“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” ~Ernest Hemingway
“My books are friends that never fail me.” ~Thomas Carlyle
“It was books that made me feel that perhaps I wasn’t completely alone.” ~William Herondale
“Books are my companions. They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life.” ~Christopher Paolini
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” ~Groucho Marx
The first Sunday of August is celebrated as Friendship Day. For avid readers, books have always been constant companions. They transport us to new worlds, open doors to imagination, help us explore the lives of legendary icons, take us across canvasses of music, philosophy, art, history, and share their wealth of knowledge with us. A writer’s interplay of words teaches the reader to empathize with characters and learn about the world, it’s places and people one might not know personally. Books offer relationships not just with others, but with ourselves. A reader can span the expanse of genres and languages – fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, drama, memoirs, novels, anthologies, short stories, poems, essays – the many letters of the alphabet take form and shape and present before us a whole new world of literature.
Who/what is a friend and what constitutes a friendship? Aristotle referred to this bond as “eudaimonia” – the sense of what causes one to flourish as a human. C.S Lewis quoted, “Friendship is born of the moment when one man says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” Eudaimonia can be encountered in myriad ways. Books too take up the role as a bulwark against loneliness – Reading as an act is performed in solitude, but we learn concern, love, understanding, to engage in a conversation with the author, critique what has been read; the reader need not always abide with what the writer has presented. Books do not talk back (as human friends would), but they stimulate the imagination, and teach us to accommodate mysteries we do not know and thrive on thought processes. Books teach us persistence – How many times have you picked up tomes from second-hand/thrift shops? Old copies might be dog-eared, bear stains, yellowed with age, and almost crumbling, but the contents of the books don’t change – one can still read and learn as much as from a brand new copy. The unchangeability of books is a profile in tenacity.
How often have you lost a book or lent one and never had it returned? Replacing the missing one is usually not at simple as buying a fresh copy. In the same way as true friends are irreplaceable, we miss the books themselves – our books, the ones we highlighted quotes or bracketed excerpts or doodled in, the lessons we learned, and the distinctive past we share with that particular book. Self-help books are a genre by themselves, but any book can help us in any amount of ways. It all depends on the reader, their state of mind, current situation in life, what one is looking for at a particular moment.
My reading choices are quite eclectic, but at any point in time books have always stood by me. There is a piece of literature available for any mood or occasion. These are some of the categories I choose books from, listed according to the authors, with many more books within each author’s repertoire.
~For a few (or maybe a lot) laughs – P.L.Deshpande, P.G.Wodehouse, Erma Bombeck, Caitlin Moran, Stephen Fry, Jenny Lawson, Andrea Camilleri.
~To curl up with on rainy days – Agatha Christie, Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, Jim Corbett, Raymond Chandler, Tess Gerritsen.
~To philosophise/internalize – Italo Calvino, Thich Nhat Hanh, Will Durant, Daniel Dennett, Julian Baggini .
~A quick dive (for their essays/short stories) – Ruskin Bond, Somerset Maugham, Sudha Murty, O. Henry, Shanta Shelke, Satyajit Ray, Premchand.
~For sports – Dean Karnanzes, Amby Burfoot, Christopher McDougall, Sam Sheridan, Alexandra Heminsley, Scott Jurek, Larry Shapiro.
~To stay up late with – Stephen King, Adam Nevill, Dean Koontz, Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allen Poe.
~For my dose of poetry – Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Maya Angelou, Rumi, Kahlil Gibran, Tagore.
Who are your go-to friends when you need a literary companion? Any particular books or authors you instinctively reach out for? Spare a moment of thought for our loyal friends on this Friendship Day and how they have been guiding lights over the years.