Ten Books that Crashed on me Like a Tidal Wave – Its Personal
8th June, 2016
Here is how a spill from a bottle of vanilla essence ended up with me making a list of books. Yes, its personal this time.
Today a bottle of vanilla essence toppled right onto the floor from my refrigerator. That is where it all began.
While cleaning the floor bathed in the scent of vanilla, I started humming random tunes which brought me to Owl City’s Vanilla Twilight. Owl City was one a constant contender in my playlists during my undergrad, but now it has been years since I listened (or even remembered) the music. Funny how one thing leads to another. At that moment I realize that tastes change, memories dim and vanilla scent does not fade away easily. I continued wiping the sticky essence off the floor humming about a tidal wave crashing. (The title is inspired by that thought even though later I googled and realised I had mixed up words of two different songs of the band).
Meanwhile, my subconscious mind had foraged for books that have touched my inner most soul. I have lived through these, and often died a bit through these as well.
These are books that I have mostly read at a single stretch and then loved the feeling of drowning in. These are books in which I have got lost; those that have left a piece of themselves in my heart before leading me back to reality as I closed the back cover. These are books that have crashed on me like a tidal wave.
All book covers are linked to their Goodreads pages. These are books I would recommend to you if you are someone who cares about the whole experience of reading.
1. RUBY by Cynthia Bond
I read Ruby a week ago sitting on my balcony during a power outage as the rains lashed outside. I talk about the lyrical prose used in the book on my Instagram blog here. Ruby is a book I think I will always have a fear that my review would never do justice to the writing Bond has put forth.
The story in brief – Ephram is on his way to Ruby’s hut with an angel cake. To the town folks she is a mad, possessed woman; to him she is the same girl he fell in love with as a boy. As the church, people and haunted spirits try to dissuade him from the journey, read what keeps him going.
Warning : There is quite a bit of abuse – sexual, child and mental.
2. THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS by Arundhathi Roy
“In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.That is their mystery and their magic.”
I have many fond memories about this book. It goes back to the day when I was still a small girl and woke up to the news of Arundhathi Roy winning the Booker prize. I was amazed because she was from my state and the book is set in my home town.
I later followed Roy’s interviews and some essays, agreed with some and disagreed with some; never picking up her novel for the fear that I might not connect to it. Besides I had read severe criticisms of the book by the then Chief Minister.
I read this book eighteen years after its publication. And I loved it. It took my breath away.
3. AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah is a book that I recommend to every person who asks me the question – “Recommend a good contemporary read”. “I have for a very long time wanted to write an unapologetic love story,” says Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. “But one that is very much set in a practical world affected by things like getting a visa and paying rent.”
I loved Americanah so much that I took the afternoon off to finish reading the book because I could not concentrate at work. From talking about how one doesn’t feel ‘black’ until one steps on the American soil to commenting on how lesser loved Michelle Obama would be if she hadn’t straightened her hair, Adichie writes it all in this book.
You can read my review of Americanah here.
4. THE BASTARD OF ISTANBUL by Elif Shafak
This book was recommended to me by a dear friend who dreams of visiting Turkey one day. I read this one evening at a park leaning on a small hill of grass, later squinting under the lights to read more. I read till it was quite dark and the husband came looking for me, as I lost track of time and not returned home. And yes, I did stay up till one in the morning to finish the book the same day.
This one book made me a fan of Elif Shafak. It plants in you an urge to visit Turkey as well as makes you very hungry with the descriptions of Turkish delicacies. This is the story of a family on a backdrop of the scars left by the Armenian genocide and specks of mysticism.
5. THE SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes
“What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.”
This is a special book for me because it was a book I had kept off buying for a long time and later became one of the first I bought after having money of my own. This is the story of life and whether memory can be imperfect as time passes. Even though the read is not a philosophical one, I had a bad book hangover for days and I drifted into many deep thoughts about youth, old age, memory and relationships.
My only suggestion if you decide to read this book is to read it in one sitting. It is a very short book and the experience would not be the same if you break it up. The ending of the book says “There was unrest.” And I felt it. A churning unrest seemed to wrap me up when I closed the book.
6. DAYTRIPPER by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon
Daytripper is a graphic novel. The book is absolutely fabulous- the art, the story, everything. The book asks the question “when does life begin?” Does it begin when you have your first kiss? Or when your friend betrays you? Or when you have a family of your own?
In each chapter, the protagonist dies in the end. Each chapter talks of his life based on his choices as well as unpredictable events. Deeply reminiscent of Robert Frost’s The Road not Taken,this book that makes you question yourself how different your life would have been if you had taken another turn or skipped a few lanes.
7. SOMEONE AT A DISTANCE by Dorothy Whipple
Whipple was a new writer for me and I decided to cautiously test the waters with this book few months back. I was blown away. Someone at a Distance is the story of the marriage of a loving couple upon the entry of a French lady who is bitter towards life.
It was heart wrenching. This is what I call a tidal wave! Whipple’s talent in capturing sorrowful emotions and the urge to not give up in front of tragedies is admirable. I immensely enjoyed this piece of writing and I highly recommend it as well.
8. GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
I am sure no one can forget the book that was never available at the school library when you go asking to borrow it. Many years later, my friends gifted me a copy for my birthday. The pages have fallen apart, the binding has given way; yet it is still one of my cherished possessions.
This is the story of a nation, divided in its interests, and the story of the ruthless and beautiful Scarlett o’ Hara. When it comes to choosing bookish heroines, I like those like Scarlett who have a fire ruling in their eyes. It is amazing how she does everything to be unloved, yet makes you salute her courage and passion. I read this in a day. And it is a book I would love to re read.
9. WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte
My favourite classic and my most re-read book.
From the first page onwards, I was transported to the moors. I could hear the haunting shrills of the wild countryside and see the darkness that ruled over days. Wuthering Heights is a love story (or is it?) with a very disagreeable hero who is more of a mourner than a lover. What fuels this story then? You have to read and find out.
This novel was rejected several times and finally Emily paid 50 pounds to get it published. She died believing the novel was a failure, which is heart breaking.
10. FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
As a child, I did not dislike my History classes. But often I had teachers who ruin the experience of soaking in the past by converting it into a mundane clerical task of remembering mere dates and events. That is when this book fell into my hands.
I was enthralled by the read. This is a book that has a story and a heart. I time travelled to the times of British rule in India and the rise of leaders who toiled to find unity in the chaotic diversity of the country. I wept (literally, I did), I read and I re-lived the freedom struggle.
Have you read any of these? Do you have any books that surprised you or made you cherish the experience of reading them?