Day 4: Happy Place

Some things make your heart dance with joy. One of my happiest thing to do is go to the library. And I realized how happy it makes me when I went there today.

It has been a while since I visited the library. Ever since I started work, I have hardly been reading. I’m exhausted by the end of the day, and seem to fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. Then came the holiday season, and life, if anything got busier. I read just a handful of books this last month.

Yesterday, as I checked my books, I realized that I had just one unread book in my bookshelf. I do have loads in the Kindle, but the Kindle doesn’t call out to me as much as real books do. So today at lunch time, I went to the library. As soon as I entered the premises, I could feel my heart sing with happiness. Rows and rows of books, just waiting to be picked up. Rows of books waiting to be browsed through.. books just waiting for you. I guess I sound silly, but libraries do make me happy. How I wish I could have spent hours there. It has been a while since I came to the central library, I tend to run to the library close to home more often these days, so it almost felt like a homecoming.

As long back as I can remember, libraries have always been a happy place for me. I remember waiting for the library period at school. We could only read in the library until we reached Class 3. Class 3 onwards, we could borrow books and take them home. I remember, quite clearly waiting to grow up and become a 3rd grader to be able to take books home. I wouldn’t be exagerating if I said that books and libraries were essential parts of my life as long back as I remembered. I still remember the pure joy of going to the library and choosing the book you got to take back home. For a lot of my classmates, it was just a chore which needed to be done while I would wait for library periods at school, and it helped that we had a fantastic library at school. For me it was just paradise.

And what’s more it still is. The same happiness I once experienced in my school library, I experience today. Nothing can match libraries for me. Book shops don’t have the same appeal that libraries have for me. I don’t know why but libraries are such a happy place for me.

So tell me, what are your happy places? Do libraries do to you, what they do for me? Which places make you feel truly happy?

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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!

The Magical world of books

Today is World Books Day, and I thought it apt that I talk about books(as if I don’t do enough of that already) 🙂 But then, this is something I can go on and on about 🙂

One of things I have loved about being in the UK is how reading is so entrenched in the collective psyche of the people here. Long back, husband and I were bemused that one of the major problems being discussed in the news was the fact that children are not reading as much as they used to. They were discussing that these days parents are too busy to read a bed time story to their children. Both of us were bemused because at that time, we were more used to news headlines about political parties and their antics.

I also loved the fact that I was not the only person with a book in public transport. I used to get weird looks in Bangalore when I would wait for a bus or try to read in a bus. I swear! Here, everybody has a book, it felt like heaven. The libraries here, I have said it often enough- are fabulous! They are well-stocked, well run and it is an absolute pleasure to go to a library.

After daughter was born, we got to know about ‘Bookstart‘. Children here receive Bookstart packs at two milestones of their lives – in the first year, and between 3 and 4 years – if I remember correctly. It is a great way of getting children used to books, and stories. Poohi had got it, and I remember being totally impressed. We had already bought books for her way before she got her first pack, but I still found it fascinating. The selection of books were so appropriate, and she loved the books! More than the actual books, what fascinated me was the commitment to ensure that every child had access to books. And I do agree that no baby is too young to hear stories from her parents.

Husband was sceptical when I told her silly stories, or read to her, when she was a tiny thing(she was only days old when I started). Today, however, he is as convinced as I am, that it makes a difference. I am not sure if it makes a difference academically  – but I can see how much she loves books.

As she progressed through the stages of nursery, and big school, one thing I can see throughout is the emphasis on reading. It is an integral part of the curriculum. Their reading is assessed and the books that they read are upgraded, whenever the teachers feel that the child has moved to higher levels.

And at every stage, you would find measures to encourage the culture of books. Like the travelling book fair that I mentioned. The school has a benefit as well. Every book that we buy, the school ‘earns’ some free books – which is great, for state schools, which are dependent on government funding. Apart from that, it certainly encourages children to pick out books, and read. Like this voucher which entitles you to a £1 off your purchases, or get a special edition £1 book with it. So even families with lower incomes could use the voucher and get a book for the children..

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This afternoon, daughter was super, super excited when I went to pick her up. She ran all the way to the hall which housed the fair. She did not get the book she wanted, but managed to pick up two other books.

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And here’s the little bookworm, lost in the world of fairies.. And she did not get up from that sofa until she finished reading the whole book 🙂 Two hours after we got back home, she was still engrossed in her books. That, of course, has me,  beaming with happiness 🙂

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!’.

That lost personal touch..

This morning, at the library, it dawned on me, how little person to person contact we have these days. I go in, take the books I want to return to the machine, return them, browse through the shelves, select books, and then self check them out.

Libraries have always been in my top of my list of  ‘happy places’. Ever since I remember. I actually remember how the first library I visited looked like. It was the library of my school’s primary section. I remember how I used to wait for the library classes – we had a period reserved for the library. We were not allowed to take home books until we were in Class 3, and I remember waiting impatiently to reach Class 3.

