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What started out as a pastime soon turned into a hobby that turned into a passion until it eventually became a necessity. Reading is a need so beautiful that I feel I must write about it every day.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Every banned book is worth reading

Here is my list of books that have caused massive controversy since their release and are a must read. Most have been subjected to censorship, which has prompted me and many other readers to hunt them down and read to see what the hullabaloo is about. Let me tell you; these are books that require you to think and in the words of Wilde ''...show the world its own shame'' which is precisely the reason they are banned. However, it is interesting to note how all these books are considered to be some of the greatest in literature and are widely read despite being frequently challenged. Read on to see why these masterpieces deserve your time. 
1) Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

Banned for: Profanity, sexual references and immorality. This is one of the most banned, censored and challenged books of all times.

Why you must read it? How often is it that you come across a morally fallible, world-hating, teenage character? Not often. Searingly honest and brilliant in its disillusionment, this is one book that every person must read if they want to experience a classic, coming-of-age story unlike any other.

Note: In 1980, a young man named Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon and later gave the book to police as an explanation for why he did it, making this book stand out as an icon for teenage rebellion.
 Just don't interpret the book the way this retard did.

Key quote: "In my mind, I'm probably the biggest sex maniac you ever saw."
2) The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

Banned for:  Being "a real downer''.
As if a real life account of the biggest genocide in the history of mankind is supposed to be a joy fest!

Why you must read it? One of the most prominent accounts documenting the experiences of Jews by the Nazis. One that shows us a victim's unwavering faith in humanity even in the worst of conditions. I was deeply upset after reading the book but reflecting on the writing of this young legend made me realise the true message of inspiration and hope it contains for the world. It reaffirmed my faith in the goodness of humanity.

Key quote: ''How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.''
 ''I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.'' 

3) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

Banned for: Offensive language and racism due to the use of a racially charged word. One administrator branded it as the "most grotesque example of racism I’ve ever seen in my life."

Why you must read it? It's Twain. Need more convincing? Well, after reading this book in grade 5 and being forever fascinated with 'Huck Finn', I reread the novel recently. Not only is this book Twain's finest work, it is also the cleverest anti-slavery and anti racist work ever written. The used of the word 'nigger' in the novel is used to depict the disgusting connotations of the word and actually attempts to challenge the racism Twain saw around him. A must read.

Key quote: "It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a n*****; but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. 

4) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Banned for: Charges of racism and the accusation that it "represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature'' and "promotes white supremacy".

Why you must read it? It paints a true picture of the struggles of it's time and is one of the greatest anti-racism books of all time. With memorable characters, great plot and a thought-provoking storyline, this book has secured it's place as the most loved classic.

Key quotes: ''You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.''
''She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man."

5) The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

Banned for: Anti-Christian sentiments

Why you must read it? Read it as fiction and it will exhilarate your senses. Take it a bit too seriously and things will get disturbing. It sold millions of copies, caused widespread outrage, its a page turner and gets you interested in Art History. Enough reasons to read it if you haven't already.

Key quote: "Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false."
6)The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Banned for: Sexual references and profanity.

Why you must read it? This book is not only featured in every 'Must read' list, it is also Fitzgerald's best work. His words are simply beautiful. This tragic love story truly captures the fascinating lifestyle of the Jazz age. Jay Gatsby is quite an interesting character himself, the utter loneliness and emptiness that he exudes is bound to strike a cord with most readers.

Key quote: "Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known."
7) Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov.

Banned for: Obscenity, indecency and sexual explicitness.

Why you must read it? This book is about the life of a highly intelligent murderer and pedophile who seduces a 12-year old girl! However, this is no How-to manual for perverts. Read it simply because it is the most beautiful love story you will ever read (in a very demented way). A tale of forbidden obsession; Lolita is sure to leave you heart-wrenched, mesmerized and a tad bit disturbed- just what a good work of literature should do.

Note: This bone-chilling story is not for the faint of heart.

Key quote: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.

8) The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

Banned for:  Violence, profanity, racism, and sexuality, including a rape scene.

Why you must read it? This book is a personal favorite. It evoked in me infinite respect for the black women who survived a miserable time living in South America in the 1930's and their struggle for independence and equality. Written as a series of diary entries and letters by the protagonist to God, the novel chronicles the life of black woman's poignant journey towards a better life. This is one of the most gripping novels I have ever read and one that everybody must read once. 

