“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”
Not everyone is an ardent reader, or a fan of Shakespeare, or can indulge in the 1000 page “Gone With the Wind”. But once in a while, each and everyone needs something to blow off steam. That is when a good book comes into the picture. It is there to provide a utopian world, full of possibilities, to escape into and let your imagination run wild.
So here is a list of books that are quick yet interesting reads.
- CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
“I am always saying “Glad to have met you” to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”
“I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It’s nice.”
It was a controversial book which was initially banned in schools, the same book that John Lennon’s killer believed motivated him, and the very book is now considered an American Classic. It has a story where nothing much significant takes place. Written from the perspective of 16-year-old Holden Caulfield, rich, troubled, a rebel, who does not wish to be part of the crowd, who hates all things “phony”, it follows his life after he is thrown out of high school.
“I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.”
If you can even minutely understand why Holden is the way he is, then you will fall in love with the book. You will laugh, at times choke up, and feel that your thoughts could not be phrased better.
Pages: Approx. 200
“If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she’s late?”
- THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST by Mohsin Hamid
“You’re a watchful guy. you know where that comes from?” I shook my head. “It comes from feeling out of place,” he said. “Believe me. I know.”
The year this novel was released, it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. The narrator, Changez, tells the story of his life before and after the 9/11 attack to an American as they both chat at a café in Lahore. The book focuses on his journey from being a financial analyst in NY eager to blend in, to a man leading anti-American protests. The New York times describes it as, “We are prodded to question whether every critic of America in a Muslim country should be labeled a fundamentalist, or whether the term more accurately describes the capitalists of the American upper class. Yet these queries seem blunter and less interesting than the novel itself, in which the fundamentalist, and potential assassin, may be sitting on either side of the table.”
“I stared as one — and then the other — of the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center collapsed. And then I smiled. Yes, despicable as it may sound, my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased.”
“It seems an obvious thing to say, but you should not imagine that we Pakistanis are all potential terrorists, just as we should not imagine that you Americans are all undercover assassins.”
- WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? by Spencer Johnson
“What you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine. The fear you let build up in your mind is worse than the situation that actually exists.”
Well in simple words, it is a self-help book. It tells you how to deal with change through the allegory of mice and cheese. It is simply put, but it does the job. So, “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
- OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck
“Guy don’t need no sense to be a nice fella. Seems to me sometimes it jus’ works the other way around. Take a real smart guy and he ain’t hardly ever a nice fella.”
Published in 1937, “Of Mice and Men” is a classic. It is the story of two friends who have a dream of their own. It talks about racism, sexism, the Depression, and makes you go through an emotional turmoil in just about 100 pages. A must read for everyone!
- INTERPRETER OF MALADIES by Jhumpa Lahiri
“Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.”
Jhumpa Lahiri’s first novel, “Interpreter of Maladies” is a collection of 9 short stories about Indian immigrants in America. Each story focuses on different individuals, however, the underlying message remains the same, the sense of being an outsider. The stories end with you wanting more, wanting to know what happened next!
- THE FOREIGNER by Arun Joshi
From the Sahitya Akademi award winner author, “The Foreigner” is a story of a man leading a modern life who has no sense of belongingness, is detached, and lacking a personal identity, looking for some meaning in his life. The story is said to be influenced by Albert Camus’ “The Stranger”. The novel can be described as dark, might leave you in low-spirits.
- TRAIN TO PAKISTAN by Khushwant Singh
“According to the Hindus, the Muslims were to blame. The fact is, both sides killed. Both shot and stabbed and speared and clubbed. Both tortured. Both raped.”
“Train to Pakistan” is undoubtedly one of Khushwant Singh’s best works. It captures the horrors of Partition in just 200 pages, and makes you visualize and experience the brutality. A must read especially for all Indians.
“Morality is a matter of money. Poor people cannot afford to have morals. So they have religion”
8. THE GUIDE by R.K. Narayan
“It is written on the brow of some that they shall not be left alone. I am one such, I think”
Published in 1958, “The Guide” is the story of a man who accidentally becomes a tourist guide, later in life is mistaken for a holy man, and who also falls in love with a dancer. R.K. Narayan does not fail to amuse you by yet again finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. The novel won Mr. Narayan a Sahitya Akademi Award and was later made into a film by the same name with Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman as the leads.
So the next time you travel somewhere or feel like reading something but for the lack of time, refer to this list. You won’t be disappointed!