My father, whom I consider my hero, is a voracious reader. It is easy for children to emulate what their heroes do. That’s how I discovered the joy of reading. However, unlike my elder brother who took to books quite effortlessly, I took a while to get addicted to reading.
My father is an outstanding narrator as well. He used to tease me by reading a book till the climax, and then refusing to read further. I would throw a tantrum, and make him read the rest as soon as I woke up. My dad’s methods to make me fall in love with books were ingenious. I owe it to him for inculcating the habit in me.
1. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
This masterpiece of Ayn Rand was recommended by my father. When I was a teenager, I found The Fountainhead profound. In movies, when a boy comes of age, his father would tell him a secret about their family. For me, this book was like that little secret. But, I was a little reluctant to read it as it looked enormous. I was reading a lot of Jeffery Archer and RK Narayan then. But when I began reading it during the summer after class 10, I realised The Fountainhead quenched a thirst which I never knew existed. I cried and laughed out loud at several junctures. I am a big fan of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I love the way she defines selfishness, solitude, excellence and perseverance. Her perspective on work being a pursuit by itself is enlightening. After I read The Fountainhead, I started admiring my dad more. The book is like my spiritual guide.
Favourite quote: “I don’t build in order to have clients. I have clients in order to build!”
This one is like a Rajinikanth-punchline. I know it’s kind of blasphemous to put Rajinikanth and Ayn Rand in the same line. This quote is something like an equivalent of it.
2. Animal Farm by George Orwell
I love Animal Farm so much that I even persuaded my dad, who is an author, to translate it into Tamil. It is a wonderful book – deep and imaginative. The novella highlights the evils of communism. I am a Free Market Capitalist in my socio-economic views. So, I found the book particularly impressive. The shocking climax made me drop the book literally, and it offered me the best bibliophilic orgasm that anybody could ever get. Animal Farm also taught me the nuances of storytelling. If I ruled the world, I would give a free copy of Animal Farm to everybody.
Favourite quote: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
3. Swami and Friends by RK Narayan
It was the first novel that I read. Like every other Indian kid, I read it when I was in school. I could connect with it so well. It’s a timeless masterpiece, which every child can identify with. I think I would give it to my son too. It is beautiful, nostalgic and melancholic at the same time.
Favourite quote: “If he (Jesus) was a God, why did he eat flesh and fish and drink wine?”
If it was published now, Swami and friends might get banned for the above question. But I think, during that time, people were sensible enough to understand that this was a sweet little question a child would wonder about.
4. The Moneychangers by Arthur Hailey
I learnt plotting from Arthur Hailey’s books. I have read all of them, but The Moneychangers stayed with me for a longer time. I realise in retrospect, when I do an Freudian analysis now, that Kalyana Samayal Sadham had something to do with it. For instance, in The Moneychangers, a guy is released from prison after several years. He was punished for a crime that he didn’t commit. His girlfriend waits for him. When they reunite, he can’t perform on bed. He recalls being sodomized in the prison, and made to have intercourse with homosexuals. He tells her that perhaps he has become one himself. I had never encountered that kind of a poignant, dark scene all my life.
5. Titanic and the Making of James Cameron by Paula Parisi
It’s special in so many ways. I picked it up when I was in Hollywood. I am a huge fan of books on movie-making. I admire James Cameron for his conviction and his passion to make difficult movies which do well commercially. Every page of the book gave me goosebumps; especially the particular paragraph on James Cameron deciding to forego his salary and profit points to get some extra-budget to make the film. The studio, however, refused to accept his deal on foregoing his profit as they thought the film would make no profit at all. So, Cameron retained his share. What followed the movie’s release is history. That’s how he became a billionaire too. Utterly inspiring!
As told to Deepika Ramesh.
Images courtesy: Wikipedia and Goodreads