Sitting in the cosiness of my little home, I have explored the mystery of the cosmos, encountered Schrodinger’s cat, chatted with Baruch Spinoza, witnessed Antony and Cleopatra melting Rome in the Tiber, travelled among the arid mountains of Afghanistan where hooded faces sought god in the barrels of guns, and listened to the music of the stars. And accomplished a lot more, all thanks to books.
I love books more than people simply because it is easier to understand the former whether they be fiction or non-fiction. When it comes to fiction I like the kind which explore life in depth. I like fiction spiced up with philosophy, history and possibly a little mystery too.
Good fiction takes us through the dark labyrinths in the human psyche. Even psychology has not understood the human motives better than Dostoevsky or Joseph Conrad or Javier Marias. The most sacred religious scriptures cannot refresh my soul as does Nikos Kazantzakis or Franz Kafka. Jose Saramago’s The Gospel According to Jesus Christ which culminates in Jesus’ lament on the cross, “Men, forgive Him, for He knows not what He has done,” synchronises exactly with my understanding of Christianity.
I love reading history provided it is written by writers with some imagination. Ramachandra Guha’s India after Gandhi and Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre suit my taste as much as Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City. John Keay’s scholarliness is as okay with me as William Dalrymple’s lucidity.
When it comes to religion, Karen Armstrong scores high in my list. She is both scholarly and empathetic. I found Gurcharan Das’s The Difficulty of Being Good a particularly striking exploration of the Mahabharata. Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Doubt: a history is a unique blend of history, philosophy and religion.
There are books and books. I cannot exhaust the list of books I admire. I’m happy that I have so many friends, innocuous friends, who inspire me day in and day out with so much wisdom.
PS. Written for Indispire Edition 170: #fictionornonfiction