My earliest memory is that of my mother pointing out pictures to me from her encyclopaedia. I was three years old and loved the book. When I refuse to have my baby- food (which I absolutely loathed), my mother would sit me on her lap, spread out the huge book in front of us and show me the pictures, while tactfully feeding me spoonfuls of Cerelac. The chapter “Our Universe” was my favourite. The memory is still fresh and vivid: the dusty, old pages partially eaten by termites, the scent of old paper, the yellowing pages with colourful images of Olympus Mons, the Milky Way and formation of the Earth.
Books mean different things to different people. To some, they are a way of learning. Some read books as a hobby, while yet others find them plain boring and useless. However, reading is a passion to some people. To them, it is more than a hobby or an interest. When it is a passion, reading becomes more than a mere visual activity; it becomes a wholesome experience of sensory as well as mental stimulation. In my case, I do not like to read a book and put it away. I want to savour it from cover to cover. Every book has a personality. It is an organic entity in that sense. Some are old and worn with use. They have that peculiar “old-paper” smell that invokes nostalgia. Old and familiar books are a great company on lonely rainy days. Snuggling into a couch with a coffee and your favourite book, already read countless times, is an experience unlike any other. The yellowing pages with their crumbly texture remind the reader of the companionship they have enjoyed together and of the special warmth shared by close friends. On the other hand, there are those brand-new books, looking vibrant, smelling of fresh paper and ink, and packaging. One of the first things I tend to notice about a new book is its sleekness and shine. New books are great for prosaic, boring days. The excitement of diving into new world can spark up any boring day. It is unfamiliar, yet inviting. It entices with the possibility of a new journey.
The choice of books is directly affected by the personality of the reader. A realist cannot enjoy fantasy any more than a dreamer can enjoy gritty treatises. However, this does not mean that dreamers read only fantasy fiction or that realists hate fiction. The fantasy or reality of the ideas presented in the book is what matters. Personally, when I read non-fiction, there is the thrill of learning something new. The feel of acquiring knowledge is almost like finding a treasure. There is a certain satisfaction and enriched feeling associated with it. The sense of discovery is priceless. With fiction, it is an entirely different story. It lets me become someone else and explore new worlds, where I have exhilarating adventures. I am invincible and victorious. I prefer non-fiction in my “ambitious perfectionist mode” and fiction in my “escapist mode”. In any case, the more unbelievable, grand and preposterous the idea sounds, the more captivated I am. To me, fascinating ideas are at the heart of every adventure.
One book that I remember particularly enjoying is ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. I read it for the first time when I was around nine, and discovered to my delight that classics are not as boring as I imagined them to be. It is a perfect blend of the mundane and the supernatural. Plus, it is all about Christmas! Who can say no to a cosy little Christmas tale? That was when I fell in love with period classics. I never got tired of that book. It is still in my list of comfort reads.
Choosing books are just like choosing friends. Some books are to be made acquaintances; some are to be made friends and to have a nice time. Yet others become good companions who help you out when necessary, whereas a few are invaluable and worthy to be cherished. As stated earlier, choosing books is as much a personal choice as choosing a career. What is appealing to one person may be worthless in the eyes of another. This is why lists of must-read books are often useless. One must make one’s own choices. Books, unlike humans, will never let one down. Even the feel of a favourite book in uplifting when one is stressed out. That is why I would happily declare: reading is my passion; it is the love of my life.