I’m surprised it never occurred to me to make a post about my favorite books of all time. And the reason probably is because it’s blasphemy to ask a book-lover to pick just a few books that are their favorites. How can you pick? If you realized you missed a couple, you feel just horrid! That’s the reason perhaps why I didn’t ever attempt to make a list. But if I make a multi-part series, there’s always room for forgetting. So here goes:
That To Kill a Mockingbird is one my most favorite books might not come as a surprise to you. Who doesn’t love this book? It’s a classic and for me reading Mockingbird is a once-a-year ritual. I go to it for comfort, like a rich person might go to a holiday resort. There are times of the year when I want to read but don’t want to take up the task of exploring a new world, getting to know new characters. That’s when I turn to Mockingbird. And it never fails to comfort me. It makes me cry, it amazes me, and every single time it ends, I desperately want it to go on. I hate leaving behind Scout, Jem, and Atticus. I want to enter the book and spend my life with them. A little weird, I know. But that’s just how much I love the book.
It is perhaps only a coincidence that my other favorite book has a brother-sister pair as the central characters as well. But the story of Rahel and Estha is so different from Scout and Jem’s. And while the latter have a single father as a parent, the former have a single mother. Now, The God of Small Things when brought up in a conversation will either garner a “I love it!” or “I hated it!” There’s no in-between for this book. And people either love it or hate it for the same reason – the dense prose, the jumping narrative, the inscrutable characters, the strange, unbelievable end. When I read Small Things, I am enraptured in the world that Roy creates. I have never been so impressed with a writer’s power over her language. Rarely do words, weaved together with such confidence, move you so profoundly. Not often can they make you laugh, and a few pages later, touch you deeply. Only Roy can use the same imagery over and over again, and make an unknown point with it (Rahel with her fountain in a love-in-Tokyo). This book is a cathartic read – it’s one of those works that leaves you exhausted, but oddly relaxed. Like everything might go wrong in the world, but if you want hope, you can find it.
I am not a big fan of the classics. I’d rather stay away from them, and only read them when I was forced to, for a class. That’s how I got my hands on Jane Eyre as well. I first read it when I was 18, and that was a great age for reading a book like that. Jane Eyre is a “modern” fairy-tale. Jane is not your typical female protagonist – she’s plain looking, intelligent, poor, and gives you lip. She falls in love with an equally eccentric man, and when she finds out that he already has a wife, who he keeps locked up in the attic because she is mad, Jane leaves him. Of course, modern or not, like all fairy tales, everything comes together in the end, and Jane is reunited with Mr. Rochester. Despite its convenient ending, and underlying racism and sexism, I still love Jane Eyre, and it’s mostly because of the passion that Jane and Mr. Rochester share. Jane is often described as a passionate woman in the novel, and I think I’ve always wanted to identify myself as passionate. One particular scene in the book, when Jane finds out about Rochester’s wife Bertha, brings me to tears even today. Jane is worried that Rochester’s love for his first wife ceased because she went mad, and she wonders whether he’d stop loving Jane if she had a shortcoming like that too. To this Rochester replies: “Then you are mistaken, and you know nothing about me, and nothing about the sort of love of which I am capable. Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still: if you raved, my arms should confine you, and not a strait waistcoat – your grasp, even in fury, would have a charm for me: if you flew at me as wildly as that woman did this morning, I should receive you in an embrace, at least as fond as it would be restrictive.” All I can say is, “Sigh!”
Part II, for some other time!