April 23 marks World Book Day! It is a day of celebrating authors, illustrators, books and most importantly reading! Designated by UNESCO, it is marked all over the world in over 100 countries, as a worldwide celebration of books and reading. It seems like a nice day to talk about some of the books which have truly touched many in the world!
'Waiting for Godot' by Samuel Beckett
Once in a while, all of us wonder about our place in this world and question our existence.
All our existential dilemmas echo with this book. 'Waiting for Godot', a play by Samuel Beckett, will resonate with all the blurry and big philosophical questions that you keep asking yourself every day. Existence sometimes seems like a superimposed entity, out of which we are supposed to derive a conclusive meaning. Just like the protagonists in this play, who keep waiting for 'Godot' who is yet to arrive, aren't we all waiting for something fervently and with utmost longing?
The best thing about this book is that it is open to interpretation, as is life. The book offers no definite conclusion or resolution and the structure of the play is repetitive and circular just like life. So, go figure!
Best quote: “Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It's awful.”
'Mill on the Floss' by George Eliot
To be honest, I love this book primarily because of Maggie, the protagonist! If I had a fictional counterpart, it has to be Maggie Tulliver.
The novel basically captures the coming-of-age of the two major characters - Maggie and her brother Tom Tulliver. The novel elucidates how family, society, gender disparity, love, suffering, nostalgia and traditions intercept a person's life and affects his/her choices.
To the core, Maggie is a bundle of contradictions. Born with an imaginative mind, is bold and independent, but she frequently submits to her family. Throughout the novel, she is shown struggling for acceptance and longing for love. She is the person who stubbornly clings to her painful past and finds it difficult to let go. She wants love more than anything, but she gives it up after finding it. That's what makes this character interesting!
Best quote: “Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.”
'Man's Search for Meaning' by Viktor Frankl
This one is about hope. Or one can say, hoping against hope. Hoping even in the most absurd, painful and dehumanizing situation. “In the face of utter desolation, can life still have a meaning?” is the theme of this book.
The book bears testimony to psychiatrist Victor Frankl's experience as a concentration camp inmate during the Second World War and the gruesome encounters of Auschwitz which taught him about the primary purpose of life: the quest for meaning.
The book depicts how the transcendental power of love nourishes one's spiritual survival. From an existential standpoint, the experience of depression obliges a person to become aware of his mortality and freedom.
Best quote: “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.”
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
As evident by its name, it is a novel about a woman's emotional and sexual awakening. The protagonist, Edna Pontellier's impatience with conventional trappings and her rejection of traditional female roles is presented with arresting honesty by Kate Chopin.
In her desire to find her true self, Edna defies social conventions and tows away on a journey of self-discovery. The ending of this book is still fresh in my mind when Edna submits herself to the sea, naked, feeling nothing but exhilarating freedom.
Best quote: “..but whatever came, she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself.”
'One Hundred Years of Solitude' by Gabriel García Márquez
No list of 'Must Read Books' can be devoid of Márquez. One word for this book - Overwhelming!
The novel chronicles several generations of the Buendía family through the evolutions, revolutions and metamorphoses of the fictional/mythical town Macondo.
The reader experiences a myriad of emotions and gets fascinated with the fragile distinction between reality and fantasy while reading the book. Such is the beauty of magic realism, which Marquez brilliantly infuses in the book. Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth - these themes speckle the book but in a beautiful way!
Best quote: “..and both of them remained floating in an empty universe where the only everyday & eternal reality was love...”
Happy reading folks!