Monday, 3 September 2012

Last week I came across a list of books that a certain publishing house believed, were THE books to read while growing up. I disagreed with most of their choices. So here I list some of my own. These (listed in the order in which I first read them) aren't necessarily the most profound, or even my favourite. But they did define growing up for me.

1) Enid Blyton's school stories (Malory Towers and Saint Claire's)-Nobody discusses Enid Blyton anymore, unless it's with reference to the sexist-racist ideology that she seemed to peddle through her
books. I do not disagree with that evaluation, and it's important to recognise those themes. But the positive messages that she DID talk about, about friendship and loyalty and self belief, about
having values and sticking to them, and being proud of who you were, are also unfortunately sidelined when we do discuss those things, even though these are the messages that stay. This may be
because the books were never preachy-it was always the story and the clever plotting that helped you figure out the moral of the story. The girls were real, multidimensional people with interests and
ambitions: Irene with her love for math and music, Darell with her lacrosse, and Wilhelmina for horses. And they were fun too- playing truant, having midnight feasts, and being throroughly ingenuous when playing practical jokes on their unsuspecting French teacher. 

2) Hardy Boys Case Files- The reason I read the original mysteries at all was because my local library stocked up heavily on these blue hard-bound books, and little else. There were too many
characters - all weak, the mysteries were unimaginative, and most of the cases were solved only because the criminals had an amazing proclivity to advertise their existence to the boys.
And my takeway from those books? Well, American teenagers drove around in their fancy convertibles and ate a lot of junk food.
The case files were different however. For one, they were plotted better. But more importantly, they were my first brush with grown-up themes (albeit handled in American pot-boiler fashion) of death,

bereavement and revenge.

3) The Harry Potter series- I can't possibly say anything about these books that hasn't been said before, and better. But it's easily, even some ten-twelve years after I first read it, my favourite one. Harry, Ron and Hermione are not characters in a book any more, they are old friends I turn to whenever I feel down and out. And they never fail to cheer me up.

4) English, August- The first time I read this, I was in eleventh standard. I hated it then. Agastya, the titular character was an aimless, rambling pervert. I saw him as disinterested and lazy, quitting something, others would prize. And only because he was bored. I am not more mature now (I still get off walking through puddles, as a friend pointed out recently), but re-reading this three months ago, I realised that there never had been a fictional character before, who resonated as much. The book is also deviously funny but I think I liked it so much this time was because it reassured me that it didn't matter if I had reached a certain age, I could still take my time to grow up.