The magazine Competition Success Review (CSR) ran a crossword puzzle on the last page of its issues in those days. There was a square grid with seemingly random letters thrown about. With the help of clues, one had to unearth names of inventors, scientists, authors, musicians, artists and so on, within this grid. Early birds got a book from Rupa & Co. My brother won an early bird prize. This is how I read my first Robin Cook – Outbreak.
I discovered authors such as Jeffery Archer, P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, and Alistair McLean in my uncle’s personal library. The college where I studied had a very good library and it offered many chances at discovery – some my own, and some led by friends. Salman Rushdie, Colleen McCullough, Danielle Steel, Ayn Rand to name a few. A neighbor lent me Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. I struggled to reach page 5 and gave up. I simply could not make sense of what was going on. Years later, I picked up Catch 22 again, and how I enjoyed it!
I was intrigued when I heard my brother rolling in laughter in his room as he read Douglas Adams’ The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Not one inclined towards Science fiction, I did not bother about this thick volume (all 6 books in one hardbound cover) till many years later. And when I did read this book, I turned into some sort of a brand ambassador for the Hitchhiker’s!
At Pondicherry University, where I studied later, there was a reasonably well-stocked library. Though the academic section of reference books certainly was nothing much to write home about, the fiction had quite a few things on offer. Hidden or sitting prominently in those book shelves were delights such as Shashi Tharoor, Toni Morrison, Milan Kundera, and others. Once, enroute to Pondicherry, the bus stopped at Mahabalipuram. My friend chanced on an old bookstore that sold second-hand books. The title Jitterbug Perfume caught her fancy and that’s how we both discovered Tom Robbins.
Colleagues introduced me to Amitav Ghosh, Irving Stone, and Dr.Devdutt Pattnaik. On a visit to Bangalore’s famous bookstore, Blossoms, I picked up Marjane Satrapi’s Persipolis. My family introduced me to Ahdaf Soueif, Ruskin Bond, Amy Tan, William Dalrymple. Friends and family gifted me with books, not necessarily ones that they had read themselves, but these proved my most treasured possessions. Khaled Houssaini’s The Kite Runner, Sidney Poitier’s autobiography The Measure of a Man, and others.
An India Today review of the book To a Mountain in Tibet by Colin Thubron had me itching to get my hands on the book and I did just that. I was entranced by the stories of that mystic land for a few weeks.
It is interesting how we discover authors and books. Next time, you are out with friends, family, or if you are at a bookstore (a virtual or a real one), just take a chance or two.
The author is co-founder and Director, Content Development at Steta