15 Authors I Love to Read

November 12, 2010

Chris tagged me on Facebook, apparently knowing very well that this would end up on my blog. The idea was to list my top 15 authors, without spending too much time mulling over the list – which I’ve done; and to tag others to do the same – which I’ve obviously not done. But don’t let that stop you – go ahead and create your own list, if you want to.

Meanwhile, here’s my list of my top 15 authors.

  1. Enid Blyton
  2. A A Milne
  3. Walter Farley
  4. Agatha Christie
  5. Gerald Durrell
  6. P G Wodehouse
  7. Charles Dickens
  8. James Hadley Chase
  9. Erle Stanley Gardner
  10. Georgette Heyer
  11. Dick Francis
  12. JRR Tolkein
  13. JK Rowling

This makes me realize some weird things about myself

  • I love murder mysteries! This is a surprise – I never realized I love murder mysteries this much. I seem to have grown up on a diet of murder mysteries! I’ve only listed five authors here, but I’ve left out Raymond Chandler, GK Chesterton (not exactly murder mysteries, but detective stories anyway), Ruth Rendell, the Nancy Drew author (the original author, not the proxy you get nowadays) and probably a few others. Oh, and if you think that Georgette Heyer in there is a nod at romances, think again – I’ve collected all 13 of her murder mysteries that hopefully still occupy pride of place in my mother’s house.
  • I like Brit writers. (Not really a surprise.)
  • I’ve read a lot of non-fiction in recent years, but I can’t recall any of the authors. (Weird.) There’s only one non-fiction author on that list.
  • Some of the authors from my childhood days still rate as my favourite authors.
  • I could only think of 13 authors. (Were you thinking I can’t count? I can, but it doesn’t matter because all these little icon thingies actually do the counting for you nowadays. No wonder human brain capacity is decreasing.) Initially I put Bill Bryson on the list as a nod at travel writing, but then I realized he’s not in the same class as the other authors in my list (probably because he doesn’t do murder mysteries), so I took him off. (Poor Bill – what a slap in the face!)
  • In my mind, Enid Blyton is actually two or three authors – the author of Noddy, who taught me to read; the author of the house in the tree series, was it called the Faraway Tree or something like that?; the author of the Famous Five and the Secret Seven series; and the author of St Clairs, which was a series like no other. Oh, that’s actually four different authors. So does that make my list of 15 complete?
  • There are lots of individual books I’ve loved, which would probably make it to my list of top 15 books, but very few authors that I’ve gone back to time and time again. (And not all the authors listed above would have a book features on the list of top 15 books. Weird.)

In fact, that last point there got me thinking: Why not a list of top 15 books as well?

  1. Waiting for Godot (TS Eliot)
  2. The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkein)
  3. Born Free (Joy Adamson)
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  5. Seven Years in Tibet (Heinrich Harrer)
  6. Where the Indus is Young (Dervla Murphy)
  7. My Family and Other Animals (Gerald Durrell)
  8. Harry Potter series (JK Rowling)
  9. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a trilogy in four parts) (Douglas Adams)
  10. Congo Journey (Redmond O’Hanlon)
  11. As far as my feet will carry me (Josef Martin Bauer, Clemens Forrell)
  12. The Black Stallion (Walter Farley)
  13. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
  14. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
  15. The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins)

There you have it. I bet you haven’t ever heard of half these authors (to be honest, I had to search on Google to find out some of the authors), and yet… there’s not a single Enid Blyton book on this list! (And seven non-fiction books – not counting the Hitchhiker’s Guide…)

Comic Books

March 23, 2010

I’ve never been too much into comic books. I went through the Archie comics when I was in my teens, along with everyone else, and I enjoyed them just as much as the next person; I would probably still enjoy reading one, if it came my way; but I’ve never been very deeply into comics. Comics were always a filler, or what is called “time-pass” and never long-term companions like books were.

I’d never taken to Asterix or Tintin, until Amit introduced me to the latter a few years ago and I decided I liked it. I’ve still not taken to Asterix, but Tintin is still good timepass.

So when Christina gifted me a comic book for my birthday, I was a little bemused. Comic book? And I mean, this one was a full-fledged book, not like the flimsy Archie digest or the little less flimsy double digest. This was – to all appearances – a book, but it was full of comics inside.

Hmmm. Ok. I’ll give it a shot. Some day.

So I started reading it – can you read comics? So much of it is not in the written word. – some days ago and… it was a revelation! There was a proper “story” and proper characters, who even had something of a personality. What’s more, I found, I looked at the drawings, instead of just reading the text, and the drawings spoke volumes. They were really expressive. And these are just pen strokes, they’re not even in colour, and they’re somehow different from the Archie and Tintin style that I’m used to. And yet, those few stylised pen strokes conveyed real emotions and expressions. It was amazing. Thanks, Chris!

The book is called Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. It’s the story of a girl and her family, set in Iran in the ’80s. Despite being in comic book format – or should I say, despite my misgivings about the comic book format – the tale at once drew me in and held my interest. That’s more than I can say of some “conventional” books.

Which is why I always say, if you want to gift me something, let it be a book. I’ll attempt almost anything once, and I’m open to being pleasantly surprised. (Of course, the moment I say that, I think of Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone, which was also a gift and not one I particularly enjoyed. But well – at least I read Chetan Bhagat in the bargain and now I know why I’m wary of Indian writers in English.)

