To own a book is one of the greatest treasures. All through our lives, we collect books and display them on our bookshelves as prized possessions.
But the other day, I realized I don’t own some of the best reads of my life. Atrocious, yes, but then such is reality. I am sure you too would have been in situations where a colleague was reading a book and lend his/her copy to you, and it turned out to be a great read! Or a randomly picked book from the library became a favourite; you spent sleepless nights reading it but then had to return. Maybe, you saw your friend reading a best seller and snatched it right out of their hands.
So, here’s my list of books that I loved reading but now I don’t have them. While writing this post, I am remembering how I got hold of these books and then their physical disappearance from my life. Sigh!
Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Interpreter of Maladies was published before Namesake in 1999 and had won the Pulitzer Prize. An Indian-born author conquering the modern literary turf internationally was a great deal.
Some years later when I was in college, Namesake had become a huge title. And I got these two books from the college library that undoubtedly turned out to be the two most amazing reads of my life. Today, I have ‘The Lowland’ and ‘An Unaccustomed Earth’ on my shelf but I terribly miss having Namesake. Though I keep telling myself that I should probably be running to the bookstore to buy a copy of ‘Whereabouts’.
Namesake is an Indian couple’s story who immigrate to America; Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli’s trajectory of accepting a different landscape and culture and then raising their children. The story then focuses on their son Gogol, as he deals with identity crisis, and searches for the meaning behind his name.
Ghare-Baire by Rabindra Tagore
The English translation of the title says, ‘The Home and The World’, the novel by Tagore published in 1916. I am a huge fan of Tagore’s writings and envy all those who can read the original Bengali texts of Tagore. Well, I have to do with the English translations.
In Ghare Baire, the story is set during the early twentieth century. India is under British subjugation and amidst this atmosphere, Tagore weaves together a tale of political turmoil, nationalism, and womanhood. The book pertains to the political debate of pacifism versus violence during the independence struggle. Bimala, the central character of the book is a traditional woman, married and unquestioning until she is swept into the Swadeshi movement.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Owing to the length of this book, I never dared to buy this one. But then one day, I got a copy of Anna Karenina from a colleague and thought of giving it a try. Amazingly, it wasn’t as hard as I had thought it to be. Once I began, I couldn’t put down this book!
Anna Karenina, the title is based on the central character and follows her story of love, deception, and relationships. Portrayal of the Russian society, especially its elite aristocratic class elevates this saga. I have loved this book for its portrayal of a strong, unapologetic married woman who chooses love above every other concern.
The Trial by Franz Kafka
I came to Franz Kafka’s writings while studying the depiction of anti-heroes. We were reading ‘A Hunger Artist’, a short story by Kafka and I followed it up with ‘Metamorphosis’. That led me to ‘The Trial’, Kafka’s last and unfinished work.
The Trial chronicles K’s tribulations as he is muddled in a mysterious case that seems directly out of a nightmare. Ambivalence in the atmosphere and inaccessibility of law to a common man makes this book so gripping.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Who are more celebrated than the Jo sisters when it comes to sibling relationships in fiction? I had borrowed this one, thinking I would rather be watching Greta Gerwig’s cinematic version. But, nay, I was wrong. Little Women is one of those rare Classics, if one doesn’t indulge in PG Wodehouse, that keeps you in the lighter headspace. And still conveys the story of strong female characters.
The four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy along with Marmee, their mother is a heartwarming read. And for me, they will always be a notch higher than the Bennet sisters. I just wish I had a physical copy of this book to hold on to during Christmas!
I would love to hear about the books for which you would travel back in time and get a copy for your book shelves, do write to me about them in the comments section.