Hello everyone! I'm Anushka, the new Corporate Communications Assistant here at Scholastic. Asking me to choose a favourite book is like asking a mother to pick her favourite child – pretty impossible. During my childhood in particular, I consumed books like I now consume caffeine. Back then books were shorter, and at times I used to read even multiple books a day. I was viewed such a ‘reader’ by friends and family, I distinctly remember a certain birthday of mine where, much to my chagrin, I was gifted nothing but books.
Basically, writing this list is incredibly hard. If I had to pick, however, I would say these were the top five books that impacted me the most:
The Mr Majeika series by Humphrey Carpenter
When I was in the 2nd grade, the most sought after book series in my school library was the ‘Mr. Majeika’ series, about a school teacher who was actually a wizard. It was so popular, the librarian had to establish a rule that each child was only allowed to borrow each book for one day at a time. I was not a ‘reader’ back then, but galvanized by my friends’ enthusiasm regarding the series, I decided to request to borrow the first book. The librarian told me she ‘didn’t think I’d be able to finish it in a day.’ Admittedly, I have changed a lot since I was 6, but one thing that hasn’t changed is my stubbornness. A brilliant way to motivate me to do absolutely anything is to pretty much say that you don’t think I’d be able to do it. Affronted, and driven by her accusation, I insisted I would be able to. She had to relent. I took the first book home and returned it the next day having finished it. The librarian promptly handed me the second one. This series almost single-handedly turned me into a voracious reader. Even once I was done with all the ‘Mr. Majeika’ books, I did not stop visiting the library every day for a new book.
The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
This one needs no explanation. There is nothing quite like being a part of a worldwide phenomenon. My generation was the Harry Potter generation, and I grew up with the Golden Trio, getting into shenanigans with them; crying, laughing, and having adventures. They were my best friends. Ron Weasley was one of my first fictional character crushes. I started the books when I was a little younger than the trio, and some of my best childhood memories are of my father reading me the series while doing a terrible Hagrid voice. I remember waiting impatiently for the last three books to come out, and discussing them at school every day with a group of people as excited about The Boy who Lived as I was. I still remember that feeling of being in the movie theatre and getting chills as the first few notes of Hedwig’s Theme filled the room. Even today, Harry Potter is still something that I talk about almost daily. No series of books has moulded me quite like this one did.
Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson
Jacqueline Wilson was one of my favourite childhood authors. What I loved about her books was that they introduced complicated topics to children without compromising an interesting plot. ‘Double Act’ was probably the first Jacqueline Wilson book I ever read. It was about a pair of twins. Apart from featuring a tomboy character that 7-year-old me really related to, it also brought to light the idea of an inevitable need for siblings to eventually go their own ways. The book was one of the first books I read which had a bittersweet ending. It is a book that presents you with a hard truth, and teaches you that sometimes things don’t work out perfectly but that that’s OK. This book was a gateway drug, and I ended up reading most of Jacqueline Wilson’s books, all of which featured psychologically complex characters in a variety of situations I’d never read about before.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ was one of the first ‘adult’ novels I ever read. Set in Afghanistan, it told the story of two women from very different backgrounds who were married off to the same man. The book made me experience a rollercoaster of emotions, extreme highs and lows, as I got caught up in the story of these strong women living in this oppressive society. It exposed me to a range of harsh realities, and kept me gripped throughout the journey. It was all at once a story of friendship, of love, of resilience and culture. It managed to tie character development, plot, and the complexities of Afghani society up into a neat little bow and presented it, in all its glory, onto the page. It was one of the books that made me want to be a writer; it made me want to create stories, made me want to manipulate people’s emotions the way Hosseini so effortlessly seemed to do with mine.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
We all have that one teacher who really changed an aspect of our lives. I had multiple. One of them was my college history professor. History had always been fascinating for me, but learning it in school had been a pain. Throughout school, I was forced to memorize dates and facts and to vomit them out on my exam paper, and it was less than enjoyable. So of course, I was reluctant to take a history class for my college humanities requirement. It was a pleasant surprise when I discovered that my professor didn’t believe in textbooks. Instead, to help us understand the time period, he assigned us a combination of historical fiction and non-fiction novels. One of the books we had to read was ‘The Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro. Never had a book with such a simple plot and such a one-track minded protagonist ever affected me like this. The psychological complexity in the book was astounding to me, the language was beautiful, and when it ended, there was a hollow feeling in my chest that I had never quite felt before. This book was what really got me into historical fiction.
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