Books are for Showing Off?

I heard someone say that people read to show off. That started me thinking.

A lot of my posts are about books, book reviews, or just how much I love reading. The only reason they appear here, is because reading is such a huge part of my life, part of who I am. People who know me personally, will tell you how I always have a book with me. Always. Because that’s what I love to do – read. I grab every minute I can, to do that thing I like doing the most.

For a long while, after I started blogging, while writing about my love of reading, I never reviewed books. Mainly because I was not sure if I would ever do justice to the books. I mean, the authors put so much energy and effort into crafting the book, it just takes half a page to spoil it for someone, doesn’t it? Which is probably why, I don’t review the books that I don’t like too much. It took me a while to get the confidence to write reviews of the books I liked.

I started listing the books I read, because husband keeps asking me if I have any idea how many books I read in a year( I suspect he wants to figure out how much money the library helped us save ;)). So when I saw Monika listing her books, I decided that I should do that too. Just to keep track.

If you came home, you would see how much books are part of our lives. We have books everywhere, mine and daughter’s mainly. Husband just hangs on to his precious Kindle. He is so hooked on it, that he claims that he can no longer read normal books. Sigh! That Kindle was supposed to be a gift for me, you know! Anyway, nothing makes me happier than lugging bags of books back from the library.

Talking, writing, discussing about the books we read, is so much fun. So many books I read today are the result of books that have been recommended by so many of you. And I think I have loved every one of them! And it is not just the books that I enjoy, I love the discussion on books that we have in comment sections – those are just as much fun, aren’t they? They offer so many perspectives – on the books, on the author’s writing style, and sometimes, it makes me realize that books that I adore might be books which others might ever want to touch.

Now, I can’t help wondering if there might be people who might consider it all a show-off. Do people think like that? I was really surprised to hear that some people do think of it as that..

Having said that, I do know of one person who told me to give her all my books(the few that I have bought here) because she likes to ‘collect’ books. Not read them – just collect them and display them on her shelf 🙂

On a kind of related note, do read ‘How to be a woman’ by Caitlin Moran. That is one book, I could definitely not do justice in a review. I can’t thank CR enough for that recommendation! I liked it so much that I went hunting for reviews – and found this one that I really liked 🙂 and one by a man. Go on, read it and tell me what you think!

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This happened last night..

You know how some books you can reread a million times and not get bored? Reread again and again, and still want to turn the page are find out what’s about to happen? It happens to me a lot. And the sad thing is that it happens with the Poohi’s books more than mine.

Poohi has been reading quite a lot of interesting books these days. I had bought her a set of Enid Blyton’s The Naughtiest Girl (TNG) series some time back. She did not enjoy it as much as I did initially. She preferred Roald Dahls more. Probably because Roald Dahl books also had illustrations, while TNG books are just loads of words on a page, right?

Then she started reading other books – more contemporary ones, the ones about those Princess Fairies and I think slowly she realized that books without pictures are interesting too. All these days, she would listen to me read TNG but would never attempt to read more than a page at a go. Last week, she started reading one of the TNG books, and off she went, captivated by the story, unable to put it down. Ever since, there has been no looking back.

Last night, she was ill, down with a flu, and all she wanted was, ‘Amma, could you please read me the Naughtiest Girl book, please?’ Now how on earth can I refuse that? So I started reading, and before we knew it, it was 9:30 pm. Horrified, I asked her to sleep off, it was way too late(although she did sleep for a couple of hours after coming back from school – because she was not well, so she was not actually missing out on sleep, but I still feel bad about keeping her up).

She was dozing off, and all I wanted to do was read the rest of the book. I sneaked open the book, to read the rest of it. There were just two chapters left – I couldn’t possibly not read it! That makes no sense, does it? So what if I have already read it, like a million times 🙂 And just as I settled in, chuckling at Elizabeth Allen’s antics, I hear daughter’s voice,’ Amma, that is cheating! You can’t read my book without me!’.

The trials and joys of motherhood

There are times when I struggle hard to not be competitive with daughter’s milestones. Reading Sari’s post, reminded me of what I had been doing in the last few months.

I have been quite a laid back mother, in comparison to some of the people I know. I have normally let her have fun, learn things when she is ready for them. I knew people who taught their 9 month old, the alphabet or the numbers. I consciously tried not to do that. I mean, there is plenty of time for all that, isn’t there?

