Long, long ago in a class of professional communications, I was asked to stand up and hold forth for a minute about my favourite book for one minute. Still in my teens and startled, I blurted out the first things I could think of about, ‘The Woman of Substance’, a book by Barbara Taylor Bradford. While the professor thought my monologue was decent, I was greeted with loud sniggers from my batchmates. They later told me that one never admits to reading Barbara Taylor Bradford in public. It’s like saying that you like Mills and Boons or Danielle Steele. If someone ever catches sight of these books in your house, pretend that a friend that you don’t like very much left it there. Make no mistake that you are judged by what you read. I felt ashamed and victimized for my reading choices.
Recently, while talking to a friend’s eleven year old son, I was singing the praises of Potter and his chums, the Narnia series and even the Marvel comic series, when he told me that he did not care for any of them. “I’ve only read all the books from the Diary of A Wimpy Kid series and those are the only books I will ever read!” he emphatically told me. I was taken aback to put it lightly. I tried to sway him with snippets from Dahl and stories of secret islands. But he was one stubborn kid. I came home judging his parents for not pushing him to explore the wider world of children’s literature out there.
But the more I thought about it, I realized something. Somewhere between being shamed by my own reading choices and hiding the chick lit that I read and prominently displaying Shashi Tharoor and Pico Iyer on my bookshelf, I had become a Book Nazi. Someone who shunned people for reading books that were not considered to be on the top shelf of good literature and someone that aspired to be seen with only the best books signed out under her name in the local library. Like in a B-grade Hollywood movie, I had become that I had feared in college.
After all who am I to judge anyone? Our choices are what make you different from me and therefore make us interesting to each other. While it’s always nice to have a common ground of conversation and books that we will bond with each other over, it’s the differences that bring us closer and make us open to new experiences, right? Which is why the next time I’m in a bookstore choosing books for my young cousins and nephews and nieces, I’ll be walking away from the usual picks and heading to the new releases section instead.
A brand-new story a day, should keep the Book Nazi in me, locked away!
What do you think?
Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a journalist turned NGO activist turned Writer/Blogger/Author who finds bliss in traveling to places known and unknown! She blogs about life, travels and food here , here and here
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