When I was little I remember my mom refusing to buy most of the toys or clothes I wanted. The only thing she almost always let me get were books from the bookstore. I got my Sweet Valley almost weekly. Sometimes I chose books with more adult content but since my mom couldn’t really speak or read English well, she never objected. My friends and I LOVED Sweet Valley and were so excited when they turned it into a TV show n 1994 (We thought the show was sooo cool but when I watched one episode on YouTube recently I couldn’t help but cringe at how awful it was). I was lucky that I had a bunch of friends who were into reading as well. We’d lend each other our Sweet Valley (Kids, Twins, High, University), R.L. Stein, Babysitters Club, Choose Your Own Adventure, Goosebumps, etc. Then I think it was Anna who discovered Mary Downing Hahn books from Goodwill Bookstore and so we were into that as well.
From then on I became obsessed with reading. I tried to read classics. Some were good, some just went over my head. I got into Harry Potter. I had a “flowery words” phase and read the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, etc. I got into Haruki Murakami (years later I’d convert a boyfriend into a Murakami fanatic). I got obsessed with Pico Iyer, my most favorite travel writer. Then for a long time I only read non-fiction. I liked reading Malcolm Gladwell. Business, investment books. Random books with interesting covers that turned out to be duds. I learned that you should read the first few pages of the book and not just the summary in the back.
I want to share a list of my favorite books. Some of them I’ve read over and over again.
The Little Prince – I learn something new every time I reread this.
The Beach – It never gets old.
The Alchemist – Cheesy but I love the message.
South of the Border West of the Sun – Murakami is best when I’m in a certain kind of mood.
Sunset After Dark: Flights into the Foreign – Stirred in me feelings of loneliness, detachment, sadness, freedom, inspiration.
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – Inspired me to run away when I was angry with my mom. My plan failed because I went home before she even found out I was gone. Oh well.
The Fountainhead – I don’t agree with all of Ayn Rand but I love Howard Roark’s character.
On the Road – Love the era, the freedom, the craziness.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – I read this in the Indian countryside and finished this super-thick book in less than 10 days. Highly Recommend!
I might be forgetting some but I will update if I remember.
Anyway, the whole point of writing about this is that I hope to pass on this love of books to my daughter. I hope that she feels the same wonder that I felt when I was a 10-year old reading about the vast world beyond the confines of my room. I hope she stains the pages with oily fingers because she just can’t put the book down. I hope she always prefers the books to their movie versions. I hope she stays up til the wee hours of the morning, turning the pages obsessively, wanting to know what happens next. I hope Jasmine joins me in my universe of ideas, crazy characters and unlikely events. That would be so great.