Key quote: "I see Sofia and I don’t know why she still alive. They crack her skull, they crack her ribs. They tear her nose loose on one side. They blind her in one eye. She swole from head to foot."

9) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Banned for: Profanity, portrayal of smoking and drinking and questionable themes such as anti-religious and anti-establishment sentiments.

Why you should read it? Talk about irony! This books deals with the issue of censorship itself. It is a novel about book-banning in a futuristic society. The descriptions of modern society made in this book written more than 50 years ago are eerily obvious now. This is one of the most important novels in American literature and rightfully so. For those who find Bradbury's lengthy prose burdensome, here's what he has to say: "If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture." Touché!

Key quote: "We know all the damn silly things we've done for a thousand years and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, someday we'll stop making the goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them."

10) The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Banned for: Themes of homosexuality.

Why you must read it? This masterpiece will indulge you in a world of opulence and corruption, immerse you in shameless pleasure and in the end, make you gasp in horror. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest books ever written.

FYI, I am the proud owner of the original version published for the very first time after the book's release 120 years ago- 'The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition' edited by Nicholas Frankel.

Key Quotes: "Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world's original sin. If the cave-man had known how to laugh, History would have been different."
"My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.

How many of these forbidden masterpieces have you read?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Poetry at its best!

Good poetry is meant to stir a feeling in the reader. It can be any feeling: delight, sorrow, rage, desire, shame, envy, sympathy but never indifference. One of the common features of all the soulful lines listed below is their universality which makes them appeal to everyone and inspire differing emotions, depending on the interpretation of the reader. These are undoubtedly the most beautiful verses of poetry ever penned:

''Drink to me only with thine eyes,/ And I will pledge with mine;/ Or leave a kiss but in the cup,/ And I'll not look for wine.''
-Song to Celia II, Ben Jonson

"I wandered lonely as a cloud / That floats on high o'er vales and hills, / When all at once I saw a crowd, /A host of golden daffodils"
-I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, William Wordsworth

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference."
-The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
  ''I will show you fear in a handful of dust.''
- "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot

''Because I could not stop for Death,
 He kindly stopped for me.''
-Because I Could Not Stop for Death, Emily Dickinson

''She walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies.''
-She Walks in Beauty, Lord Byron

"here is the deepest secret nobody knows / (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud / and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows /higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide) / and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart / i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)"
-i carry your heart with me, EE Cummings

"O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done; / The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;"
-O Captain! My Captain!, Walt Whitman

"I stand amid the roar / Of a surf-tormented shore, / And I hold within my hand / Grains of the golden sand-- / How few! yet how they creep / Through my fingers to the deep, / While I weep - while I weep!"
-A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe

''When to the sessions of sweet silent thought /I summon up remembrance of things past, / I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,/  And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste.''
 -"Sonnet 30″ by William Shakespeare

 ''Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold''
 -"The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats

''I knew a woman, lovely in her bones, / When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them; /Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:/ The shapes a bright container can contain!''
-"I Knew a Woman" by Theodore Roethke

''It is not a carol of joy or glee,/ But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,/ But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings/ I know why the caged bird sings!''
-I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

''How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. / I love thee to the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight / For the ends of being and ideal grace."
-How Do I Love Thee?, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

"I can promise all my heart's devotion; / A smile to chase away your tears of sorrow; / A love that's true and ever growing; / A hand to hold in your's through each tomorrow."
-These I Can Promise, Mark Twain

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate"
-Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

"Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit / Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste / Brought death into the World, and all our woe, / With loss of Eden, till one greater Man / Restore us, and regain the blissful seat, / Sing, Heavenly Muse"
-Paradise Lost, John Milton

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep, / But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep."
-Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

-"But / if each day, / each hour, / you feel that you are destined for me / with implacable sweetness, / if each day a flower / climbs up to your lips to seek me, / ah my love, ah my own, / in me all that fire is repeated"
-If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda

"Heart, we will forget him, You and I, tonight! / You must forget the warmth he gave, I will forget the light. / When you have done pray tell me, Then I, my thoughts, will dim. Haste! ‘lest while you’re lagging / I may remember him!"
-Heart, We Will Forget Him! Emily Dickinson

"Scarcely a tear to shed; / Hardly a word to say; / The end of a summer day;/ Sweet Love dead."
-An Evening, Gwendolyn Brooks

