The other day I came across this wonderful image of S. Irfan Habib‘s hideout (don’t miss the old Apple computer)
A stack of books is always more attractive to see than neatly organized bookcases because they remind you of different worlds they allow you to visit and ponder over instead of neatly organized information.
My earliest memory of a book that transported me to a different would be `Noddy`; when I was four. I remember being taken into this more visual world and even being part of it. Maybe even imagining I was Big Ears in a Noddy story. Children’s books are not surprisingly visual and relied more on illustrations than words for their artistry. But I grew up as all children must and slowly, it required less imagery to imagine things. Now words and sentences could step in and paint a story.
Some books bring out wholly fantastical worlds like that of “Lord of the Rings” – with magnificent towers, raging volcanic ashen mountains, stone citadels, and yet the most beautiful description that often remains with us is of the idyllic countryside Shire, or the tiny house in it called Bag End. The book’s main protagonist Frodo, does often think of saving these places dear to him and pushes forward in his quest. That yearning for a place lost or a time that seemed lost or far away and evoking our empathy, even our sense of kinship with a hobbit is a trick that’s no less than a mind-meld.
Then there is non-fiction; that if written well, seems to lifts a heavy carpet to reveal a secret door on the floor. You find something strange in places you felt were familiar. Like a hidden attic of details, histories, perspectives, and sometimes even an entire world.
The worlds that books introduce us to, often in our twenties make us the people we end up being over our lifetime.
Some books are also important as objects. They evoke memories of friendships or loved ones or time in one’s life. Some books are special because they had been borrowed or gifted by someone dear. A lost parent or grandparent with their handwriting on the first empty page of a yellowing page of a novel wishing you the best or something familiar. Then there are traditions with a friend of exchanging books or buying unique, sought after books on each other’s birthday as a gift and then finally marrying that person (my story).
Books are also like our greatest advocates. How often I found myself being friends with someone because we liked the same types of books or authors.
Through movies, television series and even Instagram feeds, a familiar image is that of someone sitting on a comfortable chair, drinking some hot beverage with minimalist surroundings, and a book. But could one ever be a minimalist if one devoured books all the time? Having several stacks of books just feels the right way to read them. A messy corner of a room, that you can get lost in from time to time.
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