Our high school library was just as good. And our librarian was a darling! She was a wonderful, sweet tempered lady, with whom I used to discuss books. I remember waiting for Scarlett, the sequel to Gone with the Wind. When the book got released, I was in Class 10. Our school term was almost over. We had study holidays to prepare for Pre-ICSE, and we were not allowed to borrow books(time-pass books, that is). But I managed to convince my librarian to let me borrow it 🙂

I have had a wonderful time talking to librarians, discussing books, getting recommendations. I would have never read authors like Elizabeth George, Sophie Kinsella had it not been recommended by the librarians of the libraries I have frequented over the years. One of the librarians I met was a software engineer who quit her job to open her own library. How I wanted to be her at that time 🙂

In London, I used to go to the library almost every day. It used to open late, and I would often finish a book in the time it took me to get to work and back. So on the way back home, I would either drop off my book, or pick up new ones. After daughter was born, and after I took time off from work, we used to visit it even more. I think she must have been just as comfortable in libraries as she was at home. And what made my library visits so memorable was certainly the interaction with the librarians or library assistants.

That was before the age of self checkout machines. In London, our library had just started introducing them, and they refused to work most of the time, so I always ended up at the counter to borrow books. When we moved to Leeds, everything changed. The self checkout system here worked much better. I hardly had any contact with the library staff. They were almost always busy serving older customers who found it difficult to use the machines. And that is when I realized that although I have been frequenting my current library for over 3 years, but I don’t seem to know any of the staff! I know the checkout staff at my local supermarket better than that! And they have a much larger staff!

And that is only thanks to those soulless machines which I interact with these days.. The mere thought of all this, makes me yearn for the days gone by when the librarian would checkout each book, stamp it out, and talk to you about whether they read that book or not. Sometimes exclaiming that they had no idea that this library stocked this book, sometimes  asking me how I managed to read so much, while I tell them how I used to dream of being a librarian as a young child.. It makes me feel a little sad..  a little nostalgic for the days gone by, a little sad for that lost personal touch..

Just a little randomness..

Just as the title says, this post is full of random nothings.. Please feel free to skip!

– I was suddenly reminded(out of nowhere) of the time when we were first introduced to Statistics. My Maths teacher told us that we are going to start Statistics the next week. He made it all exciting by telling us that with Statistics, we could figure out the probability of India winning the next one-dayer. In those days, when I was cricket mad(I must be the only wife who wishes her husband watched cricket!) – that was all that registered and I was waiting with bated breath, to figure out this amazing subject 🙂 Needless to say, I was a tad disappointed – but still ended up loving Stats 🙂

– My thoughts seem to be going back to my school days quite a lot these days! I am reading Gavin Menzies’ The Lost Empire of Atlantis, and couldn’t help be bemused. Twenty years back, I was so happy to see the last of history lessons.. I would have never imagined that I would enjoy reading history so much!

– Sometimes, husband starts experimenting with the camera, and comes up with shots like this 🙂 Sure makes my everyday cooking seem exotic 🙂

– While on pictures, I love the way my house looks 🙂 Far prettier and neater than in real life. If only I could pretend that that is how it looks in reality 🙂

– I had a first today – my car refused to start! Thankfully it started when I tried it again after 2 hours. It did have me in a state, I have to admit. The thought of not having the car made me feel – more than a little helpless.

– I love reading Daughter Roald Dahl books – they are so much fun! We are on ‘The Witches’, and me, being the evil mother, I am, have been scaring her while reading it. If you have read the book, you’ll know why 🙂 If you haven’t go get the book – it is so much fun!!!

– I am now in a quandary – I ‘m not sure if I should publish this post, or the review of The Lost Empire of Atlantis’. Yes, I completed it by the time I reached this part of the post.. And now want to declare how great that book is 🙂

So publish, it is!

Memories of books..

Do you remember books? Books that you read a long time ago? Not just the stories, you know, but things like what they looked like, how you got to read them…

I remember some.. Like the first book I owned.. The book, which in a way changed my life. You see, until Class 4, I was quite a mediocre student. My mum used to help me with school work at home, but I never did very well. Then in Class 4, my brother had some medical complications and mum and dad were busy, I started studying all by myself, and at the end of the year, I got an award – for exceptional improvement.. I think from then on, I was consistently good at studies. I think studying independently helped. Anyway, the award was a book, an Enid Blyton book, of which, funnily enough, I can’t remember the name! I used to remember it until very recently – old age, I suppose! Do any of you remember which book had 4 children, one of them named Nora? It was a series, but I can’t remember anything beyond this… and the fact that I loved it( which was true about every Enid Blyton I ever read).

Today, I had been reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Lives of Strangers. The book is alright, but it kind of transported me to another era, because of the colour of the pages. It had that old book feel(it was probably an older copy), if you know what I mean. All my old books back at home, used to have that feel. Especially when they were stored in a trunk. That yellow colour, which also gives the feeling that the paper will crumple under your fingers, if you are not careful.

