Thursday, November 25, 2010


I fell for her like a suicide from a bridge.

-
Neil Gaiman, M is for Magic

Neil Gaiman is my current obsession. And no, he does not write romance novels if the one line I've quoted here gives you that impression. I put it up because I love how enormously well he captures that plunging, reckless, intuitively fatal feeling you get when you dare to fall in love. And you know that it's hopeless.

The first book by Gaiman that I read was Coraline. It certainly is one of the scariest books I've read. I read it in one stretch the very night I got it. Coraline discovers a door in her drawing room that leads her into the Other World in which live her Other Father and Other Mother. Two people who look just like her parents. Except, they have buttons for eyes. Can you imagine a world like that? With people you know and trust in real life...who look just the same but are not quite? The creepy, quiet pace of the book struck a delicious terror in my heart and I mourned deeply when I reached the last page and it was all over.

The second book by Gaiman that I read is The Graveyard Book. Now don't let the title mislead you into thinking that it's one of those Halloweeny dumb thrillers. Mixing horror, fantasy, and sheer narrative power, Gaiman once again delivers a book that's just so terrifically original, you fail to understand how somebody can have an imagination such as his, seeing and living in the same world that we roam. The book is about a boy called Nobody who lives in a graveyard. I bought the book for N, who is also a Gaiman fan, and read half of it on my flight to Chennai. I was hooked immediately. And I just had to buy it for myself the second I hit a bookstore.

I'm presently reading M is for Magic, a collection of short stories. I'm not a big short stories person. I love the works of Roald Dahl and Saki, but usually, I shy away from the genre. The first story in this book is a detective story. And the detective is investigating the murder of Humpty Dumpty. Don't you want to know who the killer is? Don't you?

Every once in a while, a writer comes along who transforms your life and the way you think about it. No, I'm not talking about the self-motivation books. I'm talking about the books that make for ripping entertainment. The books that grip you and live in your brain and bring tears to your eyes when you discuss them with another loony such as yourself. The lines that you can never forget because you've fallen for them like a suicide from a bridge.

For no particular reason other than the fact that I feel like getting back to college and writing literary essays, here's a list of my top books. Not listed by author, rank or genre. You might have read some or all of them and they might not have struck you as being specially spectacular. But the point is, this is my list. And they are all books I keep re-reading because... well, I love them.

1. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
2. Nine Stories, JD Salinger
3. Franny and Zooey, JD Salinger
4. Coraline, Neil Gaiman
5. On Beauty, Zadie Smith
6. A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf
7. Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
8. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
9. A Spot of Bother, Mark Haddon
10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon
11. Lolita, Vladimir Nabakov
12. Othello, William Shakespeare
13. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
14. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
15. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
16. The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl, Roald Dahl
17. Matilda, Roald Dahl
18. The Collected Short Stories of Saki, Saki
19. Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
20. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
21. Swami and Friends, RK Narayan
22. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
23. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
24. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
25. The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer
26. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, JK Rowling
27. Curtain, Agatha Christie
28. Embroideries, Marjane Satrapi
29. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
30. The Adventures of Hop, Skip, and Jump, Enid Blyton
31. Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi
32. The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
33. Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
34. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
35. The Seed, Deepa Balsavar
36. Kartography, Kamila Shamsie
36.Peanuts, Charles Schulz
37. Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson
38.
Blandings Castle, PG Wodehouse

There are several more books that I've loved reading. But these are the ones that I keep coming back to. And each time I come back, there's always something new waiting.

13 comments:

Uncle Srini said...

Beautifully written! Just beautifully written! :)

I am embarrassed to say this but it is ogay I guess: I have read about 1/3rd of the 35 you've listed :D (I know, I know: ABOMINATION for a person with a literature degree; but then the lame excuse is I am a Linguist these days :D)


"I put it up because I love how enormously well he captures that plunging, reckless, intuitively fatal feeling you get when you dare to fall in love. And you know that it's hopeless." - and these lines, they destroyed all hopes I had!!! :D :D :D

PS: Suggestion - give the post a title, GB! :)

GB said...

@Ungil- I'm sure you have your top books list too :) I've not read more than 60% of the lists people make of books one must read before one dies. These are just ones I've picked and I can keep reading again and again. What's your list? Put it up!

