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The Regal Five
Sep 05, 2003 07:38 PM 4221 Views
(Updated Sep 23, 2003 11:10 AM)

  • “I love my books as drinkers love their wine;

The more I drink, the more they seem divine;

With joy elate my soul in love runs o'er,

And each fresh draught is sweeter than before.

Books bring me friends where'er on earth I be, -

Solace of solitude, - bonds of society!”

-Francis Bennoch

Tough task, tough ask! Zeroing in on just five books from the universe of books that have been my heart throbs all these years seemed an insurmountable task till I decided that I would pick out those that amazed me beyond compare. The shortlist arrived at was hardly short. But I was getting somewhere, I knew. The exercise continued and I finally had 5 titles that had left an indelible mark on my thinking and me. And I know for a fact that the ones that do not figure here are equally good, if not better. They will surely get their mention when I write about my best 100 reads, someday. So here goes…

1. The Day of the Jackal – Frederick Forsyth

Of all my Fred reads, I have been in complete awe of this one. To start with, Frederick Forsyth is an infallible researcher and a compelling storyteller; qualities that had me glued to his writings a couple of years back.

After unsuccessful attempts to eliminate Charles De Gaulle(President of France), the OAS( a secret and conspiratorial body) hires the services of a professional killer, Jackal. Just as the name Jackal sounds obscure, so is everything else about his existence throughout the novel. A mysterious killer with an unfathomable past or lineage. The author takes you on a journey through the way Jackal plans and masterminds the assassination. It’s a splendidly narrated account of how Jackal ingresses into France, evades every single attempt of the French, British police and other international secret service organisations, executes his task and escapes. The character of Jackal has been etched out with incomparable efficacy.

It’s a “must-read”. I could go on the top of my office and shout out recommendations for this one. Buy this one guys…its worth it.

2. The Alchemist – Paul Coelho

A simple and heartwarming fable, is how I would classify this book. It follows the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, who dreams of owning all the worldly treasures, even if that takes him distances and distances. He leaves his home in Spain to set out on the treasure trove, gets to the markets of Tangiers, encountering different people. It is in Egypt that he meets an alchemist. This meeting changes his life.

In short, that is what the book is all about. Its about the spiritual hand guiding Santiago. It makes the reader compulsorily interpret Santiago’s experiences and make a meaning out of it for themselves. Its all about chasing your dreams, a classic book sure to touch you deep within.

'Does a man's heart always help him?' the boy asked the alchemist.

'Mostly only the hearts of those who are trying to realize their Personal Legends. But they do help children, drunkards, and the elderly, too.'

3. The Godfather – Mario Puzo

Some may like to call this book the undisputed champion, but I’ll settle by naming it an elegant and classic masterpiece. The movie made on this one(by the same name) starred the likes of Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando. Tall order, that.

The Godfather is the story of the crests and troughs of the lives of Italian immigrants, the Corleones. A story, set amongst the backdrop of mafia war in America. A stunning introduction of Don Corleone through the pages sets the story rolling. All characters you come across spell a uniqueness to their being- Don Vito Corleone, Santini, Fredico, Michael, Nazorine, Sollozzo.

What rivets you the most is the lovely narration of the organized and systematic way of conducting crime. Mario Puzo’s The Last Don falls miles and miles behind this masterpiece.  You have missed something as an avid reader, if you haven’t read The Godfather.

4. We the Living – Ayn Rnd

She is one author who continually inspires me to be obsessed by opportunities and not paralysed by problems. While most readers have liked and appreciated The Fountainhead, my pick, irreformably is this one. A story that conveys so very subtley, the sensitivity and intensity of Ayn Rnd. I would say that this book is easily a textbook on love.

The three central characters are – Kira Argounova, an ambitious young lass, Andrei Tagnov, a member of the GPU( a secret agency), a staunch Lenin-ist and Leo Kovalensky, a revolutionary. Destiny blossoms  love between Kira and Leo…The Reds foil their escapade. Kira and Leo, together, undergo an entire gamut of emotions through the next section of the story, the account of which has been so very beautifully depicted by the author. Equally well is potrayed Leo’s suffering and Andrei stepping in to help. The rest is for the readers to discover. I wouldn’t want to give out the gist of the remainder of the story.

This book will teach you a lot, be it through Kira, Leo or Andrei for that matter.

5. The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy

This book in no way tries to capture the essence of India, it focuses and whirls around one community….and somehow I found that this is precisely what gave it so much of Indianness. Sounds crazy, right? It’s a book that is difficult to keep pace(infact you would find yourself faster than the book) with through the initial pages, but catches you firm soon enough(or maybe catches up with you). The story also keeps shuttling between different moments of time, which may be an irritant for some readers; but believe me, you gotta read it with patience to make the most of it. Its a contemporary classic.

Good characterization turns me on and Arundhati Roy etches her characters with delightful ease- Baby Kochamma, Uncle Chacko, Kochu Maria, Ammu and of course Estha and Rahel. A dexterously captured tragic account of Estha and Rahel’s mother striving through the vagaries of life. The final moments of the book will tease your tear glands enough. And that’s the wizardry of this author.

And as Chacko says in the book, “Anything is possible in human nature” .

So buddies, these are my favourite five and reading each one has been a privilege, if I may say so. It is but imperative that I be thankful to all authors who have crafted these marvelous writings….writings that have had an impact on me, helping me see things and life(in general) in a better perspective. No words can express my deepest sense of gratitude to these master writers. So let make a silent, noiseless exit from here. But but but…before I leave, Francis Bennoch has something more to say…

  • “I love my books! They are companions dear,

Sterling in worth, in friendship most sincere;

Here talk I with the wise in ages gone,

And with the nobly gifted of our own.

If love, joy, laughter, sorrow please my mind,

Love, joy, grief, laughter in my books.”

Wish you all a very happy weekend!

© Milind Gadagkar 2003

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