’ve read up on Communism, I’ve been extremely interested in it. How it is implemented, how it affects the people living in that country , are they happy or not and such questions have always been on my head, but nothing answered them better than Orwell’s Animal Farm and Rand’s We, The Living. So now when I whine about the lack of freedom in India to not think of Sachin Tendulkar as God, I cannot help thinking about Stalin’s Russia, where it was not allowed to think about certain things. That was where a deep sense of wanting to have freedom of thought has arose in my mind, and now if I value ONE thing in my life, it is the Freedom of Thought, something that guides many of us in many directions.
The word ‘Charity’ always brings up Atlas Shrugged in my mind’s eye. This probably is THE book that has a deep influence on how I think about a lot of things around me, and one that is responsible for me being so opinionated. Charity should never be forced, individuals should have the freedom to do what they want to do with their money, and it is completely okay to be selfish and do the things you want to do because you love to do them, and not for the greater good of mankind – Atlas Shrugged, Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart and John Galt are single-handedly responsible for these opinions I hold in highest regard, some of the most important thoughts I have.
I think of depression and I feel Sylvia Plath haunting me from inside the Bell Jar. I think of being alone or feeling lonely and I think of Ursula from 100 years of Solitude. I think of Power and Family and Don Vito Corleone emerges in my vision with people kissing his hand. I think of making deals or negotiations and I see the Don making an offer people can’t refuse thus teaching a valuable life’s lesson. When I am waiting for the husband to come home, I cannot help but think of Penelope and her long wait for Ulysses as she is weaving her shroud. The words impact and influence come to my mind and I think of Prabhakar, Sara and Khan from Shantaram, another of the books that I hold in highest regard.
When I think back of the days I was growing up, all of them have the same memory – me reading a book on an easy chair, in the dark with a torchlight on, in bed in my room after I moved away, walking back from the library after picking up a book to read that night , in short of most of them are about books. Back then, I did not know what kind of books I loved, or what it was about the books that made me read them so voraciously. I hadn’t even identified my favourite authors then, and I was game to read just about anything.
One of the many perks of growing up and growing older is wisdom, and awareness. Its like I’ve suddenly become aware of what books I like, the genres I enjoy reading, and the authors I like. This has been a life long process and I keep discovering everyday now, but for the past couple of years, the books I’ve read and the ones that have stuck have adhered to certain simple subconscious rules.
The book/author should teach me something new, be it a concept or a part of history or introduce a new thought. I should have enough material to read up on the aspects mentioned in the book, thus giving me a scope to expand my horizon of thoughts and opinions. Magic realism , dyrstopia or fantasy should be an underlying theme, if there was a love story in it, its a bonus. If I get to do a time