“The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.”
- Elizabeth Hardwick

The above quotation says it all for those such as I, trying to justify the pleasures of reading. I believe that there is no bad fiction no matter what the genre, only real bad critics. I have loved and enjoyed what I have read so far, I am thoroughly entertained and excited by what I am reading now and I am looking forward for some very great works that are going to quench my thirst for fresh narration.

Reading mania struck me at a tender age. From a very young age, I always saw my mum with pocket versions of  Sidney Sheldon, James Hardly Chase, Pearl. S. Buck and Gothic Romances.

I cannot exactly recall how old I was but going to the school library once a week and exchanging books was the only thing I looked forward to. The library was always partially dark and the musty smell from old books and news papers always lingered in the room.  and I was deeply fascinated by huge shelves of old books that loomed above me and I loved it more than anything when I would enter the library and be surrounded by that familiar smell of mouldy moth-eaten books.  That is why perhaps I adore the smell of libraries specially the classic books section which has a typically aged smell about them. Apart from the fairy tale books that everyone talks about reading while growing up, I remember deeply enjoying Water Babies by Charles Kingsley and there was no stopping since.

My reading preferences took the same path as other voracious readers, followed a similar growth chart as most of my reader friends. The transition occurred swiftly from children books, comics to pre-teen books such as Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys series, to young adult fiction. The time between Mills & Boons to Danielle Steele was a very emotional period as the caterpillar was finally turning into a butterfly. During that period, I devoured Harlequin romances and dreamt of a suitor with an irresistibly good physique, brilliant blue eyes, sexy lop sided smile, who had eyes just for me. I was obsessively reading teen romances tucked between my school books  even when I was better off doing my homework and studying for tests, and when I needed to show my folks that I was studying real hard! They really believed in me because they never snuck up on me.

English Poetry is another work of art that I truly appreciate. From Beowulf the very first poem in English language to Victorian poets, all evoke a certain kind of thirst within me that compels me to write in verse. I specially love reading poetry  that use rhythmic patterns and repetitive patterns of sound to create an almost lyrical tone.

I also had another side to me that was hungry for classics, so be it Shakespeare or Jules Verne, to Bram Stoker to Nathaniel Hawthorne, I read it all in abridged forms. Through the years, I must have read a huge number of books which I cannot even begin to count or name but some of the books have stuck with me. When Edgar Allan Poe, Algernon Blackwood, Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, Bronte Sisters  Elizabeth Gaskell and the lot tread into my world of reading, I felt deeply blessed. I started digging further into Romantic and Victorian classics, this time in its full unabridged forms, and I was enthralled by the kind of literature that was exposed to me. I am sharing a list of my absolutely favourite books that has contributed in shaping my abilities in writing,  in shaping my sensibilities as a reader and in nurturing my imagination.

Romantic & Victorian Fiction
Bram Stoker - Dracula (everybody knows the story!)
Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (earliest example of science fiction)
Charles Dickens – The Bleak House, David Copperfield & Great Expectations (partial autobiography, societal drama)
Edgar Allan Poe -  Pit and the Pendulum, Fall of the House of Usher, Cask of Amontillado, The Premature Burial, & The Tell-Tale Heart (the king of Gothic fiction, tales of macabre & morbidity)
Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre (Coming of age romantic story about an orphaned girl)
Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights (complicated relationships that lasts beyond death)
Ann Bronte -  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (a woman’s struggle to assert her freedom even after marriage)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Tales of Unease, Sherlock Holmes (Dark, awe inspiring Gothic tales & first detective of a kind! )
Elizabeth Gaskell – Ruth & Gothic Tales (Tragic tale of a seamstress during industrialization & deliciously spooky tales! )
Oscar Wilde – Picture of Dorian Gray (Symbolic tale of the fall of  morality)
Mary Elizabeth Braddon – Lady Audley’s Secret (intriguing tale of a woman’s secret)
Jane Austen – Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Emma & Northanger Abbey (we all know what the stories are about)
Nathaniel Hawthorne -  Scarlet Letter A (a tale about deception, shame and atonement)
Washington Irving – Legend of the Sleepy Hollow & Rip Van Winkle (famously gothic tales about a headless horseman & a man who sleeps away his youth)
Algernon Blackwood – Tales of Mystery (purely Gothic and gruesome tales about the unexplained)

Plays
Arthur Miller - Crucible (based on the witch hunt during puritan America)
Eugene O’ Neil – Long Day’s Journey into Night (based on a dysfunctional family where addiction, indifference, sickness and waywardness are central)

Modern Fiction

Aldous Huxley – Brave New World (futuristic, a tale about the horrors of a collective society)
Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart (a story about how things stand and how they fall apart in a tribal settlement in the remote forests of Africa. A tale about fight for survival)
Markus Zusak – The Book Thief (a compelling tale about the value of literature, about guilt, the dark and beautiful side of humanity)
Tracy Chevalier – The Girl with the Pearl Earring & Falling Angels (1. artistic tales about a painter and his muse. 2. a poignant tale about childhood, sexual awakening & human frailty)
Ian McEwan – Atonement (again about childhood but the dark aspect of revenge from a child’s perspective, about true love & atonement)
Kazuo Ishiguro – Remains of the Day (The story told from the p.o.v of Stevens the last old fashioned English Butler- Sad, poignant with a certain degree of  humour)
J.M. Coetzee – Disgrace ( about a personal disgrace that leads on to a greater one that reflects the negative aspect of the post apartheid period in South Africa)
Ipsita Ray Choudhary – Beloved Witch (an autobiography of a wiccan)

The list goes on but these are the books & plays that are hard to forget. Then comes my newly discovered a love for young adult fantasy fiction. The sheer hunger for Gothic & Supernaturally romantic tales have gradually led me into the world of young adult literature and I must admit that I have enjoyed all the stories if not the language and the style sometimes. Here are some of the YAF books that have sparked a genuine interest

I have read following YAF books so far

KareKaren Essex – Dracula in Love (a new take on Dracula through Mina Harker’s perspective) – this one is my most favourite.
Stephanie Meyer – Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn (yes we all know what they are about, don’t we? )
Becca Fitzpatrick - Hush Hush (a romantic paranormal fiction about an angel who fell to earth because he was in love with a mortal)
Lauren Kate
Fallen, Torment (a tale about another fallen angel and a mortal who actually is something else)
P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast – House of Night Series (enjoyable, becomes better as the story advances)
Lisa Shroeder
- Chasing Brooklyn ( a supernatural tale about love, loss and finding one’s way back. All in verse!)
Brenna YovanoffReplacement (a story about all that is ugly, foreboding and misfitting together with love, friendship & trust) Melissa Marr - Wicked Lovely (its a world about faeries and mind you, and murderous, vengeful & morbid faeries they are! but true love shines through it all)

I like to stretch my literary frame moving onto certain genres that give the reader pure entertainment and a nice thrill. Besides, I have dwelt far too long  among books that give the reader an intellectual illumination – I find myself already glowering from within. My book shelf is filled by the day with more books I want to read and with spaces for books I have yet to discover. My book shelf below contains books that I have read and books that I look forward to read soon.

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