I found the above quote on Pinterest a while back and immediately pinned it to my board titled "All Things Bookwormish." I wondered what to write about this month, this quote seemed an apt description of my life. I truly am the person I am today because of the books I’ve read.
I am unashamedly a bookworm, book lover, book hoarder, bibliophile, etc. But where did this begin? Family humour would have it that I was born with a book in my hands. The prosaic truth is that I have to thank my mom for my love for ‘stories’. She bought a huge set of Reader’s Digest Fairy Tales when I was barely two years old and would read to me. Later she bought some Reader’s Digest animal tales. There are the ones that I remember distinctly as a child. I still remember the illustrations that brought the books to life. I couldn’t read, but my imagination was in overdrive. I think my love for books was born then.
Once I learned to read, books became my portal into a different world. All through my school years, the one complaint my teachers had was that I was always daydreaming. Books helped me dream in broad daylight. They brought adventure and joy into the mundane. I was that kid who rushed to stand at the head of the line during Library period. I would spend my lunch hour helping the librarian catalogue books. I always knew the best nooks in the library – between racks of Political Science and Law – where I could read undisturbed for hours. Any free time I got, I was in the Library. It was my paradise.
I could never understand those classmates who said, “Books are boring.” To me, they were life. Even today, once my interest is hooked, I switch off mentally from the world around me and get engrossed in “book world” until that book (or series) is complete.
Being ever so slightly OCD, I have to read all the books in a series if I like a particular author or character. This has led me down several unusual but interesting rabbit holes. From Enid Blyton’s school series (both Mallory Towers and St. Clare’s) to the Faraway Tree series, from the Five Find-outers to the Famous Five, from the Adventurous Four to the ‘R’ Mysteries (featuring Loony the dog and Miranda the monkey and sundry human children), from the Adventure series (Kiki the parrot, anyone?) to the Secret series – oh life was one big adventure. At one stage I even read all the Little Women books, though genre wise they were completely different. Anne of Green Gables was another favourite and I followed her story through all six books, even going so far as to pester a friend to buy me the Anne of Green Gables DVDs from Canada!
As I grew older, I devoured Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys (I do not claim to have excellent taste, only a voracious love for books and compulsion to read books series!). Eventually, I transitioned to Agatha Christie (oh how I loved them. I wish desperately sometimes that I was just opening my first Christie and had the entire collection ahead of me, unread! Oh what bliss!), Mary Stewart (these are genuine classics. I loved all her work), Alistair Maclean, and Erle Stanley Gardner. It took me a while, but apart from a few exceptions, I read through most of their works. These books will always hold a special place in my heart. Even today, I hope against hope I can find another mystery writer that could come close to them, but apart from one exception—Josephine Tey—none can even compare. Tey wrote her books in the early half of the 20th century and died in the 1950s so her work falls into the same period as the authors above. Brilliant stuff, but there aren’t any new ones coming along. Sad.
I interspersed my bouts of reading murder mysteries with reading romantic novels especially historicals. My choice of authors veered from Georgette Heyer (whose murder mysteries are every bit as witty, humorous, and intelligent as her regency romances) to Barbara Cartland, to Emilie Loring, Hermina Black, Iris Bromige, and Lucy Walker. There last few authors I had found on the bookshelves of various grannies’ houses and they are comfort reads even today. Most of them are out-of-print now but the stories were always well-written and hearken back to a simpler time.
Between all these, I discovered the mirth-filled tomes of P. G. Wodehouse, the unforgettably magical Narnia series, and the joys of Richmal Crompton’s Just William series. In college I read through Jane Austen and some Shakespeare. The Brontes’ works were another favourite with Jane Eyre still reigning supreme.
Of course, I stumbled across some real gems as well – like Ruth Bell Graham. She remains my absolute favourite author and I literally stumbled over her writing (I was looking at second hand books on a pavement and picked her book up). It was a slim volume of poetry that she had written over several years, and I was enthralled. Until then, I had always considered myself a prose person. Poetry never ‘clicked’ for me. Especially having to study the heavy metaphors of Victorian poetry and the minimalist style of Modern poetry during college, cemented my belief that I did not have the soul of a poet.
However, Ruth B. Graham’s poetry changed my life that day. It was like a more beautiful, intense, profound world had suddenly been flung open before my eyes and I was overwhelmed with the sheer glory. Amy Carmichael and Elisabeth Elliott are two other perennial favourites. Along with them, A. W. Tozer, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and George Macdonald transformed my thinking. All of them instilled in me a love for words – expressing a depth of emotion, truth, and profundity in a turn of a phrase that grabbed my attention and stayed with me long after the book was complete. Their works are incomparable for they took me deeper spiritually and made me think hard about my faith and all that I said I believed. Tozer said -“We can never know God by thinking alone, but we can never know Him very well without a lot of hard thinking.” Nothing truer was ever said.
I think when all is said and done, that is the primary reason why I love books. They make me think. They challenge my preconceived notions. They infuse magic and wonder into the humdrum monotony of daily life. Also, they keep me grounded. They have been my faithful companions thus far and they promise to stay the course in the years ahead.