This is why I don't ask my parents for jewellery on birthdays.
I know, at the back of my head, "Someday, I am going to lose this ring/bracelet/necklace, and I'm gonna get yelled at for quite some time. So why do I want to put myself through one of Mama's long lectures on 'The Importance of Taking Care of Your Belongings' for the umpteenth time?".
So since I was thirteen, at almost every birthday, I asked for the same thing: Books.
I adore my books. And I have enough sense to buy a pretty wooden bookshelf so that each of them has a permanent home (much less I can say about my CD collection). And on rainy Sunday mornings, like how some young women lay out their shoes on the floor to admire, I sit in front of my bookshelf and caress my precious books.
Swear - if my house ever caught on fire, I'd somehow, someway, will summon enough energy to rescue all my books! They are the loves of my life, my windows to which I see the world and learn about people and places. Have you ever felt that way about anything in your life?
Books have defined who I am; and I honestly believe that if I had not read particular authors, I wouldn't be me now. Here's a glimpse of my bookshelf, if you ever do decide to read these authors, I hope you find them just as fascinating and life-changing as I did:
Okay, so I know he looks kinda wacky, but this man is a genius! He's written three books, The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers and I have been educated and entertained through all of them. If you're a big picture kinda person (macro-economists, take note!), he is your guy. I swear to God, after reading The Tipping Point, I saw society in a completely different way. Even browsing through advertisements and window shopping, I find myself having a sense of awareness of the way consumer behaves. I think it saved me from falling into the trap of becoming brand-conscious for no apparent reason except to 'keep up'! If not for The Tipping Point, I would never have developed an interest in all things marketing, advertising and branding - the one extra knowledge I pursued independently that I believe has truly helped me secure what I want from life. I would even go as far as to say that Gladwell taught me how to 'think outside the box'. He was in London for a talk (nerd-concert) at the Lyceum Theatre last November, but I was occupied then - it was my biggest regret that I didn't get to see him Live! Darn it. :(
Another man I have great respect for. To read every single thing written by Murakami is one of my Life Goals, and I'm happy to say that I'm more than halfway done. I'm reluctant to recommend Murakami because I don't think everyone will enjoy his style of writing. If you're into practicality, then I'd say "No Entry" to Murakami world. Don't even bother reading the synopsis to any of his books, because it tells you nothing of the adventure you're about to experience! I just buy any title, and let the book tell me whatever it wants to tell me. Sometimes, it makes no sense at all and I just go with it. And most times, the ending will disappoint you - because it has No Ending. It's like it's just hanging there, and you're like "What the hell was this story about?". With a Murakami masterpiece, you can't put it down, yet you have no idea what it is you're reading, and yet, when it ends, you feel overwhelmingly satisfied. I am drawn to his books because of the main characters - I relate to them very strongly, and it was only through his memoir, 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' that I realized his personality is much embedded in the characters I adore so much. They all indulge in solitude and find enjoyment in their own company, much like myself. If you do wish to give Murakami a shot, I highly recommend 'Norwegian Wood' and 'South of the Border, West of the Sun' because they have a romance element to it that makes it easier to relate to.
I've only ever read one book by this author, 'Eat, Pray, Love' but it was a real eye-opener. I envied her experience of dedicating months to traveling for soul-searching. Since then, I've been obsessed with the idea of solo travel; something I'd really, really love to do when cash permits. I have this deep, strong desire to visit Naples, Italy and taking a crash course in pizza-making while there! And I'm determined to find the pizza place Gilbert was talking about - it made me drool all over the pages of my book because she made the pizza sounded absolutely 'to-die-for'! It's fun to read, and while some might think the author was selfish, her bravery for self-discovery was still something to be admired.
If you noticed, a lot of really good movies out there have been adapted from books by Nick Hornby: High Fidelity, Fever Pitch and About A Boy. I've only read High Fidelity but it's definitely a must-read! (especially if you're a lad, you enjoy music and you're nursing a broken heart) I don't particularly enjoy romance novels and chick lits because I find them cheesy and cliched, but I love to read romance from a male point of view - it's so much more subdued and real, not wishy-washy and fairytale-like as most female authors approach them. I guess I'd say Hornby is my window to understanding the male psyche. Once I'm done with all my Murakamis, Hornby will be the next author I attempt to stalk-read.
I grew up with Dahl - Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches! Wonderful books, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was possibly my first experience in knowing that books could have a profound effect on the reader. I remember at fourteen, I finished the book at 9 o'clock in the evening, and begged my mother to drive me to the nearest 7-Eleven so I could get my hands on a piece of chocolate bar! I savoured that Cadbury like I've never had a chocolate bar before - truly changed my chocolate-eating experience.
It's not fair that the previous authors I mentioned gets applauded for writing good literature, but Francine Pascal didn't get the credit she well deserved: For making reading accessible and fun for the young beginners! If it weren't for Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield from Sweet Valley, I would never have loved reading in the first place. The Sweet Valley Twins series, remain until today, my guilty pleasures - I can't count the number of times I've read 'Lila's Secret Valentine'! If you ever need a quick picker-upper and something light, fun and just entertaining, you know you can always count on the Wakefield Twins. ;)