Now let me go read another chapter of that comic book.

My Book List

January 18, 2008
I just finished reading a book, after a very long time. For the longest time, I had been reading only Archaeology course material. After that, I stumbled across The God Delusion. While it is a very interesting book, it is not one that one can easily skim through to the end of. It takes time and dedication to get from one chapter to the next. I don’t really know when I’m going to finish it.

Meanwhile, I picked up a novel called Transmission, by Hari Kunzru. I’d never heard of the book or the author, but it was gifted to Amit some time ago and neither of us had read it. It turned out to be quite an interesting book, about an Indian computer programmer who unleashes a virus on the world without having the faintest idea of its potency, which is quite unbelievable.

Having finished the book, I promptly entered it in my Book List. While doing so, I was idly turning back the pages of the “list” – it’s in a diary, actually – when it struck me what a wonderful thing this list is. When I started it – almost 12 years ago! – my intention was primarily to note the books I was reading, so that I wouldn’t inadvertently go and buy or read the same book again. In those days, I was a voracious reader, so accidentally buying or reading the same book twice was quite possible.

The list is very simple – the title of the book is written on the left, the author’s name on the right. Below is a short paragraph recording my opinion about the book. For all-time favourites, like P. G. Wodehouse, there might be no more than a single line: “Good, as always.” For new discoveries, there’s usually a bit more, maybe an indication of the theme along with a comment on the style, perhaps the briefest mention of strengths and failings of the book and whether or not I generally liked the book.

It’s nice to go back and read those comments now. Some of them vividly bring back to mind books I had enjoyed but long forgotten. Others leave me bemused – intriguing comments about books I have no recollection of.

At some stage, fairly recently, I started numbering the entries. Hari Kunzru made it 162. That makes it an average of 13.5 books per year. Naturally, there have been peaks and troughs – but it is somehow reassuring to know that after everything, I’m still averaging a little over a book a month.

It was a little nothing when I started it, but now, 12 years down the line, I’m happy to have my book list. It is the one thing in my life that is not yet computerised – and I doubt it will be any time soon. At least, not until well after I get used to reading books on the computer, which is a very, very distant prospect right now.


February 22, 2007

For as long as I can remember, books have been my constant, faithful companions. They have been my refuge in troubled times, just as much as they have been a delight in times of leisure. They have filled up long, lovely summer holidays, and lured me away from all manner of ills, such as exams, boyfriends, TV, and work.

As a child, endowed with a vivid imagination, I would read while eating, walking, talking, being driven to school and back, and even – if I could – while sleeping, or pretending to sleep. In my imagination, I saw events unfold around me that had nothing to do with home, school, or family, and everything to do with Noddy, Winnie the Pooh, the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, William, Nancy Drew (for a short while), Biggles, Hercule Poirot, Lord Emsworth and all manner of other exotic people and locales.

More than ten years ago, straight out of college, I started making a list of books as I read them. Inevitably, the list of books grew into a series of book reviews. They were short, they were entirely subjective, they gave away nothing about the plot, but they were book reviews even before I knew what a book review was. Looking back over this list, I find that the number of books I’ve got through in the last ten-odd years is about 150, which number seems dismally small to me, when there are so many thousands of books out there that I simply must read.

My mother always had an eclectic collection of books. Over the years, it has grown so alarmingly that now it has practically taken over their house. I do believe that if you consider any subject under the sun (or, for that matter, beyond it), you’d find a book on it somewhere in their long miles of bookshelves.

Our own modest collection, begun with whatever Amit and I could salvage of our favorites from our parental homes, is not even a fraction as impressive. But there’s hope yet. Our bookshelves, few though they are, are overflowing, and there’ s no dearth of unread books at home. To photograph them, as Andy has done, I’d need to assemble them all into one bookshelf, an effort highly taxing and likely beyond the realms of possibility. For my part, I don’t let these minor considerations prevent me from acquiring more books at every occasion.

As for the matter of top ten books – my list would simply be too long! I could, however, attempt to list my top ten authors, but I’m not at all sure this list covers all my top ten authors. For whatever it’s worth, though, here goes (in no particular order):

  • P G Wodehouse
  • Charles Dickens
  • Gerald Durrell
  • Georgette Heyer
  • Agatha Christie
  • Dick Francis
  • J R R Tolkein
  • Enid Blyton
  • Herge

After much thought, I can’t think of a tenth. I can think of a lot of one-book wonders, but don’t want to include them in a list where the others have multiple works, many of which I have read more than once. Herge, of course, is not, strictly speaking, an author, but TinTin is such a wonderful character I could hardly leave him out of this list. Noticeably, J K Rowling didn’t find a mention in my list, somewhat to my own surprise. For me, she rates in the second list, the top 100, along with such luminaries as Bill Bryson, James Herriot, Ruth Rendell, Jane Austen, Rex Stout, Ed McBain, M Scott Peck, GK Chesterton, Robert Fulgham, Danielle Steele, Thomas Hardy, Douglas Adams, Homer, and sundry one-book-wonders (who merit a list unto themselves, maybe, some day).

The internet is a fantastic thing, and fills up many hours both happily and productively and lets you keep in touch with old friends and make new ones, and read about lots of things you might otherwise never have read about. But, for old-fashioned book-lovers like me, there’s nothing quite like curling up with a good book and in its pages meeting friends, old or new, and getting lost with them in a distant world that exists only in those pages and in your mind.

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