17 Jan 2009

Th e Telegraph's list of books to read

I just read the Telegraph's list of 100 books that you should read - well some of them are okay but so many of my favourite books are not in! What do they mean by not including even one DH Lawrence? And what about Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray? I think that is a must read. I've read Cairo Trilogy and I really really think that beside Narayan - it is quite shallow and trite. Sure I enjoyed reading some of Naquib Mahfouz's books and they do make pleasant reading in an aeroplane but I will not put him in my list of 100 books you should read. Anyway I would never presume to tell anybody what they should read although I suppose I wouldn't mind recommending some really good books. But I'd compile them into categories - classics, children's fiction, horror, fantasy, chick lit, romance and so on. My favourite of the classics are too many and are again divided into different categories - children's classics and so on. I can't remember the first real book I read - meaning apart from textbooks but I do remember reading in Standard 2 a book my uncle had given me - Hans Anderson's fairy tales. That started me more or less. After that I just couldn't be stopped. My parents couldn't afford to buy me books for leisure reading - it was all they could do to buy me my own textbooks! Hans Christian Anderson had got me in his grip and I thirsted for more, so after that I joined the Malacca Library, which was a mere 500m from my village, Banda Kaba. I was probably one of the youngest and most frequent visitor to that small library on Malacca's Wisdom Drive. And from then on books became my best friend. At that time you can borrow 4 books at one time and normally I would finish all my books by the second day. I would lie under my grandma's big wooden bed and read the whole afternoon, oblivious to my siblings' cries or my friends calling me to come out and play. I would even sometimes ignore my stomache's rumblings and continue reading until the light under the bed grew dark and I could not see the words anymore. I remember my mum telling me that she would boil the books and let me drink the water! Mainly because I would always forget to eat and after everyone had eaten, finally realise how hungry I was and scrounge around for scraps left over. And if you have more than ten younger brothers and sisters who are forever hungry, you'll know that there wouldn't be much scraps left to eat!
Thus I found Aesop's Fables, Greek Myths and Legends, Tales from The Arabian Nights, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Tales from China and Japan - my first reading of Genji, would you believe it , started here. From fairy tales I went on to discover Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, LM Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) and on to other children's classics. I was only introduced to Dickens at the age of 10 - a friend lent me her Oliver Twist. This was an abridged version. But it got me started to Dickens and Dickens was only a short hop away to other classics - mainly Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Count of Monte Cristo, The thirty nine steps, The Moonstone, The Jungle Boy by Kipling, Call of the Wild, The Kraken Wakes, The time Machine, Around the World in 80 days, JOurney to the Moon by Jules Vern, King Solomon's Mines. I remember discovering The Scarlet Pimpernel series and how I fell in love with the masked crusader. At the same time I was also reading Enid Blyton's Famous Five series and also in love with Julian, the eldest of the five and also her Secret Seven series. Apart from Enid Blyton I was also reading other series by other writers - I can't remember the writers but I do remember The Bobsey Twins and Kit Carson - show jumper. I remember reading Tom Brown's School Days and how shocked I was to find that children were really badly treated in boarding schools - so unlike the happy stories you read in Enid Blyton's St Clair series. In Standard Six my uncle, a school teacher, gave me six Readers' Digest Condensed Books. There I was introduced to writers like Pearl S Buck, Daphne Du Maurier, Steinbeck, Faulkner and many others that I simply cannot remember. By the time I went to secondary school you can say that my reading has surpassed that of many children my age.
So if I were to compile a reading list it would only be a list of books that I have enjoyed reading and hope that others have too. I know that nowadays I read mostly 'thrash' as my husband says but I think after reading most of the classics in my growing up years, I feel like a change. Thus my move to romance and chick lit and historical fiction. Although now and then, if there is something worth reading, I will read it - Booker Prize or not.

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