If you are trying to cultivate a love for reading, it is necessary that you pick the books that genuinely interest you. Here’s a guide for all those just beginning to read.
Reading is the perfect escape from the harsh realities of the world. The books we read shape our worldview and help us understand the world and ourself better. Certain books, quotes and writers affect us so much that they become a part of our life, a means of solace and hope.
But not all of us are introduced to the habit of reading for pleasure by our parents and teachers in childhood. It can then be difficult to develop a love for reading in adulthood. It gets even more difficult when you make a genuine effort to cultivate the hobby of reading, but get recommended books by your ‘reader friends’ that do not suit your sensibility and are extremely difficult to get through. Finding the right book for the right reader, to be honest, is no easy task. There are never ending lists of best novels and bestselling books of all time on the web. Millions of books are published every year, in a million genres. Which one should you read, and which one to avoid.
I often get messages from cousins, friends and umpteen messages on social media asking me to recommend simple books to read. So, here is my list of recommendations for beginners.
1. The Room on the Roof by Ruskin Bond
Written from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old British boy called Rusty, ‘The Room on the Roof’ is set in the colonial town of Dehradun. It is a coming of age, semi-autobiographical novel of one of the most loved writers of India – Ruskin Bond. Like most Ruskin Bond books, it takes you on a trip to the charms of a small town – local hills, bazaars, street vendors, lakes, and makes you rethink about your life, the value of slowing down to savor the simple pleasures of life.
I bet the simple flow of language and a relatable story will keep you hooked till the end!
2. Mrs. Funny Bones by Twinkle Khanna
Film star turned author Twinkle Khanna made a sparking splash on the literary scenes with this book. Its crisp narration, intriguing anecdotes speckled with self-deprecating humour and witty innuendos make it a perfect read for new readers. There are no dull moments in this book and the humor will keep you chuckling till the very end.
3. Toba Tek Singh and Other Stories by Manto
You might have watched the movie Manto, and admired Nawazuddin Siddique’s intense performance. The real Manto is even more intense. Though it would be nothing less than literary blasphemy to suggest any one book or story by Manto, but I recommend ‘Toba Tek Singh and Other Stories’. It is a collection of short stories penned by him including ‘Toba Tek Singh’, ‘Thanda Gosht’, Khol Do, ‘Upar Neeche aur Darminyan’, ‘Kali Shalwar’ and many others. Manto’s genius lies in the use of his language and if you are proficient in reading Hindi or Urdu script, I suggest you read Manto in original to savor the true flavor of his language. Most of the stories written by Manto were ahead of his times, and he often found himself framed in obscenity trails for the explicit use of language and writing about taboo subject matters. However, six decades after his death, today he is recognized as one of the most iconic Urdu writer ever.
1. White Mughals by William Dalrymple
Don’t let the fat volume and 600 odd pages scare you off. If history interests you, this could be the book for you! In ‘White Mughals’, William Dalrymple, known for his historical fiction plucks a moment in time when England and India explored each others’ worlds and cultures with great delight and mutual admiration. It is a true story of a doomed romance between James Kirkpatrick, a British East India Company resident in Hyderabad, and Khair un-Nissa, a noble Muslim woman. Sadly, it is also the story of how Indo-British relations changed in less than a generation. This book stayed with me long after I turned the last page of the book. It’s a must read.
2. Maximum City by Suketu Mehta
Bulky as the book might seem, it’s an easy light read, touching on the underbelly of the maximum City – Mumbai. The book won several prizes, and was nominated for many others. It is the story of the many Bombays (Mehta always refers to it as Bombay) where both the super-rich and the super-poor exist. With his eyes open, and an ear on the ground, Mehta paints a fascinating account of the contradictions of Mumbai.
3. A book of Simple Living by Ruskin Bond
If there is one book that permanently stays on my bed side table, it is this! It is an antidote to depression and a ray of hope when all else seems to be falling apart. The book is a compilation of notes that are brief, personal and timeless. Ruskin wonderfully weaves the random reflections on friendship, nature, life etc. with his philosophy of life. For most of us who only leave the concrete jungle for a week or two for holidays, it is a delightful read – the flowers, the hills, the hail, the sounds, the smells all come alive! It’s a perfect book to sit with in your balcony on a lazy afternoon.
1. A Brush With Life : An Autobiography by Satish Gujral
I accidentally chanced upon this book in a local library. I didn’t know who Satish Gujral was and who was he related to. I was fascinated after I read that at eight, he lost his hearing. The autobiography depicts the compelling story of his courage and struggle to learn and speak four languages: Punjabi and Urdu, which he learnt as a child, and English and Spanish, which he learnt to speak, read and write as an adult overcoming his handicap. Incidentally he is the younger brother of former Prime minister of India Inder Gujral, who helped him in his struggle.
2. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
A charming memoir of Stephen King’s childhood when his love for writing germinated and was encouraged by his single mother, his teenage years when his writing got rejections from magazines, his young married life when he balanced teaching, writing, fatherhood and drinking. And then his literary breakthrough, with ‘Carrie’.
The second part of the book gives very useful writing tips on writing.
3. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Even if you have not read it, I am sure you must have heard about this book. It’s a lively account of Anne Frank, a Dutch girl who went into hiding, in 1942, with her parents and another family in the sealed off back rooms of an Amsterdam office building. She and her family were captured when the Nazi invaders got information about them and taken to concentration camp where she was killed. In her account she reveals the peculiarities and personalities of the people who live with her in the annexe, in a series of accounts and amusing anecdotes. It’s simple to understand but could be emotionally taxing for one, who is constantly weighing how for granted we take freedom till we lose it.
1. Milk and honey by rupi kaur
Rupi Kaur is a phenomenon not just a poet. The daughter of a Punjabi speaking immigrant to Canada, she rewrote the rules of poetry by posting her short poems along with simple drawings on Instagram where she commands a following of millions. The book alone sold 2.5 million copies worldwide. It is a simple book divided into four themed chapters which deal with various experiences including pain, healing, grief, and sexual assault. Her easy to read poems make them very relatable, and every reader can identify a bit of himself or herself in the poems.
2. Salt by Nayyirah Waheed
If Rupi Kaur popularized the insta style of poetry, Waheed started it. Her first book ‘Salt’ introduced the new way of writing poems that barely exceed a few lines in small letters without capitalization, and hardly any punctuation. A reviewer noted these poems make the readers re-evaluate their lives, and gather the pieces of their lives as the emotions break down one by one.
3. Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsaw Shire
Warsaw Shire was born in Kenya to Somali refugees. So she gathers all the trauma, grief and horror of war, and packs them in a thin volume of poems titled ‘Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth’. The poems are real simple, but eloquent and painful. They remind you of the fragility of security and loss that is the reality of millions affected by war, and exodus. In a world torn by war, where millions flee their homes everyday, this book of poems is a must read. It points to the humanity of those left behind, and makes you wonder, will you be next?
The author of this article, Richa Singh is a content writer with Investronaut. She is a voracious reader and a keen traveller.