From the time I can remember, I have loved to read. One of my favorite memories is of me coming back from school when I was about five or six years old, and sitting on this little ledge that overlooked our yard while my adopted sister pampered me with snacks. My best friend – a book – was with me, spread on my lap, while I teetered on the ledge – a balancing act of skill at that age.
As an introverted, shy, and clumsy girl, books were my constant companions. Uncles and aunts would tease me about my reading. I would stay in a room for hours, hunting libraries for the Enid Blytons and the Nancy Drews that would make me forget the world outside. Then, I used to read for pleasure. Now, I read for meaning most times. I have grown to understand that books and words can teach us so many things about the world outside – a world that no matter all the travel I do would be restricted if I don’t read. It’s from reading that I learned to teach myself to be confident. I learnt self-hypnosis and NLP from books. I learned to meditate first from books. I no longer read to escape – I read because it enriches me.
I stopped the Sidney Sheldons and Jeffrey Archers after I reached my 20s. Nothing against those authors – I just wanted to read for more meaning, and I fell in love with classics. I have had a lifelong love affair with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I adored Emily Dickinson and Whitman and agonized with Thoreau over the bare marrows of life. I then went through a phase of reading memoir after memoir – searing ones like those from Dave Eggers that made me rethink my own petty life with its petty problems – and then a phase where I read a lot of contemporary fiction.
These days, I read from a variety of genres – those that I hadn’t touched previously – like fantasy and YA. I read more books on aspects of life that are of meaning to me – love, kindness, meditation, humor, and just the sheer broad effervescent claustrophobic essence of living.
I was reminded of all these years of reading today when I stood and stared at the half-emptied bookshelf that I want to transport to my apartment. I stared at the one carton that I thought would fill all these books and laughed at how much I had underestimated the number of books I had. If I hadn’t been gifted a Kindle, this pile would have been even more unmanageable.
And that’s just one carton. I sighed looking at the rest of the bookshelf.
I laughed when I came across a book that I seem to have forgotten to finish. I open the book and see this adorable bookmark from my friend who used to call me ‘Chikamma’ then. Still, you are the star that shines bright, my Swati Nakshatra. Of course, the bookmark is placed at this page where it says, ‘9th November.’
I wondered if I have actually read some books when I glanced at them. And had to go back to Goodreads half the time to check before sorting them out. Sigh.
There were so many books that have been gifted.
Take this book, for example. Irony is this. Gifted by a friend I am not friends with anymore. What a title she chose!
I gathered even more books to my TBR that were previously hidden in the ‘Read’ section of my bookshelf. And then, I just sat down and gave up the task, instructing our driver to just get me more cartons. I wanted to hug all these books – all the wonderful writers who didn’t hide but expressed themselves. Who chose to use this medium to share their life and thoughts. Goodreads tells me I have read about 869 books as of now. That doesn’t include the books I haven’t been able to remember and record. True, I don’t remember many of the books I read, even though I admire the ones who can, and I can’t sound very knowledgeable by dropping quotes here and there. (One of the reasons I struggle with book clubs and very bookish people). I am trying, though, and I know that if I really want to, I can. As with everything else in life, the question is how much we want to.
But when you speak to me, you will hear the books I read. When you see some of my actions, you would see the words that guided me to those actions. I don’t need to remember titles. I don’t need to remember beautiful quotes. I know that books have made a shelf on my soul, and there they will stay. These writers are all part of me.
Now, I need to find more cartons.