Friday, July 15, 2005


I am finally getting off my lazy posterior and getting down to waxing eloquent about the books I love most! Thank you, Sprechen, for tagging me.

Books I own

That's something I cannot quite put a finger on but it's quite a few. And the numbers only keep growing since there is a bookstore in my office building. Woe is my salary!

Now Reading

Collected Fictions - Jorge Luis Borges
I heard the name when I was 18 and got around to reading him only at 22. Recoleta Cemetary (among the poems), The Garden of Forking Paths, and Ulrikke (among other prose) have had the most profound effect on my - forgive the drama - soul. He's probably the only writer who can put a classical poet, a Hollywood actress and a third unrelated thing in the same sentence and make a coherent connection. This is part of a three volume set of his fictions, non-fictions and poetry.

Dragon Rider - Cornelia Funke
A German author, I think she writes believeable and relevant literature for children today. This one is about dragons looking for a place of their own in an increasingly urban and instrusive human world. The tale is a quest to find the Dragon Home, the Rim of Heaven. Along the way, a brownie, a human child, other fantastic creatures and a monstrous villain make for a good, fun read.
p.s. Check out Thief Lord by her - quite a decent book.

Finished reading end-to-end

I've managed to get a fair bit of reading done and asking me to choose is asking me to walk slowly into madness. These are among the most influential books I've read in my life. I could not put any one of them down - even to breathe.

The Lord of the Rings - John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
This is a book I have not stopped reading since the day it was gifted to me. Nearly five years down the line, I still pick it up for a few minutes every day. I think you could call it my security blanket. Five years and a lot more fantasy (especially more Tolkien) down the line and I am still entranced by the sheer width, breath, and depth of the man's vision. He did over 30-40 odd years what takes humanity and society, millenia to do. To be able to speak with him but once!

The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
I came across Kundera when I was 18 (Ok, so I spent more time at Crossword Mahalaxmi than at college!) and like Sprechen, I thought he was extremely enlightened Indian writer - Marwari at that! Until I read the flurb at the back. I remember putting it down very reluctantly because the price was out of the atmosphere. Picked it up again when I was 21 and glad for it because I would not have been able to appreciate it at 18. Tomas, Teresa, Sabina and Kundera changed my view of life, memory, intimacy, sex, country, marriage, freedom, power equations... need I go on? A must, I think, for "anyone whose goal is something higher."

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Oh, but how he made me laugh! Perhaps my only "favourite author" (I use this loosely - too many qualify for it) who passed away in my lifetime and I felt the pain. Adams was a cherished fellow-wayfarer throughout my MA - he slept next to my pillow. From stowing away on a spacecraft, mad Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford Prefect, and Arthur Dent to exploding universes, the dolphins and floopy mattreses, there are too many journeys shared and too much wisdom imparted for me to sum it in one paragraph.

1984 - George Orwell
I didn't sleep for a few nights after I finished reading 1984. I came across it in my undergraduation and decided, some day, I would own the collected works of George Orwell. Nothing he writes is ever mediocre or bad. This one redefined my ways of thinking and believing about government, freedom and most importantly, about writing, communication and the simpler pleasures of this slightly flawed life. Such beauty, such simplicity and such depth! I'd recommend Orwell without reservation!

Books I can't stop recommending

The Earthsea series - Ursula K Le Guin
Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
The Salmon of Doubt - Douglas Adams
Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
Our Ancestors - Italo Calvino
I sat by Grand Central Station and Wept - Elizabeth Smart
End of the Affair - Graham Greene
Book of Sand - Jorge Luis Borges
Twenty Love Songs and a Song of Despair - Pablo Neruda
The Trial - Franz Kafka
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
Shadowlines - Amitav Ghosh
A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
Red Earth and Pouring Rain - Vikram Chandra
Macbeth - Shakespeare
Eragon - Christopher Paolini
Songs of Innocence and Experience - William Blake
Calvin and Hobbes - Bill Watterson
Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media - Noam Chomsky
Under a Glass Bell - Anais Nin
As I Walked out One Evening - W.H Auden (light verse)
Ernest Hemingway's short stories
Philip Larkin's poetry
W.H Auden's poetry

John Donne's poetry - all of it.
Robert Herrick's poetry
Indian Writing in languages other than English!

This list has gone on too long, ergo, I will stop here! Will take this up in another post.

Books I advise no one to touch

Getting There - Manjula Padmanabhan
This, you will live to regret!

