Book Reading Journey : Books We Grow Out Of – And Then Grow Back Into
It’s interesting how a book reading journey evolves. Here’s my book journey…
Right out of kindergarten, Noddy’s brightly colored storybooks and his Toyland friends became good pals – to visit as often as possible in the library.
Secret Seven and Famous Five
At age 7, it was fun to solve ‘mysteries’ with the SS and Scamper. But a couple of years later, when the Famous Five (with Timmy) became my favorite series, the 7 seemed ‘childish’ by contrast.
William and Hardy Boys
Entering double digits, the rough and ready William and his Outlaws won my heart for adventure, alongside Frank, Joe and Chet. Nice, clean fun with just a hint of mortal danger, that paralleled our way of life in middle school.
Perry Mason and Agatha Christie
Crossing the threshold into teenhood was marked by a darker shift in reading tastes that now veered towards crime and violence.
During 7th grade holidays, I whipped through grandpa’s collection of 89 Perry Mason novels (with another 30 or so A.A.Fair’s), often reading two in a day, while plopped in front of the TV playing the India-Windies test series live.
By the time I was 13 years old, the courtroom battles were supplanted in interest by criminal psychology, bringing Hercule Poirot and Miss.Marple into my literary life.
James Bond and Jack Higgins
A year later, my reading genres grew a little naughtier. Our school library carried Ian Fleming’s novels, and 007’s escapades brightened up late night reading hours. And for pure action and thrills, there were diverse ultra-masculine (and curiously sex-less) heroes of the Jack Higgins and Craig Thomas novels.
Alistair Maclean and Frederick Forsyth
While in 10th grade, I appreciated nuances of language better. Maclean and Forsyth came into my life with gripping stories, dramatic scene-setting and brilliant narratives. ‘Cliff-hanger’, ‘Unputdownable’ and ‘Edge of seat’ really meant something, then.
Sidney Sheldon, John Grisham and Jeffrey Archer
The shift from there to a harsher, more ‘realistic’ universe of crime, adventure and thrills happened subtly, but surely. ‘A Stranger In The Mirror‘, ‘The Firm‘, and ‘Kane and Abel‘ were my introductions to these authors, who soon became my go-to favorites for reading pleasure.
With every new “adult-er” author, those who went before appeared, by contrast, more “childish“. The themes grew bolder, the characters more multi-dimensional, the stories more complex, more human.
And so, I ended up holding a Robbins’ novel – and was hooked! It was the sex, primarily. Harsh, rough, violent. Shocking, sensational, and deeply disturbing. No, I’m not talking about the explicitly steamy scenes, but the raw human emotions that underlay them.
‘A Stone for Danny Fisher‘ and ‘79 Park Avenue‘ shaped many a young man’s attitude towards important issues other popular writers skirted, unwilling to talk about. Robbins’ brought them up front and center. Forced you to look at them. And think.
Irving Wallace and Robert Ludlum
Craving complexity and layered themes, my ‘growing up’ as a reader, in a sense, was overseen by yet another breed of authors. ‘The Bourne Identity‘ raised the bar too high for many other books to match. ‘The Almighty‘ seems more relevant to the ‘fake news’ world of today than it was back then!
And my top favorite book of all time, Mario Puzo’s ‘The Godfather‘, fits perfectly into the puzzle here, molding my thoughts and views forever on so many different aspects and issues.
Ayn Rand and Richard Bach
From where the journey had taken me, it was but a hop, step and jump to a higher level of abstraction. And I found ‘The Fountainhead‘ (which I abandoned midway though) and ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull‘ (which I read over and over again). They were my first forays into allegory and metaphor, an introduction to the various -isms that shape our lives in sundry ways.
For the next fifteen years, I can’t recall any breakthrough developments in reading taste or genres. It was pretty much ‘more of the same‘, with minor twists and a few biographies and spiritual texts tossed in.
And then, around age 35, I sensed an interesting shift begin.
The ‘older’ books once more seemed appealing.
So I turned the clock back – to read them all over again!
Maybe it’s because there were now kids and young people from the next generation around, all talking about authors we once found pathbreaking and paradigm shifting.
It evoked nostalgia.
And that led to scouring long-locked bookshelves, lofts and attics for old favorites. Dusting them off. And sitting down with a long cup of hot tea to rekindle fond memories.
My favorite recent reads include the Golden Book series ‘The Little Engine That Could‘, Richmal Compton’s entire William Brown series, Forsyth’s ‘The Day of the Jackal‘ – and of course, eternal favorite, ‘The Godfather‘.
The cycle of my reading life, in one part, has come a full circle!
How about yours? Any stories you’d like to share about your reading journey?