Motherhood, unfortunately comes with all sorts of self-doubts and second guessing oneself, doesn’t it?? There came a time, when I started doubting my methods. Poohi had started phonics last year in the nursery, and she had started writing her name – she knew the sounds of some letters, but refused to read. I would try to get her to read a few simple words, but to no avail. She would be too busy trying to get me to do the reading.  I would have not bothered, had it not been for some of my friends who told me that their child started reading all by themselves, by the time they turned four. Now that had me worried. None of these children had been exposed to books as much as Poohi had, and yet they seem to have learnt to read faster. She loves books, loves being read to, and yet did not want to read? What was I doing wrong? Their mums said that they would spend time every day teaching them to read. And I never did that. I was so worried that I was not helping her enough.  Husband said that I was being too hard on myself, and once she starts, there would be no looking back.

I started trying, but it never worked. She knew every story in every book that we owned and would just rattle off the story, without even trying to read it!  All she wanted was for me to read the stories to her. I was torn between trying harder or letting her be.  I did not want to be a pushy mother, but at the same time, did not want to ‘not push her enough’, if you know what I mean.  I was also scared that I might end up putting her off reading altogether, if I tried too hard. That’s when I decided to buy her a set of ‘Read at home’ books, that she had never read before. I told her that these books had to be read by her – I was not allowed to read it to her.

Every time, she expressed some interest in the books, we would sit together and look at the pages. Initially, she was more interested in the pictures, and then, when she realized that I was not going to read the story to her, started reading – just like that! She knew the sounds, and could easily read the words. I would help her with the tougher ones, but it was mainly her own efforts. Now, she picks up the books by herself, with no prompting from me, and reads, whenever she fancies it. Not just that, she also tries to read my books, and is delighted when she finds words that she knows like ‘and’ or ‘this’.I still don’t know if it was that new set of books that did it or it was just the right time for her, but I am just happy that she is reading, and is reading because she enjoys it, not because I am pushing her to read. Because she wants to, not because she has to.

There she is, grabbing a few minutes after breakfast this morning to read. I can’t tell you how much that sight gladdens my heart. I just hope that her interest in books and stories stay with her all her life.

And here is her little library that houses her books

Books,books and more books..

..but it’s all about Poohi’s books this time.

Rashmi asked me in a comment here about the type of books Poohi reads .There was no way I could answer that in a comment, so decided to devote a full post to it. Nothing gives me as much pleasure as talking about books.

The first books I bought for Poohi were three Winnie the Poohi books when she was a few days old. We got something called a ‘bounty’ pack, if I remember correctly, and it had all sorts of vouchers for kids stuff, these books were part of the deal. And I used to read them to her too, right from the time she was days old. People must have thought me crazy, but I couldn’t care less 🙂 We never looked back from then.

The next purchase that I remember clearly is a red soft cloth book. It was wonderful, and Poohi loved it. It had a little story and it was soft enough for a very young child to play with. It came with a buggy clip so it kept her entertained even while we were out. I have no idea how much she understood, but she used to hang on to every word I read out to her.

Poohi with her cloth book.

She also had some ‘touchy feely books’ which lets them feel things. For instance, furry animals would have a real fur coat in the book. It is lots of fun, even for us 🙂

One of her Touchy Feely Books.

I think one of the things I did on a regular basis was take her to the library. Letting her play in the soft play area, letting her explore and look at the books around her. As she grew older, I started  letting her choose her books. And I would go with whatever she chose.  Some of the books she chose were not exactly exciting, so I would modify the story to make it exciting for her.

I also bought books that I remember from my childhood. Fairy tales and stuff like that.  Oh yes, I had picked up a Disney series, with Nemo, Incredibles and and all those stories – it is a collection of 12 books, and she loves them! And when she discovered the movies – much later, she was delighted when she realized that she knew the stories already 🙂

We also got some free book packs from the library at the ages of six months, 18 months and 3 years – I forgot to pick up the 3 years one, and I guess it is too late now 😦 She loved those books. At the age of 6 months, it was more pictures and just one or two words. At 18 months, there was a slightly longer stories, but with lots of illustration. At each stage, I think they gave away books suitable to that age group.

This time in India, she got a lovely gift of some wonderful books based on Amar Chitra Katha from Deepti Aunty, and she fell in love with them. Simple stories, easy language, and lovely illustration- she loved them. So I picked up some more panchtantra tales which she adores. As I had mentioned here, I also picked up Bhagwatham for Kids, and she loves to hear the stories about Krishna. Somehow Ramayana does not seem to interest her much, I suppose Krishna has more universal appeal because of his naughty antics.

