Books

I want the pleasure of reading a REALLY good book

I used to be a voracious reader. I considered myself bookish and so did everyone around me. And whenever I saw a book I have not read my pulse will quicken and I would start looking at the book longingly. I used to read the few books that I got with gratefulness and read them from cover to cover. Those were the days. Now my iPad is filled with PDFs of books by ostensibly great writers and I just close the tab and play an online game.

But I am not sure if it is just the presence of the online games that stopped me being a book-lover. It is also the quality of the books that I found around me. Does finding the right book for you get more and more difficult as you grow older? Why am I less indulgent about the prose? Is it because you can’t really enjoy James Patterson after acquainting yourself in Wilkie Collin’s writing? My first Patterson book attempted a multiple narrative format and fell flat on its own face. Did Agatha Christie spoil the mystery genre for me by making me too used to slithering red herrings that now when someone tries to put a mystery under my nose, I sniff it out and tut-tut at the budding author’s lack of skill? I don’t know. But I still feel the need to read.

A few years ago a friend pushed J. D. Salinger’s “The catcher in the rye” into my hands and I returned the favor by pushing a copy of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” into hers and we continued to do this until she relocated to Hyderabad. Now I have no one who really knows what I will like and the recommendations I see online don’t do anything to me.  Or maybe I am just picking the wrong recommendations?

These days I start judging the writer from the first line onwards. It does not feel like I am following the protagonist’s journey. It is more like the author is sitting in front of me and trying to impress me in some sort of audition and I give Simon Cowell-type pronouncements on the quality of the product. And it seems to me that the young ones have started to write before they have read enough. Reading the seven Harry Potter books alone is all very well if you want to write Snape/Lily shipping stories. But writing something that is worth reading is a herculean task and good preparation of the mind is essential from the writer and I wonder if sufficient ‘writers’ realize this. I find it painful when very immature writers try to be profound.

Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins and Matt Ridley kept me company with their well-researched Pop-Sci books and I could not get enough of their erudite and passionate arguments in favor of their pet theories. And even if some of their concepts are too much for my slow brain, it still worth the trouble I put into reading their books.

But I came to miss evocative storytelling from someone who knew what he or she was doing. My childhood dream was to earn enough money to buy any book I took a fancy to. But just as the dream was turning to a reality, my ability to take fancy to any book at all was at an all-time low. Is that the fate of adulthood?

Do you still read? Can you recommend something from a writer who isn’t putting on a circus of emotions and going all drama-queen on me? Can you recommend something to read that was really worth your while?

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13 thoughts on “I want the pleasure of reading a REALLY good book”

  1. Off hand, I can think of Bill Bryson for his humorous way of putting things into perspective and making knowledge accessible; Colin Dexter’s mysteries for the fluidity of his prose; Alison Weir, if you like Historical Biographies (non-fiction); Rosemary Sutcliff, if you like historical fiction (not necessarily romance); then, one-off books like Shashi Tharoor’s ‘Great Indian Novel’; Pratibha Ray’s ‘Yajnaseni’; anything by Gerald Durrell – if you haven’t already read him; Khushwant Singh’s ‘Train to Pakistan’; ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ by Che Guevera… oh, endless.. 🙂

    I hear you about writers not honing their craft; it’s become a very lazy profession.

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  2. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (from what I read recently).
    I always go to Anne Tyler when I just want to read a good story.
    If I knew what you liked, I’d love to suggest more. 🙂

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  3. I used to be a bookworm and these days can hardly read a book. I struggle inspite of having access to free kindle books here in the US through libraries. I dont play games at all but struggle due random browsing. Due to this, I prefer to read books through a basic kindle with no other apps.

    Just yesterday I managed to finish The husband’s secret and it had so many layers and touched a chord within me. I think you will like that book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am always scouting for good books like a lot of people and I find twitter to be a great resource. But even if you have an incredibly stringent screening process (Endorsed by someone on twitter/ Leap to goodreads to check out the book/ Has enough ratings to warrant a once-over/ Read reviews written by people on goodreads) there’s bound to be a sketchy book or two that will just not work for you. You’ve just got to get over it.

    I have scads of friends on goodreads and there are so many smart people out there who make questionable choices week after week in terms of the books they read. My point is, I don’t think this is a perfect science, but you’ve got to have a good eye. And this kinda mirrors your train of thought but if i find someone gushing about a book long enough, it sets my pulse racing. As long as we continue to have that all-consuming quest for finding a book that might knock the wind out of our sails, i think half our work is done.

    And if you read books long enough, the writer in you will rear his/her vicious green little snout sooner or later. And if we get really passionate about it, reading is an indispensable tool to have at our disposal. I believe i am a shit writer and i am never going to stop feeling that way. So when i get my hands on a book that’s beautifully written, i get weak in the knees. Therefore it’s absolutely vital for me to keep reading if i want to get better.

    Recommendations – Consider the lobster/Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (A colossus of a writer), Liar’s club/Lit (Incredible memoirs by Mary Karr), The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao (Has a crackerjack story by Junot Diaz), A visit from the goon squad by Jennifer Egan (Has a chapter in powerpoint – Run, don’t walk to the bookstore), Women by Chloe Caldwell (Get this novella, switch off your phones and read this story which is like an anvil colliding with your chest), Just kids by Patti Smith (Patti Smith is an american treasure), Did you ever have a family by Bill Clegg (So heartbreaking and a very essential read)

    Also, I stumbled into this site by accident and i like what i’ve read so far. And i don’t mean to sound patronizing at all when i say that =)

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  5. Thank you madhu. It is an interesting article but it seems quite fallacious. The theory that women are choosy and men are flirtatious is often taken as a justification for male promiscuity and female coyness and some terrible scientists do talk like that. However it is a very valid theory if people stopped getting so damn offended by it.

    I am all for coy males and flirtatious females but when we stop looking at humans, when we stop assuming that moral judgements are being made, the theory makes tremendous sense.

    Just mentioned this as it is often assumed that feminists will love to see the theory smashed. Feminism is basically about human culture and ethics. And humans are just one species. A self important species,but just one in many mammal species.

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  6. I am not surprised at your response at all. 🙂

    I always take any article on Science and Religion with a pinch of salt, they always seem to swing one side. But, I am forever facinated by the possibilities (more so in case of Religion). I don’t remember if I put it in your comments but there is this NGO which researches on menstruation theories in India. They have this extreme of “logical” explanations to what was followed before. But, I could still take it, because I always feel that some of those practices came from a genuine place (no, I am not for menstruating women to be kept out of religious places or all that bull), especially a place that tried to think a little scientifically. It is not about a True or False test, but about the fascination about such stuff giving and getting special meaning because of the time and the people.

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