75% of the parents want their children to start reading books for fun, but I think mostly those pick up the habit of it at an early age who see their family read books for fun. You can not tell the children ‘eat healthy’, they are simply following you, as the phrase goes ‘raise yourself before you raise your kids’. I started reading because that is what I saw my family members do and reading is contagious.
There are a lot of benefits of reading - reading boosts brain power, it helps you to relax, it makes you more empathetic, it can help you sleep better, it obviously gives knowledge. For me, reading is a beautiful escape from the nuances of the mundane world. You can sit comfortably in your couch and yet you get transported into a different world altogether. A world with so many possibilities, opinions, and mysteries. The best part about reading is that it leaves so much to your imagination as you create pictures in your mind, through words. And these pictures create an experience that is all yours, hidden in the depths of your mind.
Reading is definitely one of my first and foremost passions. The books that I read have a large part to play in defining the person that I am today (even more than the people in my life).
If I had to select the books that I loved it will be a very long list, so I decided to write a post on 9 books that influenced me and my reading patterns over the years.
1. Batatyachi Chaal - Pu. La. Deshpande
I did my schooling in Marathi medium so when it came to reading books the obvious choice of books for me was Marathi. I started reading ‘Chandoba’, ‘Champak’, fairy tales, followed by treasure hunt books like ‘Khajinyacha Shodh’. My reading did not evolve from that phase for a long time, probably until I turned 15.
Then it happened that my eldest brother would come back from work, sit in a relaxing chair, read a book and laugh out loud. So I picked up one of his books ‘Batatyachi Chaal’ out of curiosity, to find out why my otherwise serious brother laughed so much.
When I read Batatyachi Chaal it opened a new exciting avenue of books for me, it showed me a ray of light while I was dilly-dallying in an abyss. Pu. La. is definitely one of the best Marathi writers and was a great choice to start ‘actual’ reading. And then I read all books by good Marathi writers Pu. La., Va. Pu. Kale, Suhas Shirwalkar, Gangadhar Gadgil, Irawati Karve and more.
2. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
I had read enough Marathi books, so when I went to the library I had read most of the books by good writers and had to read books by ‘Popatrao’ because I wanted to read something new. If you haven’t read books by ‘Popatrao’ then you wouldn’t know the level of low-grade books that I had started to read. And that is when I saw one of my relative, also from Marathi medium, read an English book (she also appears in one of my earlier posts ‘Chiu and I’). She advised me to start reading English books. I said I don't understand English. But then looking at the ease and passion with which she read English books - I decided to give it a try, and boy oh boy how glad am I that I did. ‘Batatyachi Chaal’ showed me a ray of light and ‘Atlas Shrugged’ put me straight out on a sunny beach.
I don’t read anything and everything now, life is too short to do that and there is a lot of quality available, and for that I had to conquer the language barrier.
It took me 8 months to finish reading this book - considering it was my first English book, obviously one reads slow when they are not accustomed to the language and also because the book is huge.
From the first scene in this book where a girl gets out of a train and is teased by some men for questioning why the train stopped working, and then she shuts them up by saying she is Dagny Taggart - the owner of the train that they are traveling in. From that first scene onwards every scene in the book gave me goosebumps, it made the feminist in me proud too. I do not want to divulge the plot in case you are planning to read this book. But the basic theme is about creators and leeches, creators are ignored by the public, that is by us, and leeches are worshipped who exist because of the creators. This book was written in the 50’s and one can not help but wonder the kind of vision Ayn Rand had, the theme applies to today’s world too.
And then the next book I read was ‘Fountainhead’, again by Ayn Rand. A man who doesn’t let go of his principles and values, can he attain success? Considering everyone around us are ‘compromising’ some way or the other. At one point I got so mad at the man that I threw the book to the floor (I do not remember doing this to any other books that I read), such are the emotions that Ayn Rand makes the readers go through.
I read Fountainhead a couple of times after that and it remains one of my favorite books.
Then I kept reading English books - like Animal Farm, Alchemist, Pride and Prejudice, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Da Vinci Code, Tell me your dreams etc.
3. Cheaper by the dozen
I was asked in an interview at my first job, which book influenced you the most? And this was the book I said influenced me the most and the weird thing is even after reading so many books from then and now this book still remains the one that has influenced me the most. I apply it every single day in whatever I do.
It is a true story of Frank Gilbreth who brought the idea of time management into industries, he was a time and motion expert. He always thought of a more efficient process that can be followed to take care of any given task or chore, be at work or at home. He also brought the idea of parallel tasking in industries. Till today I try to form an efficient process for everything that I do and parallel task all the time.
Anyway, the book is called Cheaper by the dozen because Frank had a dozen kids. Frank was asked in an interview ‘what you do with so much time that you save by doing everything efficiently and faster?’ He said in that time I do things that I like, drink wine and listen to music (and apparently make kids too ;-) ).
If it was not for this book then I would never have been able to do the 100 things that I want to achieve everyday.
(The Indian IT industry needs to follow this book, they give importance to spending more time at work, there is zero value for efficient people)
4. Selfish Gene
As a kid I had innumerable questions for my parents, why is there life? Why does the world exist? What is God? If God created us then who created god? Why do you worship these idols? I did not feel even an ounce of faith and did not want to be a part of worships, prayers, and whatnot. Being an atheist is not easy in India, first of all, people don't understand if you question their faith, they are okay to follow thousand-year-old traditions, customs, rituals and things (like God) that were born out of someone's imagination but if you point it out to them you will be called a madman/ woman.
I was afraid that I was the ignorant one and may be there is truth to what everyone around me believes and follows, whenever something bad happened to me I felt guilty that it happened because I do not believe in God. It was a frustrating phase for me.
Richard Dawkins is the man who helped me understand that it is perfectly normal to question the existence of a creator. I can not thank him enough for pulling me out of my quandary and feeding me with all that easy to understand knowledge. And I have to thank my brother too who introduced me to Dawkins.
‘If you have beliefs then what do you have the intelligence for?’ - very well said by J. Krishnamurthi. Science will one day conquer all the ignorance in the world. It might not happen in our lifetime but one day humans will go beyond fears and see things for what they are. All gods will die off one by one as their relevance outlive our evolving intellect.
Today I am a non closeted atheist who is not afraid of any fear tactics. People are killed in the name of God/ religion more than in the name of science.
Although I am not as vocal or aggressive as Dawkins is, as long as people are not dragging me to prayers or forcing me to come to temples/ pujas and such I keep things to myself.
And then started the phase of reading loads of science books - brief history of time, Short History of Nearly Everything, mapping human history, the Sun’s heartbeat, the blind watchmaker, the magic of reality, the ancestor's tale, universe from nothing: why is there something rather than nothing, pale blue dot, demon haunted world, physics of the impossible, the elegant universe, why does the world exist, the god delusion, death by a black hole… and the list goes on.