Picking up old habits


Recos Sep 19, 2021

Many of my friends were, at some point in their school life, avid readers. Regardless of whether the only books available to us were teen romance and thrillers targeted at the adolescent’s demographic, the habit was truly a blessing.

I am certain that a lot of you can relate when I say that after school, life just got in the way and the practice of reading seemingly slipped away. About 3 months back, I decided to stop making excuses and pick up the habit again, at least a few pages every day. Thanks to a “reading club” that I am part of (it is just a WhatsApp group with my friends, frankly), I have been able to remain fairly consistent and true to my decision. So, this article is a reward to myself for sticking to a habit that I most sincerely adore, without excuses.

Pardon me if this book recommendation/review list is quite arbitrary and randomly put together, but I can assure you that you will love reading them all. Here we go:

1. The BFG (by Roald Dahl):

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Photo taken from Goodreads (Copyright held by the original publisher)

This was my first time reading Roald Dahl (famous for his children’s books), and it was such a fun treat. I definitely made the right decision to kick-start the habit with this book.

The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) is a story about a little girl Sophie who has been spotted by a giant in the middle of the night and hence kidnapped because no human must know that giants exist. Fortunately for her, he is the only friendly giant that does not eat humans. The rest of the book traces the onset of their friendship and the adventures that follow. The writing is funny, witty, and loaded with puns. Many interesting ideas and perspectives on human behaviour are played around within the book, so it is much more than just a quirky story about a giant. The best part of this book is the illustrations by Quentin Blake that bring the characters to life in your mind. If you are looking for a light, quick, and fun read, this is the book for you.

2. Before the coffee gets cold (by Toshikazu Kawaguchi):

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Photo taken from Goodreads (Copyright held by the original publisher)

Before the coffee gets cold is the debut novel of the Japanese playwright Toshikazu Kawaguchi, translated to English by Geoffrey Trousselot. The book is a time travel fiction that explores four different storylines of four characters in a special coffee shop where its customers can travel through time. The book does not care to get into the specifics of the time travel itself, but rather into the question of and reason to who these four characters meet.  The coffee shop’s time travel rules make it impossible and dangerous for anyone to actually want to take it up. The story explores how we, as humans, chase closure despite such risks through four very different stories and relationships in the book. There are quite a few open-ended questions by the end of these stories, the answers to which I hope to find in the sequel Tales of the café. This book might not have been the best of what I have read, but it certainly was warm like a coffee. (Wink, wink?)

3. Karna’s Wife: The Outcast’s Queen (by Kavita Kané):

Photo taken from Goodreads (Copyright held by the original publisher)

If you are an Indian Mythology fan like I am, this is a great pick. I have been obsessing over the Mahabharata for really long, so I absolutely loved reading this (especially because Karna is my all-time favourite). As the title suggests, the story is a narrative of the unfolding of the Mahabharat from the eyes of Karna’s second wife, Uruvi. The Mahabharat is undoubtedly one of the most complicated stories in the history of the world. It has several loose threads meant for reflection and interpretation, loaded with several grey areas that evoke questions about righteousness, humanity, and morality through its characters. A psychological treat, I would call it. Kavita Kané has captured the essence of these characters with reverence and provided novel sentiments to their roles. Besides covering the overview of the Mahabharata, the book also sheds light on several incidents and plotlines that help us understand these age-old characters and their decisions better. The downside is that this book could be a little too complicated for those who do not know head or tail about the epic, but otherwise, this is a wonderful place to start exploring the Mahabharata.

4. The boy in the striped pyjamas (by John Boyne):

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Photo taken from Goodreads (Copyright held by the original publisher)

I have been saving the best for the last. This is the best book on this recommendation list, undoubtedly. John Boyne has become one of my favourites now (I don’t have many favourites, trust me) with this one book. The boy in the striped pyjamas is set in the period of World War II. It explores the life of a nine-year old boy Bruno, who secretly befriends a boy on the ‘other side of the fence’ when he is forced to move with his family from Berlin to ‘Out-With.’ There are unusual events happening around Bruno that his nine-year-old self cannot quite make sense of and the book having been written from Bruno’s point of view captures the painful reality that existed during the war. The unreasonable world as seen by the innocence of a child’s eyes will break your heart to pieces. I talked to some of my friends who watched the movie adaptation of the book and one of them said, “I cried like a baby at the end of it.” At the risk of spewing out a spoiler, I am going to stop here and only say that if you want to start reading now, choose this book. You absolutely cannot go wrong with this pick.

If you are struggling to start reading again and if you are looking for a sign from the universe, this is it! I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions if you have read, or in the future read, any of these books. Until then, happy reading!

Sandhya Ramesh

If you want to know where to find her, try the best chaat or ice cream place in town.

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