Today we bring to you a personal story. Aakash Karkare is a writer. Here is the story of how he inherited his father's love for reading.
Find out what books made Aakash fall in love with reading in this article from The Reader.
From Blyton To Dostoyevsky: My Love Affair With Books
Books have been part of my life as far back as I can remember. I was lucky to have a father who read. He taught himself English by spending hours in a local library. One of his happiest memories was when the librarian forgot he was there and locked up for the night, allowing him to spend an entire night reading and surrounded by books.
Our home was filled with books of all kinds: from classics of world literature and huge leather-bound encyclopedias to what you could call early example of the listicle, a series of books on the world’s greatest crimes, the world’s greatest cranks and crackpots and so on. My sisters were the first to get infected by the virus, and so my father began to take them to book exhibitions across town. Here they were let loose, with a fixed budget, to buy books of their choice. I couldn’t read yet, but I went along anyway to pick the book with the most number of pictures in it. One of my favourite finds was a do-it-yourself adventure book that came with a plastic microscope that allowed you to see all the hidden clues.
As a result, by the time I began reading, the house was littered with children’s literature. Like most Indian kids, a bulk of my childhood was spent working throughEnid Blyton’s back catalogue. The Faraway Tree series was my gateway into fantasy literature. It was ultimate escapism. I still recall with fondness the afternoons I spent in the warm sun curled up with George, Anne, Dick, Julian and Timothy laughing as they ate food I could only fantasize about.
We also had books by obscure Soviet Union publishers like Raduga Publishers. They weren’t sold in any bookstores, you only found them on the streets or at book sales. There were sort of graphic novels about Lenin’s childhood and how he became a revolutionary. We had multiple volumes of Ukrainian folk tales too. There were books on poetry and children’s rhymes, illustrated versions of Aesop’s Fables and a huge book of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. These collections would keep building as time progressed. It was here that my love of reading was born.
Over the next couple of years, I changed three schools. My first school library was well stocked and had a really friendly librarian. He used me as the poster boy for the library. I was the kid who had used two library cards in one year, reading Blyton’s entire The Naughtiest Girl, Malory Towers and St. Clare’s series. Later, my father was posted to Vienna, where I began studying at the Vienna International School, with other children of people who worked at the UN. I was shy and awkward and found it difficult to make friends. And so I sought refuge in the world of books.
Somehow, I chanced upon the The Chronicles of Narnia. Never had a book grabbed me to the depths of my soul like this. Every time I had to stop reading it, I felt empty, I felt like I had woken up after years of sleep, filled with the most wondrous visions and dreams. I also discovered American authors like Judy Blume and got my first taste of horror with Goosebumps. Homesick for India, I found RK Narayan's Swami and Friends in one of the rooms of our house and read it in one sitting. To this day, he remains my favourite Indian author. No one else had written about childhood experiences like that.
My shelves are lined with more contemporary stuff, science fiction, fantasy, a variety of different comic books and graphic novels, trivia books and all kinds of things. I have Dostoevsky’s The Idiot and also Wacky Nation, a guide to all the crazy contest and competitions that take place in the United Kingdom. All good books have been a pleasure to read and all the bad ones have made me aware of how good the good ones are. They all serve a purpose in this crazy world.
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