Barring the Ladybirds and the picture books, I remember the very first book I read completely by myself. It was a heavily illustrated 'Peter Pan'. I read it on my father's lap, and I remember pausing over the unfamiliar name "John", and my father clapping me on the back when I pronounced it correctly. Till date, 'Peter Pan' has remained one of my favourite stories.
I have always loved books. Everytime I was gifted a book, or bought one, I would rush to the bed, curl up and start reading. And I was deaf to the outside world till I had finished. My family knew that it was unwise to disturb me, for I would get extremely cranky if brought back to earth. Nowadays I come across people who say they 'hate' books, that they have never read just for the sheer pleasure of reading. Apparently it is 'uncool' to like reading. Is it really? What a very sad situation. I can't imagine a life without books. And anyway, who CARES if reading is uncool? Those who think it is, are certainly missing something.
Books have a charm of their own, don't they? They have this magical gift of transporting you somewhere else. Read 'Malory Towers', and you're actually in one of the dormitories, attending a midnight feast with Darrell, Sally, Alicia and the rest. Read 'Curtain: Poirot's Last Case', and you're sitting with the master detective himself, watching him rack 'the little grey cells'. Flip through the pages of 'Cinderella', and you'll find yourself wishing it were you instead of her, riding off into the sunset with Prince Charming.
Enid Blyton has probably been one of my biggest influences. I fancied myself a British girl living in the 1930s or so, instead of an Indian one living in the 1990s. My brother still laughs at me- and reminds me of that, much to my embarrassment. I lived on a diet of boarding school stories, descriptions of yummy meals (scones formed an integral part!), and talked with a distinct British accent and said stuff like "Dear me!" All that aside, Enid Blyton was unbeatable. Show me a children's book that's better than any of hers, and I'll swallow an entire glass of lassi. (I say that because I can't stand the stuff). Amelia Jane, the Faraway Tree, the naughtiest girl, St. Clare's, the Famous Five, the Five Find Outers- what would any of us have done without her books to read? (I remember having a crush on Julian, of the Famous Five. What a hottie!)
Agatha Christie, again, has been a huge favourite. I have yet to read a crime novel that's better than any of hers. Even now, if I read 'And Then There Were None' at night, I feel chills running down my spine. Her endings are so completely unpredictable, they leave you feeling like a fool and wishing you had seen it before. And when she's done explaining, it sounds so ridiculously simple that you wonder how you hadn't seen it before!
Asterix and Obelix, of course, I love too. Who can resist the subtle humour? Poor Cacophonix, he's NEVER allowed to sing! I've read all the Tintin comics too. I used to have (probably still do) a big crush on Captain Haddock! No one can quite match his vocabulary for abuses!
"The Catcher In The Rye" - another huge favourite. A book like no other. You can't help but identify with it.
I quite liked "Daddy Long Legs" too. It's a completely unique story. Something that you can read over and over again and never get bored of.
And I suppose I should mention Harry Potter too, in view of all this Pottermania. I like the books, though I don't go completely nuts over them. They're well written, yes, and J K Rowling has worked out a pretty good formula. The stories are gripping, you find yourself drawn into the characters, but I wouldn't go so far as to queue up ouside a bookstore all night long or anything!
And yes, there has been the usual junk that I've read. Stuff that everyone has read. Archie, Sweet Valley, and the trash that is called Goosebumps. Archie comics are nice, though. They make for pleasant reading on cold winter nights. I've read Sidney Sheldon's works too. 'Tell Me Your Dreams' was rather nice.
I've never liked classics much, neither do I like Georgette Heyer's books. My friends have repeatedly recommended them to me, though. I like Jeffrey Archer's stuff, though I prefer his short stories. I find his novels a tad boring.
How can I forget to mention Adrian Mole's Diary, by Sue Townsend? It's definitely one of the most hilarious books I've come across. The writing is so endearingly REAL, somehow. And the subtle satire on life and its many facets is hard to miss. If you haven't read it, do. You won't be sorry.
Lewis Carroll- who can forget him? 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass' are works of art in themselves. And I must mention this story I had really liked by Oscar Wilde, called 'The Nightingale'. Truly wonderful.
Paulo Coelho's writing is really good too. Very different. And with a lot of meaning. Sometimes, he tends to get a little pretentious. But on the whole, good reading. 'Veronika Decides to Die' and Eleven Minutes' being two of my favourites.
And I've talked about just a minor percentage.
Books. Aaah. What comfort. Gimme a good book, some cookies, pleasant weather and a bed. Now THAT'S bliss!