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What’s in a Good Book

Reading in Bed

A favourite pass-time.

My favorite passtime – Why I liked “Sacred Games”

I come from a family of readers. From my grandparents to my parents, we all like nothing better than sitting with a good book. Recently some really good ones came my way. “Sacred Games” by Vikram Chandra. “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid. The brilliant Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe.

People (and websites) will sometimes ask “What’s your favorite book?” or “Who is your favorite author?” I have trouble answering this question. I often wonder, “What makes a good book”? Why, for example, do I prefer Peter Mattieson’s travel writing to V.S. Naipaul’s? Why was I puzzled by the accolades given to Jonathan Franzen’s “Corrections” but loved Vikram Chandra’s “Scared Games”? Why, above all, do I devour the Harry Potter series, which is neither literature nor adult? Some authors transcend these kind of questions, like Jorge Luis Borges. But others, I suspect, touch a chord in us that makes us identify with their writing. Their books resonate half formed thoughts in our minds, or feel oddly familiar like comfort food. Or, we generally agree with their outlook.

At the book store

Another beautiful day in the city spent at the City Lights book store

My grandfather used to say that he would rather be an armchair traveler and visit exotic places in a good book. Although he was talking mainly about the National Geographic magazine (where arguably the pictures are better than the real thing), I feel the opposite about books. Familiarity with a place and its rhythms endears a good book to me. This is why I loved “Sacred Games” that brought back a slice of Bombay. I could almost hear the Nigerians’ sing song African English in Chinua Achebe’s books, but I could not identify with V.S. Naipaul’s cynical style since I am inherently optimistic. And maybe Harry Potter brings back my days in primary school when Enid Blyton’s gnomes and goblins were my constant companions.

3 Responses to “What’s in a Good Book”

  1. Vinay says:

    Good ruminations on why a book appeals to you. I guess it is us that gives the quality of “good” to a book. Must check out Sacred games and A reluctant fundamentalist. My most recent good book read was “Flowers for Algernon”. Do check it out if you haven’t already..

  2. sudhir tamhane says:

    To be fond of reading is not a God’s gift but can be acquired. Although as you age, your tastes change; nowadays we are fond of reading on all the sciences & arts developed by man. To pursue the development of ” Quantum Theory” is as exhilerating & mind boggling as reading any fiction.
    Sudhir Tamhane

  3. Shreesh says:

    I have heard much about “Flowers for Algernon” but I have not read it. Many of us go through a similar process as the protagonist as we age, eventually regressing to a very basic level. I’ll give it a go…

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