Long back, when I was still in school, I used to raid my granddad’s book shelf. One of the books I remember from those days was A J Cronin’s Citadel. I still remember particularly poignant parts of that book. I have re-read it many, many times, but I guess reading a book that my grandfather enjoyed gave me just as much pleasure, I think, as the story itself. Once I had worked through my grandfather’s collection, his brother, my great Uncle got me some of his – his collection of PG Wodehouse. What fun! Those were the best holidays ever! I would read his collection of Reader’s Digests too. It used to amaze me how the magazines which were so very thick in the 50’s and the 60’s became thinner and thinner by the 80s! My grandfather had 4 decades or so, of Readers Digests, and I read them all 🙂

As I read through the yellowed pages of my book today, I couldn’t help be a little sad, that daughter might miss that entirely. What if only electronic readers remain by the time she gets older? Heartbreaking, isn’t it? No more thumbing through books that had been in the family for years, no more reading books that one’s grandparents might have enjoyed.. Instead brand new, soulless books on the reader.  It just makes me so sad..

Edited to add: I figured out which book it was – The Secret of the Moon Castle. How could I forget that, I have no idea 🙂 But at least ‘Googling’, reminded me 🙂

Single mothers, daughters and pictures that never get taken…

I am back to being a single mother(over the week).

Three years back, it was the norm. Husband would go off on Mondays and return on Fridays. And daughter and I would spend time together, do fun things, enjoy ourselves, and wait for Fridays. Before daughter was born, my work took care of me – I would spend extra time at work, and enjoyed that too. The last three years was different. All of us were in the same location, and it was idyllic.

Some of husbands colleagues had already started commuting to a different location, and we were hoping that we were spared – clearly we were hoping for too much.

But it is not too bad  – so far. Daughter and I have a hectic schedule and we hope to keep our weekends for some quality.

Duaghter has developed a great love for reading, and I never thought I would say this – but that is driving me nuts. She can spend hours reading, and it gets particularly annoying when we are running late to school/after school activities, and all she wants is to read that story which she must have read a million times.

And even worse, when she tried to click on ‘Click Here’ when I was doing something on the laptop – because it ‘says so’!

Or while on the road,  ‘Take a left, Amma, that’s the way to the airport.’

And now I can’t fool her by skipping lines in a book – I used to try that with new books, which I hadn’t already read to her. Now she goes – ‘Amma, you missed that line!’.

I could live with all this  – if only, she would get ready on time, and not read when we are on our way out somewhere. My mum, if she were to read this, would call it ‘reaping what one sowed’ 🙂 Apparently I used to be just like this 😦

How I miss those days when she couldn’t read!

On a totally unrelated note, I so wish cars came with cameras fitted in the front(and the sides), like those in flights. Everytime I see a beautiful roundabout, full of gorgeous flowers, while driving, I can’t help wish I could just click a button and capture it. Some days, even this cold and dreary place looks gorgeous.

 

We’re jumping on the bandwagon as well.. Post 27

.. the Kindle one, that is.

After talking, and discussing, and wondering, and pondering, we decided to go in for a Kindle. I had written about how I find real books far more fun, far more my way of reading. Well, it looks like we have been converted. Actually husband was always convinced that this was the way forward, I was the clingy, ‘refusing to let go of my books’ person. And now I have been convinced too.

I still plan to read books – real books, that is. I somehow, cannot give up books for an electronic device all that quickly. Especially, since we have the most wonderful library system here. I just love the huge library, full of books, and that wonderful feeling of browsing through the library holding books in my hand.. Yes, I am old-fashioned like that. An electronic device cannot give me that happiness, or so I feel. What finally tipped the balance towards Kindle is the fact that we are returning to India next year. Which means that I would have to buy books, instead of borrowing them – most of the libraries I have been to in India had been disappointing. I am hoping that things have changed, though. So given the fact that I would be buying more than I do now, I felt that Kindle would make more sense. More eco-friendly perhaps?

Husband has already ordered the first book he wants to read. I am still in my real book mode. I do plan to make full use of it during my India holiday. Instead of carrying books around, I could download them on the Kindle. Oh, now, I am excited! I am now waiting for it to be delivered! I can’t help wonder how we are going to decide who gets the kindle. I am sure we are going to be fighting over it 🙂 Husband says he has first right on it , ‘Coz he’s the man’, and apparently men have first right over gadgets. We’ll see, shall we 😉 This gadget might be a different ball game altogether.

Why do I feel like a turncoat, though? I wish I could push away that feeling of being ‘disloyal’, about turning my back on ‘real books’…

So all you Kindle owners, how do you find it? Are you happy with it? I know I should have asked this before ordering one… better late than never? And does it really feel the same as reading a ‘real book’? And how long did it take before you stopped reading ‘real books’ altogether?