About the title- I'm getting old...I clicked off on 'Publish' before I typed the title. Now, if I put it in, people who come here clicking that link will end up thinking some suicide post is missing :D

Uncle Srini said...

true true! :D

My list (English, fiction) - here we go, just some random ones:

(1) Lord of the Flies (William Golding)

(2) Darkness Visible (William Golding)

(3) Siege/The Siege; don't exactly remember (Helen Dunmore)

(4) Anna Karenina

(5) My Name is Red

(6) A Thousand Splendid Suns

(7) 1984

(8) Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (if that can be considered a book at all; but phenomenally inspiring read mind you! :D)

(9) The Class (Eric Segal)

(10) The Mayor of Castorbridge

(11)The Day of the Jackal (Fredrick Forsyth; not sure if it can be in this type of list but still :D)

(12) Othello (yes :D)

(13) To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)


(14) City of Joy (Dominique Lapierre)

(15) Freedom at Midnight (Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre)

(16) O Jerusalem! (Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre)

(17) Seven Minutes (Irving Wallace)

That's all I can think of now :D

Punvati said...

Gaiman's novels are far suprerior to his short stories IMHO.

However, one short story that was actually in the foreword to Smoke and Mirrors was crazy awesome. Was called "The Wedding Present". Must read that one.

frissko said...

The opening line is enough for me to go want to go get a Neil Gaiman...Utterly tragic and beautiful...

And i am going to spam you with my list too...I usually don't re-read though, 'Catcher in the rye' and 'Franny and Zooey' being exceptions...(http://parallellworlds.blogspot.com/2005/08/books-english.html)

vishesh said...

ha, book lists always make feel stupid.

I'm going to buy this Neil guys book next(after I finish the rise of the sword(written by your coll. junior man!), Gulliver's travels, The Brothers Karamazov, The God delusion, The time machine and a couple of more, which are lying about).

And well, maybe you should try flipkart, they offer very good discounts(and very prompt delivery too).

Anonymous said...

What was the title you had in mind? I like your titles very much, apt ones.Looks like you forgot to mention George Orwell's Animal farm.

The Visitor said...

Here goes my list (stories that I would like to read again):

1. To Kill a Mocking Bird (Harper Lee)
2. Absent in the Spring (Mary Westmacott)
3. Six Bad Boys (Enid Blyton)
4. The Big Fisherman (Lloyd C Douglas)
5. Ragtime (Doctorow)
6. Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (Richard Bach)
7. The Little World of Don Camillo (Giovannino Guareschi)
8. Short stories of Oscar Wilde
9. The Small Miracle (Paul Gallico)
10. Swami and friends (RK Narayan)
11. Roughing it (Mark Twain)
12. Barankin's Fantasy World (Valery Medvedev) - Do you have a copy of this?

GB said...

@Ungil- Oh I love Lord of the Flies too! What an awesome book. I felt really bad for Piggy. And how did I forget The Kite Runner? Although, it's a really painful book to read.

@Punvati- Thanks! Shall pick it up. I'm just starting my Gaiman reading, so all recommendations are welcome.

@Frissko-Your list reminded me of several books I'd left off mine. English August is one of my all-time favourites too! I love that part when he says Agastya is sanskrit for a person who shits two turds at a time or something. Haha...damn, I want to read it again now!

@Vishesh- I generally don't buy books online unless I've read them already. I like to read at least the first 10 pages before I buy!

@Anonymous- I didn't think of a title for this one...just wrote it because I was feeling very literary! And yes, Animal Farm is another awesome book.

@Visitor- I love Oscar Wilde too. In fact, The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my favourites. And no, I haven't read the fantasy novel you've mentioned...shall try to find it!

Uncle Srini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uncle Srini said...

True, GB: The Kite Runner is one of those books which befit the tags "painful" and "beautiful" at once :) In case it wasn't evident, I have a great fondness for the tragic but yes there is simply more than poetic tragedy in Hosseini's masterpiece.

Although, for some reason, I loved A Thousand Splendid Suns, more! :)

sriraam said...

hmmm... sadly , i couldnt find any of my favourites in the list... But hey, i wouldnt ve read more than half a dozen books anyways... let me see if this list inspires me to take up reading again.... ;)

sriraam said...

And ya, flipkart is great.... both in terms of price and service.....