"Our whisper woke no clocks, / We kissed and I was glad / At everything you did, / Indifferent to those / Who sat with hostile eyes / In pairs on every bed, / Arms round each other's neck, / Inert and vaguely sad."
-"Dear, Though the Night Is Gone", WH Auden

"Darkness settles on roofs and walls, / But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls; / The little waves, with their soft, white hands / Efface the footprints in the sands, / And the tide rises, the tide falls."
-The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

''But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only, / That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. / Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered - / Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before - / On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.' / Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'"
-The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe

''When we two parted / In silence and tears, / Half broken-hearted / To sever for years, / Pale grew thy cheek and cold, / Colder thy kiss; / Truly that hour foretold / Sorrow to this."
-When We Two Parted, George (Lord) Byron

''I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,/ And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.''
-Sea Fever, John Masefield

"At twenty I tried to die / And get back, back, back to you. / I thought even the bones would do. / But they pulled me out of the sack, / And they stuck me together with glue."
-Daddy, Sylvia Plath

''From childhood's hour/  I have not been/ As others were; I have not seen/ As others saw...''
-Alone, Edgar Allan Poe

Share some of your favorite lines or tell me the ones you like best from the list :) 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

A dilemma!

Save a tree and read an eBook...

Or buy the good ol' paper book?

 I tried reading a novel on my iPhone once. It felt good reading in the dark with a small device in my palm...never mind the fact that my eyesight increased by two digits after finishing it. I'm on the fence about downloading some of the books I've been wanting to read on my laptop or just getting the printed ones.  
How do you prefer to read the written word?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

15 brilliant closing lines from books.

It's been said that the opening line sells a book whilst the closing line sells the author's next one. Here I've compiled the 10 most mesmerizing last lines from some of the best novels I've read.
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald    
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
'A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR. I am haunted by humans."

3. Animal Farm by George Orwell
"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
"It's funny. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."

5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
"I ran with the wind blowing in my face, and a smile as wide as the valley of Panjsher on my lips. I ran."

6. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
"But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy."

7. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
"This stone is entirely blank. The only thought in cutting it was of the essentials of the grave, and there was no other care than to make this stone long enough and narrow enough to cover a man. No name can be read there."

8. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
"I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before."

9. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
"Yes, they will trample me underfoot, the numbers marching one two three, four hundred million five hundred six, reducing me to specks of voiceless dust, just as, in all good time, they will trample my son who is not my son, and his son who will not be his, and his who will not be his, until the thousand and first generation, until a thousand and one midnights have bestowed their terrible gifts and a thousand and one children have died, because it is the privilege and the curse of midnight’s children to be both masters and victims of their times, to forsake privacy and be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live or die in peace."

10. Sarah's Key byTatiana de Rosnay
"We sat there for a long time, till the crowd around us thinned, till the sun shifted and the light changed. Till we felt our eyes could meet again, without the tears."

11. The time traveler's wife by Audrey Niffenegger
''He is coming and here I am.''

12. The Witches by Roald Dahl
''It doesnt matter who you are or what you look like as long as somebody loves you.''

13. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
''I'll say it was all worthwhile to know, just for a day, just for an hour, just for a minute, what it meant not to be a servant. I think I'm ready to have children Mr. Premier.''

14. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
''Alone, Frany lay quiet still, looking at the ceiling. Her lips began to move, forming soundless words, and they continued to move.''

15. Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
''And how long will we keep up with this Goddamn coming and going? He asked. Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty three years, seven months and eleven days and night. 'Forever', he said.''

 If you liked these then check out some of the best opening lines here.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Stereotyping People by Their Favorite Author

Yes I know stereotyping is frowned upon but I found this really interesting post on StumbleUpon and I couldn't help but post it here. I've made a few alterations to the original list which can be found here.