Some of her books from India

And along with the books I buy for her, I take her to the library regularly, get her to pick up books for herself, the only problem being that she ends up picking books which have princess in them(ughhh!, there are only so many princess stories that I can read out). Some of the stories are so much fun. Some of them are a different take on the popular fairy tales/nursery rhymes that we are already familiar with. I remember one story on Dimity Dumpty, Humpty Dumpty’s little sister – I loved that one! She also gets books from school to take home, so she gets a variety of books.

Some of her books – in no particular order or preference – The Beatrix Potter is one of my favourites though.

Thanks to our nomadic existence, I don’t buy books for myself here. It would break my heart if I had to leave them here when we move back to India. So I make up for that by buying her books, and these we are surely not leaving behind ! And let me let you in on  a secret, I enjoy her books as much as she does, if not more. Every time we pick up a batch of new books, I can’t wait to read them, so I read them first 🙂 Sneaky me 🙂 I can’t wait for her to start reading all be herself and get started on all those Enid Blytons I loved! Every time I see a beautifully packaged collection of those childhood books, it takes a lot of persuasion from my practical self to prevent myself from buying them right away!

 

Late night reading and Book reviews

I have been reading loads these days. There are days when I sat up reading until late at nights and feeling sick and woozy in the mornings. I am just not a night person, but with a good book in my hand, I can’t not finish it before going to sleep.

The other day, I read under a duvet with a flashlight 🙂 Reminded me of my childhood. Also reminded me to get one of those book light which can be clipped on to the book while reading – that would have been far more comfortable to read with! Growing up, I used to read so much that my parents used to worry that I get marks in school simply because the teachers liked me. So they used to try and regulate the amount I read, and I used to find ways of reading all the same.

As I said here, I have been picking up books rather randomly from the library. I never seem to get the latest bestsellers, so I just go by my instincts and seem to end up with great books(thankfully!).

I finally managed to lay my hands on Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Arranged Marriage. This had been on my wish list for ages but had been evading me. Well, all I can say is that it was totally worth the wait.

The collection of short stories depicting women in various situations brought about by their circumstances. Be it an abused woman’s story narrated by her little daughter, or the new bride who finds herself a widow in America, or a happily married woman who finds one day that her husband wanted to leave the marriage and grab at a chance of real happiness. Each of the stories brought out the feelings of the protagonists, ending in despair, triumph or just accepting what life throws at them. Every story was a wonderful read and I was disappointed when I came to the end of the book. To say that I loved it, would be an understatement. Waiting to get my hands on her other books.

 

Amongst the other books I read, Joanna Trollope’s books stood out. I had read her Brothers and Sisters earlier and quite liked it. Last week I picked up two of her books. Marrying the Mistress and The Rector’s Wife. Both were amazing reads. In Marrying the Mistress, she picked up a really sensitive topic of a much married older man taking the decision to walk out of his marriage to marry his mistress who was young enough to be his daughter. How the various relationships in both their lives were affected and how many individuals one decision of this sort could affect and how each of those people behaved was beautifully crafted. And not for a minute did anything seem tacky.

The Rector’s Wife is about a village priest and his wife who are trying their best to live within the set expectations. So far, Anna, the rector’s wife had performed her role in every way possible, but her daughter being bullied in the local state school and her son’s aspirations to travel propels her to get a job in a local supermarket to earn some money.  This causes a lot of raised eyebrows in the parish. Trapped in the expectations set by her role as the rector’s Wife and the need to be independent and do something that she wants to do, she gets pulled in all directions and widens the gap between her and her husband.. Again, I love the way, Trollope has woven the various relationships, including the emotions of her teenage son and her supportive mother and mother-in-law.  I could not put the book down until I finished it off in one session.

I am now reading Trollope’s Next of Kin which is right now, just as gripping.

 

The love of books, the joy of reading..

We just got back from a whirlwind of a trip to London. It has been over a year since I went there and for me, it was all nostalgic.

On the London underground, I spent all my time showing Poohi all the stations – my old work place, husband’s old workplace. She has been on the tube millions of times , but I think this was the first time that she understood what was going on.  She was a little spooked when I told her that the tube would go under the ground. She was very worried that ‘We’ll never, ever get out again!’ 🙂 It must have been one of the few times on the London tube when I did not read while travelling.

