– To Happy New Readings
I was transiting through the Hyderabad airport to catch my flight to Mumbai when I stopped to flutter around at a book store and involuntarily found my hand reaching out to grab the new Chetan Bhagat novel, Revolution 20-20. It was in that moment when it dawned on me.
Like many readers out there, I tend to pick up books written by the same authors I have read before, so for example since I had recently finished reading Amartya Sen’s book the Argumentative Indian, I immediately went and got his other book the Idea of Justice because I just had to read more essays written by him. But truth be told, I don’t like Chetan Bhagat’s writing at all. I do admire him for writing books for the mass Indian audience who probably would never have picked up a book in their lives if it wasn’t for him but apart from that I don’t fancy him being a good writer. His books are like movies made by Farah Khan – slightly entertaining, super predictable and soulless. But then why was it that I had read all of his books? And here I was reaching out to buy his latest release too? It hit me then that reading all of his books religiously throughout the timeline he had released/written them was due to a sincere inkling and wishful thinking to watch him as he grew in writing but I can sadly say that I have been sorely disappointed. CB has a clear-cut commercial formula in writing books that manages to make a good sale so why not just stick to the same theory every time? In one way one can’t blame him.
In another way though, reading a book by the same author is like going through the same life cycle every single day with the same job with the same people and in the same place. We find comfort in them and we find comfort in already knowing an author’s style of writing so it’s natural to make those same choices because it’s been proclaimed safe, but the question then arises; how does one ever grow? How will we ever know if making that drastic decision to move countries or taking that leap of faith by making a lifetime commitment or making a decision to change jobs could be well worth it or not? What if we never did grow out of our comfort zone and were well into our adulthood still reading books written by Enid Blyton? I am clandestinely terrified that someday I might outgrow my Harry Potter books but I know that that will be a sign of growth too (although I solemnly swear to cling on to Pottermania as long as I possibly can)
I read books for the same reason I make a life changing decision –
- To learn something from, like when constantly reaching out for the dictionary reading those million fancy words used by Amartya Sen of which I had no idea what they quintessentially (I hope that got you reaching out for the definition too) meant.
- To admire or inspire from, like the concept of Yann Martel’s book Beatrice and Virgil and the ending to a Life of Pi which I thought was so unimaginably unique.
- To feel strongly and powerful about something, like when reading the Saudi Arabian Princess trilogy by Jean Seasson and screaming silently in outrage for the unfair treatment of Middle Eastern women.
- To laugh aloud with or cry like a baby on, like when giggling nonstop at Rebecca Bloomwood mostly unsuccessful endeavors in the Sophie Kinsella Shopaholic series or when bawling after reading Anne Frank’s Diary.
- But my most favorite one is to sink in that moment and clasp that page before it slips right through my forefingers and read a sentence written by an author that simply takes my breath away even for a split second like when ‘Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant’ – Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking or when you realize that ‘the question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me’ – Ayn Rand, The Fountain Head.
O happy pen. This is thy sheet. There ink, and let me begin – Anne Frontier
Quote from a book titled Juliet I had randomly picked up and was pleasantly surprised by, I singled it out because I had never read Shakespeare before and I have to appallingly admit that I didn’t know what thy, thee and thou really did mean (In case thou wondering, It means yours, you and you’re).
So thee should make it a point to not just read books whose names of authors thou hast heard from someone or based on a movie thee just saw the trailer of, but thee should pick up a book that belongs to a genre that thou hast not attempted to read before and/or written by a new author thee hast not heard of before (Phew!)
As for me, I changed my mind at that book store at the Hyderabad airport and set aside Revolution 20-20 and instead picked up a book known as the Emperors of the Peacock Throne by Abraham Eraly. Why did I pick it up? It was different since I hadn’t read historical books on India, I hadn’t heard of Eraly, the cover looked pretty and heck it was time for me to move on.
I am now going to read this book on the first six Mughal Emperors of India and give it a fair shot and if it makes me uncomfortable in the first few chapters that’s okay because I am going to push right through till the very end and like the many major decisions we have to make in life to move on ahead, a tiny choice in picking this book up might just be well worth it too.
It’s not to Brand Beginnings I cheer,
Let me End this by saying
Happy New Readings are here!