It had been a long while since I let a book grab me by the scruff of my neck and hold me in that almost uncomfortable grip, not letting go until I have finished. The last book I recall reading cover to cover and thoroughly enjoying, was David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. In September 2011, when I on holiday in the boonies beyond Hampi, cut off from the world without cellphone network, TV, newspapers, the chatter of tourists and the like. I had little else to do, but read and no choice but to finish what I had started. And so I didn’t stop until the book was done.
“Are those the only circumstances in which I can get myself to frikking read?” I thought to myself.
The quick rate and enthusiasm with which I buy books would make you believe otherwise. The piles of books I have lovingly gathered over the last two years, the steadily mounting flipkart expenses and the inches of dust I wipe off the book shelves every so often tell a tale of a dormant and very passive monster in hibernation. A book guzzler, I once was. And yet, today all that’s left is the intention to get down to that must-read list. An intention that has just bubbled beneath the surface for so many years now.
Until last week. When I finished the first of my list of must-read books for 2013. At the start of this year, I decided I needed to bring back the ousted book guzzler in me. And because I have only ever had nebulous aims and goals for myself, this year I resolved to take very real steps that will guide me there.
So I decided to read. Really read, as opposed to intend to read. Not buy and hoard more books, but knock off the ones already on my list. To make time for reading, rather than leave it for the fringes of every day, when my eyes are closing and it becomes a passive bedtime activity rather than an active one that engages my mind.
I’ve started out with a list — 12 books for 12 months of 2013. I didn’t want to set myself up to lose, so this is an easy, but healthy start. Pacing it out, I’ve given myself some buffer time, and also a secondary list of books I can move on to, should I finish ahead of time.
Making time was the toughie, and has taken some realignment of life itself. Cutting down online time has made a big difference. Getting out of the house and heading to the beach, or a cafe has helped too. I spent the larger part of Saturday afternoon and evening totally immersed in the first book of the year.
Stephen King’s On Writing. (I don’t know if it is providence, but many of the books in the list I drew up rather randomly are about the art of writing.)
This one is a gem I see myself going back to over and over. I’ve seen it on the list of must-reads for aspiring writers, but never paid too much attention because I am not a Stephen King lover. I don’t do horror. I don’t do gore and murder. But what a revelation this book has been. The first half of the book is filled with anecdotes from King’s life. Just the kind of essays I love reading. Packed with humor, subtle sarcasm, love, irony and just a lot of honesty — the stories spoke to me. It also made me realise I have a penchant for short, anecdotal writing of the kin that gives you a temporary escape into another world. I like going away and coming back just as quick. Its like sinking your teeth into a juicy apple, enjoying its deliciousness until the bite lasts. And then moving on to the next.
I just couldn’t put it down. I took myself to the beach and as the sun raced down, I flipped the pages faster, wanting to know what happened next. Before I knew it, the sun had set and I had finished the book.
A series or seemingly arbit anecdotes later, King then moves on to the actual crux of the book — essays on the art and craft of writing. Nuggets of wisdom from experience, rules to play by, how to build yourself the life of a writer, how to surround yourself in inspiration and how to find meaning and triggers in the smallest of every day events. What you realise ever so slowly is that every piece about the science of writing tracks back to an event in one of his anecdotes.
What drew me in completely was the simplicity and honesty in King’s voice. It is the kind of book that feels like a conversation with someone you respect. The kind that pulls you in, makes every word glow and stay and most of all just makes you lose track of time. You want to just continue to sit there and let the stories go on and on.
Several parts of the book had me chuckling to myself, some had me laughing out loud, and some just had me going over them again and again because the words rang true every single time. These are the words that will stay with me for a while, words I will cling to for some time now, till they’re inside of me. Words that have inspired me to explore writing. To go above and beyond what I thought was possible.