My 10 Books

September 1, 2014

Let me treat myself by succumbing to the temptation going around right now: of choosing 10 books which have influenced me (or have just been sources of joy) over the years. This list might change tomorrow, but for now, here it goes (in no particular order):

  1. Anandamath by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
    My introduction to Bankim’s works. I read it at an impressionable age and the passion – of language, of emotions, of patriotism (though alloyed with a somewhat narrow lens) carried me away. I enjoyed each of Bankim’s other novels, but Anandamath shall remain special, being the first taste of the rich blood of pre-Tagore Bengali literature for me
  2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    A lot has been written about Mr. Darcy and his female fan following. In comparison, little is said about his effect on young men. For me, he had a rockstar-ish effect! The brooding hero of the timeless masterpiece, he was the epitome of qualities one wished one had, but like Apple’s products, did not know to wish for before encountering him. The arrogance of: ““She is tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me..”  ! Oh dear!
  3. Feluda by Satyajit Ray
    The innocent crime mysteries (no, that isn’t an oxymoron) of the great Ray would feature in most top-10 lists drawn up by Bengali boys. The double treat of a next-door dada accompanied by his youngish cousin, the narrator and very much the alter-ego of the author, is unsurpassable. I came across the more complete and adult fare of Byomkesh and the more touching Kakababu later, but Feluda’s crown was not one to be usurped (A comparison here)
  4. Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case by Agatha Christie
    Growing up, I came across Agatha Christie. Much as Feluda ruled over the heart, in my heart of hearts, I had to admit that those were child’s play. This was the real deal, the fact of the matter. The haunting plots and the red herrings.. None of Agatha Christie’s works is ordinary, but Curtain perhaps is most symbolic of the lady’s powers. Among other favourites of mine are Endless Night and Towards Zero
  5. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
    Ayn Rand’s works seem life-changing at first encounter for many Indians and so it was for me. The radical ideas, so much in contrast with what one grew up with and came to believe without questioning, shakes one up and forces to reconsider. And yet, so much of it seems so natural and naturally right, it’s liberating and guilt-inducing all at once
  6. Quiet by Susan Cain
    A very recent read. Like The Fountainhead, another extremely powerful work. A seminal piece in its own right, I believe its influence is still in its early years. Susan Cain makes a compelling, incisive, sincere case for introverts and their ways. (Read my review here)
  7. Sita by Devdutt Pattanaik
    If Ayn Rand introduced radically new ideas, Devdutt instilled old ideas with erudite vigour. Jaya was mostly a revision of the great Mahabharata for me, but Sita was truly enlightening. I realized how little I understood the other Indian epic and how I had missed its  many nuances, mistaking it for a simplistic one-dimensional piece. An eye-opener of a retelling! (Reviews of Jaya and Sita)
  8. Ghare Baire by Rabindranath Tagore
    Rabindranath’s prose, while excellent in themselves, is no match for his songs and poetry – which alone have ensured his immortality. However, Ghare Baire (The Home and the World) makes this list for being a fantastic specimen of the author’s power over logic, language and debate. The three primary characters speak in their own voices. Rabindranath sways the reader back and forth with each chapter, each character taking turns in winning the reader over with their sentiments and rationale
  9. Prothom Alo by Sunil Gangopadhyay
    This historical fiction narrates the story of the Bengal Renaissance, it smost striking feature being its humanizing of the greats of the time from all walks of life including Tagore and Vivekananda. Sunil Gangopadhyay, in his lucid style, brings colonial Kolkata to life in an enchanting work of great detail (Review here)
  10. Time stops at Shamli by Ruskin Bond
    It’s not always the grand things in life which moves one and etches indelible marks on the mind. Ruskin Bond is the artist who needs little tools to make his mark. This short story is haunting in its melancholy, captivating without making the least attempt, sweet even in its chronicling of pain and loss

Please let me know your favourites in the comments and if there are any intersections with mine!

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