The Impressionist - Hari Kunzru
He got some obscene £2 million advance for this! Some people get paid for being alive.

Books that I quit midway because I could not read further

The House of Blue Mangoes - David Davidar
A good story, not the slightest trace of a style.

A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
The less said, the better.

The Idiot - Fydor Dostoevsky
Somehow, I could not develop any sort of liking for any one of the people in this book. I promise you, I tried!

Odd pieces of Literature I have come across

A Fairytale of New York - J P Donleavy
This one was odd in a very nice way. Wickedly funny and brilliant in both style and language.

The Story of O - Part II - Pauline Reage
The preface didn't make any sense nor did the rest of the tale especially since The Story of O is a reasonable good book.

These are the only two "odd" books I can consciously recall. Not liking a book doesn't make it odd and (Majesty, this one is for you!) I am "postmodern" enough to admit oddness into my sphere of existence and thinking! :-)

Last Book that Made Me Cry

Summer of My German Soldier - Bette Greene
I read this when I was 12 and cried my heart out. It's what you could call a teenage love story - a Jewish girl aiding and abetting a Nazi in small-town America. I read it again recently and it's truly a marvellous book - powerful, intense, and well-written.


The Complete Works of Pablo Neruda
The Illustrated William Blake
Poets of the 20th Century
Eldest - Christopher Paolini
Tin Drum - Gunter Grass
The Brothers Karmazov - Fydor Dostoevsky
Babel Tower - A. S Byatt
Darkness at Noon - Arthur Koestler (For simply the title!)

Waiting to Read

Ulysses - James Joyce
Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco
Picture This - Joseph Heller
(And I live in the prayer of understanding them this time around!)
Soul Mountain - Gao Xingjian

I am going to stop here. If you are reading this, I must thank you for the patience and fortitude you have exhibited while I ranted.

Who do I tag?

Words Worth

I look forward to them being less lazy than I.


Anonymous said...

Well, thats a great list to start with for some one like me... :-0 )

SaidBack said...

Uh-oh, the lady's in her element.

Now i got one. Tag away.

Srikar said...

try reading a book by Jorge Luis Borges named 'Ficciones'. It's truly amazing!! I really appreciated Jorge Luis Borges
after reading this. Simply one of the best, I have read.

Good collection you suggested here.

Extempore said...

Guys, please re-read my post because I seem to have inadvertently published again! Damn that CTRL+S!!

@Anonymous - Just who is someone like you? :P!
@Peppered Ice: I've only just begun! And you're next! :). I look forward to that one, Majesty.
@Srikar: I love "Ficciones" as well. I got started on "The Book of Sand." He's among my favourite writers! The Collected Fictions includes everything! Yay!

Words Worth said...

Gosh, the things one has to put up with as your friend! :p Don't promise you the tag though. Completely dependent on my fickle, fickle moods. Loved reading through your list though. :-) May I raid your hoard some time?

Garreth said...

Great list... wholeheartedly with you on 1984, and George Orwell in general—as you know. And I intend to read a lot more Borges. That one story that you coerced me into reading was beautiful. And I wish you'd waxed a bit over Lolita.
But I'm still a bit unwilling to spend time on children's literature... even though The Little Prince is one of my favourite books ever.
Any idea if A Fairytale of New York is related to the Pogues' song of the same name?
Oh, and JP! I'm very glad to see a list without Ayn Rand!

i-me-moi said...

oye... here is my comment.

First off, apologies to Douglas Adams for ignoring him in my own lists. How could I forget my bible. HHGTTG.

When I read your list, I am reminded once again what I missed out on when I took up Engineering. Literature. sigh !!!

lakesidey said...

Uh-oh. This is gonna be tough :( I can't promise I will give it a shot sometime....choosing books is hard!!!

Ubermensch said...

Decent books u have there!

T said...

I was really happy to see some of my favorite authors on your list...because though some people know them, they aren't as popular as other writers. Par example...Jean Rhys, Graham Greene, and Pauline Réage.

And you reminded me of Rohinton Mistry. I began reading A Fine Balance last summer...and I never finished because of some familial catastrophe. I need to get back to it.

Really good list:) And I like the questions u have here a bit more than the ones in the version of this meme I got. Oh well. :)

Extempore said...

@Ubermensch: One tries! Am glad you like it. Thanks for dropping by... do come again.

@Fuego: Tis a pity about Rhys really, considering the sheer music of her writing. Thanks for dropping by and do hope you'll come again.