For my husband, tube travel was something he never enjoyed, but for me, traveling in London was the time that I loved – because it was completely ‘me time’. I used to carry books and of course, London Metro or the London Lite( free newspapers) used to be my staple reading on the way and back from work. These newspapers used to be free and would be handed out outside stations. I used to be one of those, who, even in an inch of space, would still manage to read.  I think I used to read a lot more in those days because of the uninterrupted time I used to get on the tube. There was a time when I used to travel around 3 hours one way and the only positive part was the reading time. But then I used to read in crowded Bangalore buses, and while waiting for the ITPL shuttle – I actually used to get funny looks then. One of the things that I loved about London as soon as I landed here was that everybody had a book/newspaper in their hands. I was no longer the odd one out.

Bones’ post on reading, touched a chord. Like her, I am not a book snob – I read anything and everything. I remember the first fairy tale that I got when I was 5 or 6 years old. I have not looked back since. Reading has been a passion and an addiction for me. I actually feel uneasy if I don’t have reading material around me.

As far back as I can recall, I used to be fascinated by books and stories. My mom and dad used to tell us stories at night, read to us when we were little. I think, it was all that storytelling that started me off on reading. I started on Reader’s Digests out of sheer boredom during my summer vacation. My maternal and paternal grandparents used to live in the same village but mom and I used to be at my maternal grandparents place, and we used to visit at my dad’s place in the evenings. Now I used to hate that, because my dad’s side had loads of cousins while at my mom’s side, I was the oldest and the only one for a while. So I used to yearn to go over to my dad’s place. In utter boredom, I flicked through my granddad’s collection of Reader’s Digest and started reading those little anecdotes at the end of each article. There was no looking back from there. I started reading the articles next, and before I knew it, I had read every issue that he had and his collection ranged from the ’60s. I then graduated on to P G Wodehouse and used to spend every waking moment reading!The magical, mystical world of books that I would disappear off to, oblivious to everything else around me! My mother used to say that nothing would break my concentration once I started reading.

Those days, I used to be fascinated by all the delicious food that Enid Blyton used to describe! Her eclairs sounded nothing like the Cadburys eclairs that we used to get. And I had imagined scones to be something, oh so yummy! Only to my intense disappointment when I finally did eat it! The eclairs, however, more than lived upto it’s reputation.  Sardines – I used to think was something yummy too! Until my granddad showed me what it was! I used to wish and wish and wish that my parents send me off to a boarding school! One of our friends threatens their daughter that if she gets naughty she would be sent to boarding school – and those were the days when I would yearn for that life! These days, of course, Indian authors seem to evoke the similar kind of sentiments. I read a book by Lavanya Sankaran, the other day. The Red Carpet, was a set of short stories set in Bangalore and it evoked a nostalgia, a wonderful feel of the city.

The funny thing is that the kind of stuff I used to conjure up in my mind while reading, might have been far, far away from what the author intended.  That I think is what I like about reading. The words would allow me to  dream, imagine, in my own way.  That, I think, was the reason, why most of the movie adaptations of books leave me disappointed! When we read, I think , each of us conjures up our own versions, our own mental image  of the book. Reading for me, is my way of vicariously, enjoying different lifestyles, cuisines, cultures and countries.

I was also lucky in my teachers at school. Even my Maths and Physics teacher was an avid reader. I remember that he had recommended Alex Haley’s Roots and reading that was a revelation for me. I remember being blown away with Gone with the Wind. Waiting with bated breath for the sequel – Scarlet and then being so let down by it! For me, so many memories are linked with books. Books that were gifted to me, books that I got as prizes. Books that have served as milestones of my life. One of the things I always wanted was a library in my home. And I intend to ensure that that becomes a reality once we move to India for good.

These days, I try and pick up obscure books that I have never heard of. The libraries here are amazing in that respect. The huge collection they have, ensures that I can experiment different authors. Some time back I had picked up a book by a Srilankan author. I had never heard of her- but loved the book. I have learnt to rely on my instincts more these days. There was a time when I used to haunt the best sellers and pick them up. These days, I go for books that I have not heard of, and I have to say that I have been fairly lucky so far. I do get some good books. Over the years, the one thing that has not changed for me, is the passion for books and reading.

The only thing I regret is that I cannot read in Malayalam. My parents had a wonderful time when they came to London. They found lots of Malayalam books in the library there and they made the most of it. Maybe, one day, I will try and learn enough Malayalam to read a book..

The world of books opened a new horizon for me. My love of reading has contributed significantly to the way I think, the way I interact with people.. If I could gift anything really precious to my daughter, it would be the love of books.. The joy of reading…