I’d love to make a list of books that changed my life, but actually there isn’t any single one. It is all of them together that define me. So here are the books that have entertained me. Also some that made me think.
In no particular order:
Atlas shrugged by Ayn Rand: Written when communism was on the rise, and freedom seemed on back foot. I have read this book from cover to cover more times than any other. There are passages that still make me go wow.
Harry Potter series by J K Rowling: I came to Potter well in my 20’s. Never found it childish. The secret of the books is that they’re not about magic and Hogwarts but about values and relationships. Everyone needs to read them (not just watch the films)
Pillars Of The Earth by Ken Follet: Story of the building of a Cathedral in 12th century England seems rather boring. But this is about what a feudal society does to the powerless, what the world was before science and capitalism.
Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy: This was my introduction to the genre of military thrillers. A Russian nuclear submarine silently creeps towards the US as the Americans freak out. Fabulous.
Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien: What can I say? The genesis of modern Fantasy, the clash of the powerful evil and the meek good. The first Non-Ayn Rand book that I read multiple times.
A Song Of Ice And Fire(The series starting with Game Of Thrones) by George R R Martin: When I read it, I was gripped, but found them a little bleak. I never thought I’d return to it. But I did. Because it’s so complex, and its characters are so rich. It’s not a good v/s evil story, it’s complicated. The most intelligently written complex world I have seen.
If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon: It is a sprawling adventure, a great revenge story that doesn’t end with revenge. It has some great con tricks, and a lot of its ideas have been lifted – I mean “featured”- in Bollywood. Not epic literature, but a real fun ride. (Has the best game of chess ever)
Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer: This is what a modern world epic looks like. Spanning several decades, several countries, several layers of the society, and two people. Would love to read this again.
Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum: The ultimate spy saga. Hooked me from the first page.
Genome by Matt Ridley: The autobiography of a species in 23 chapters. This is a story of human evolution as told through the genes in each of the 23 chromosomes. It was like reading a story of where I came from, but the story applies to all of us. My favourite non-fiction. Even above the great “A Brief History Of Time”
Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams: So outlandish, so smart, and so hilarious. Also contains a simple answer to the “Ultimate question of life, universe and everything”. I literally laughed out loud more in this book than anything else ever.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy) by Stieg Larson: An anthem for the women, the people at the fringes, the “weirdos”. Lisbeth Salander is one of the greatest heroines ever written. Should be made compulsory reading in our country with our culture of violence against the women and the ostracization of those who refuse to follow the “set way”
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee: Principles. Thats what you stand for. Written from the perspective of a young girl, it shows how complex, institutionalised discrimination is simple. It’s simply wrong. And it is not the right but the duty of an upstanding citizen to stand against it, whatever the cost. Something I, and most of us, will find hard to practice, but we must know the ideal so we can strive towards it.
OK. I’ll cheat now and add a few more. Though this list is long, and tedious, it still feels incomplete: 1984, Mistborne Trilogy, Kingkiller chronicles, Fountainhead, We The People, Hunger games, His Dark Materials, Ancestor’s tale (Richard Dawkins), The God Delusion, The First Law Trilogy, Grisham thrillers, Day Of The Jackal, Not a penny more, not a penny less, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time …….. I could go on…. list making is hard.