  • J.D. Salinger
  • Kids who don’t fit in.
  • Stephenie Meyer
  • People within the age group of 12-18 who lost faith in human love too early and now put their trust in shiny vampires
  • J.K. Rowling
  • People who detest their school.
  • Jodi Picoult
  • Your mom when she’s at her time of the month.
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Guys I want to date.
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Guys I want to sleep with.
  • David Foster Wallace
  • Confirmed 90’s literati.
  • Jane Austen (or Bronte Sisters)
  • Girls who made out with other girls in college when they were going through a “phase”.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • People who can start a fire.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • People who used to sleep so heavy that they would pee their pants.
  • Charles Dickens
  • Ninth graders who think they’re going to be authors someday but end up in marketing.
  • Mark Twain
  • Proud bastards
  • Anne Rice
  • People who appreciate real vampires
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Men who live in their mother’s basements.
  • John Grisham
  • Doctors who went to medical schools in the Dominican Republic.
  • Dan Brown
  • People who used to get lost in supermarkets when they were kids.
  • Nicholas Sparks
  • Women who are usually constipated.
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Suicidal girls who keep journals
  • George Orwell
  • Conspiracy theorists
  • Harper Lee
  • People who have read only one book in their life and it was To Kill A Mockingbird (and it was their assigned reading in the ninth grade).
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Tough army men with a soft spot for stirring prose.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • People who get adjustable-rate mortgages and party hard.
  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • Men who use words like ‘dubious’ and ‘tenacity’.
  • Lewis Carroll
  • People who move to Thailand after high school for the drug scene.
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Men who can’t lie but will instead be silent if they know you don’t want to hear the truth.
  • Stieg Larsson
  • Girls who are too frightened to go skydiving.
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Girls who like talking about death with their suicidal friends.
  • Salman Rushdie
  • People who google images of Padma Lakshmi late at night. (True story!)
  • James Joyce
  • People who do not like John Cusack movies.
  • Oscar Wilde
  • People who can’t resist anything. See also: people who claim they’re going to change but never do!
  • Franz Kafka
  • People with daddy issues.
Any other author you want to see in the list?

Thursday, 8 March 2012

New titles in my collection this week!

Looks like this is my lucky week! Not only did I buy three of the books I've been eying for some time now but a dear friend sent me some valuable novels that are sure to be added to my library.
Here are the new additions to my collection: 

Currently reading
1) Our lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif

Last year after reading the darkly comedic 'A case of exploding Mangoes', I had fallen in love with it's brilliant author- Mohammed Hanif. This is his second book. So far in, I can't shake the feeling that Hanif should have stuck to his former writing style that won him worldwide acclaim. Satire is definitely his forte. Bhatti, nevertheless still has me gripped. 
Best line: ''Because love is a runaway charya!''

Second in line
2) A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul

Hailed as one of the twentieth century's finest novels, I think this is going to be Naipaul's best book I'll read.

3) Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez

My love affair with Marquez seems to be a lasting one. This would be the third book I'll read by this literary giant. 

4)  Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho

'A breathtaking collection of reflections from one of the world's best loved storytellers, Paulo Coelho.' Goodreads.com

I've had a love and hate relationship with Coelho. While I treasured The Alchemist, I swore off all his books after reading Veronica decides to die. However, it's been sometime since I've read any of his other novels. Also, his thought provoking blog posts have finally prompted me to go back to him and give this one a shot.

 5)  The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

 “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Of course I've already read this one and I don't think it needs any description. ;)

How many of these books have you read? No spoilers please!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

It's a small world

We live in a tiny world that never ceases to surprise us. A few months back a friend of mine got me some books by Roald Dahl. I read and reviewed The witches a couple of weeks back and after an interval of two serious reads, I turned back to Dahl for some much needed comic relief.  I've read used books for the bigger chunk of my life. It was only recently that I started getting fascinated by off-the-shelf  books in expensive bookstores calling out to me with their glossy covers and pristine good looks. The copy of The Twits I have is a used one. Opening the book, I saw something written on the top right corner of the page. In broken handwriting it said '1998 Happy Birthday Alice, Love Felicity' and it amazed me to no end that here I was, holding a stranger's 14 year old birthday present in my hands! I can't even imagine the places and the hands this book must have passed through to at last end up in my little book shelf, locked inside a glass door. 
I don't think I've written my name on a book that I've given away but lets say I did. What if someday, I get an email from a stranger living in the other corner of the world telling me he/she/it (could be a robot, you never know) that they have a book with my name on it- a book I read years ago; a book that made an incredibly long journey, captured the mind of each and every person who ever read it and that it now rests with a stranger who is somehow connected to me only by a page that has my name on it. Just like I am connected to Alice Bell (she wrote her name of the second page). Call me crazy, but I googled her name and sent an email to the first Bell that popped up!

Reading the book, I couldn't help but wonder how the same gruesomeness of Mr. and Mrs. Twit that made me flinch must have disgusted the previous owner of this book too or how the never ending evil antic of the couple on each other must have amused her just the way they amused me. 
I guess this is just one of the charms of the printed word.
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