Write about five books that left a lasting impression from five different times of your life (or more if you’ve lived longer). Don’t limit yourself to the “best books ever”. Books can leave an impression for other reasons. This meme was inspired by A Diary of a Mad Mammy.
First Book Read to Me –
I honestly don’t remember, although I’m fairly sure it would have been something from one of many “toddler tales” sort of books in Malayalam, or some bible stories or something from the Mahabharatha or the Ramayana. I have a far better memory of the first books I read, which was a lot of the Amar Chitra Katha stories; by the time I was 7 or 8 I would (apparently, that is, according to my grandparents- I remember reading, and I remember talking, but I don’t remember it ever getting out of control or anything) completely pester neighbours and relatives and random people by telling them little bits of mythology. Also around that time, like practically everyone else I knew- everyone else that read anything at all, I mean- there was a lot of Enid Blyton– Famous Five and Secret Seven and Tales of Toyland (that was a thing, right?) and so on.
First Book I Coveted
Again, I really don’t know for sure. I got almost all of the books I wanted, and since I didn’t read the sort of magazines in which there are book reviews and of course, I didn’t have any access to the internet, there wasn’t a lot that I knew about but couldn’t get. The earliest memory I have of really wanting something are the Harry Potter books, when I was in 6th or so… 1999, I think. My father had bought the first 2 books, which I devoured quite quickly, and I was really anxious to read the 3rd one, which had either already been out but was unavailable anywhere nearby (and this was long before any of us were used to the idea of online retail or pre-orders or anything), or hadn’t been released yet. Also around the same time, my father bought the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while we were traveling somewhere, and I read the first few chapters before my father decided that he should check out whether it was appropriate for me to read or not. This wasn’t something he did very often, though, either because he didn’t think it mattered or because it just wasn’t feasible- I found and surreptitiously read the few books he definitely told me not to read, like The Seven Minutes (not quite pornographical, but a really good novel by Irving Wallace about freedom of speech and obscenity laws, centered around a trial). In any case, on the train ride home I remember being distinctly displeased because I really wanted to see where this was going and my father wouldn’t even let me have it while he was on the phone or doing something else, which I thought then to be most unfair, although of course it makes sense if the idea is to vet it 🙂 .
The Teen Years – Atlas Shrugged
Can’t avoid this one, I’m afraid. There were others, of course, but I read Atlas Shrugged when I was in 7th or 8th (i.e. 12 or 13) and although I didn’t understand all- perhaps even most- of it, the rhetoric swept me up completely. In retrospect, it was really obvious that it would- what rather unpopular, nerdy, arrogant teenage boy from an authoritarian culture doesn’t want to hear about how smart people are always unjustly crucified and made to bear the sins of a weak and ungrateful world, and everyone else can literally go to hell while all the smart people re-build the world in their image? It formed the core of my philosophy for at least the next 3 years, although I don’t think I was ever able to convince anyone. Not that I tried- I always had the idea that it was very unlikely to work, anyway. It took me until 11th or 12th (and, it must be said, some measure of comfort with school life, which also only came about by then) to slowly release myself from its grasp, and I only really grew out of it by the time I got to college. You could probably trace back my vestigial libertarianism to it as well, but I can deal with that. Honourable mentions would be every Jeffrey Archer/ Frederick Forsythe/ Michael Crichton book till then, in the fiction department, and An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin in the non-fiction department. There was a lot of other pulp and science fiction as well, of course, including a lot of Asimov.
Strictly speaking, this is from about 17-22, which is as far as I’ve got so far. And it has hardly been only this series. I’ve read considerably more non-fiction in college than before,as well as a lot of literary fiction. Honourable mentions include the later Harry Potter books (again, I’m talking about the last 5 or 6 years), some Murakami and Ishiguro, some Malcolm Gladwell and similar books, // many of the Discworld novels (Terry Pratchett), and oh, so much SF&F. There’s nothing I can point to as some sort of summary or zeitgeist of the period, so the Wheel of Time series will have to do.