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I’m addicted to books. I buy books, I download e-books, I occasionally borrow books (and return them of course), I have filched one or two from my college library (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa) which I regret now, but I seldom read them. There are countless books on the shelf that I look on with remorse and fondness. Sometimes, I take an unwholesome pride in showing them off, as if having those titles on my bookshelf is proof of my intellectual superiority. But if anyone asks an opinion on a book all I can ever come up is “Hmm, yes it’s a good book” or “Oh, that’s a lousy one”. Don’t ask me the reasons.

But, all said and done, I would like to read them all some day. Only that, that some day never comes. Of course there are some books which I’m almost afraid to pick to read knowing that the endings are sad; there are many which I’ve begun, lost interest and kept back.

Is there are right way to read? I have a book “How to read a book”. I barely managed to read it and forgot it’s message the instant I returned it to the shelf. Nowadays, I read mostly travel books. Paul Theroux, Colin Thubron, Eric Newby, Michael Palin, Bruce Chatwin and a few others. Bruce Chatwin and Colin Thubron are empathetic, Michael Palin and Eric Newby are endearing, gentle. Paul Theroux’s observations are laced with sardonic malice, I feel sometimes, but his books are fun to read. A sinner is much more interesting than a saint.

The book I’m reading now is Colin Thubron’s “In Siberia”. In it, Siberia  retains its mysteriousness. The brutal history of the land and it’s people is gradually unfolded as he travels across this snowbound domain. One meets vagabonds, a Rasputin lookalike, orthodox Russians, fledgling Buddhists, the ice princess, the horrors of gulag, wanton exploitation of the land, poverty, hopelessness and tragedy. Even though I’m sitting in the quiet comfort of my drawing room, I travel the trains with him, walk lonely streets, pick through the rubble of defunct mines or gaze across the waters of Lake Baikal.

Sometimes I’m accused of reading without reflecting and I know that I’m guilty of that oftentimes. Still, I believe that reading has changed me in many ways for the better. And I thank providence for giving me this gift even though I do not use it well.

Categories: Bibliophilia
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