I’ve loved to read since I was a child, and have amazing memories related to books—whether it’s reading with my grandmother every day after school, or sharing and expanding book collections with my brother. Moreover, I used to visit the bookstore so frequently that the owners knew my face. Having grown up in Bangladesh, my reading experience can be summed up by the scene of being cocooned in the house with books during monsoon season, the sight and sound of the downpour becoming the springboard to my imaginary adventures.
Here are five books that have shaped my literary journey:
The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton
I loved following the summer adventures of Julian and co. and their dog, as they got up to the most outlandish antics. Through Enid Blyton’s narratives, I was whisked off to the English countryside, a foreign world that felt familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. This series has a whopping 21 books, which only fed my obsession with the characters. I happily lined my bookshelf with all the books as I read through the series.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Like so many others, J.K. Rowling’s series has inspired me to become a better reader and writer. I lost myself in the wizarding world, compelled by Harry’s underdog spirit. I was also intrigued by a magical school that offered a significantly better selection of classes than the ones I was taking in school. A part of me definitely waited for a letter from Hogwarts when I turned 11. I avenged myself a few years later when I visited Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station in London, and bought myself a souvenir ticket to the Hogwarts Express.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Having changed schools often when I was young, I could relate to Anne’s position as an outsider. Her feisty attitude and thirst to prove herself encouraged me to stand for my convictions. Similar to the previous two choices, I liked being transported to a new realm—in this instance life in the countryside with traditions starkly different from my own. In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed following Anne’s hot-and-cold relationship with the dreamy Gilbert Blythe.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The tales of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot led to my fascination with mystery novels. Agatha Christie has a way of helping the readers observe the world through minute details that are generally overlooked. Murder on the Orient Express was one of the first novels where I could not guess the killer/antagonist. This opened up a world of unpredictability to me and taught me to be comfortable in it. I even remember the meal I was eating while poring over this book, to my mom’s annoyance, of course.
1984 by George Orwell
I read this in high school when I started to become more aware of politics and diplomacy. Orwell’s dystopian classic fueled my desire to be an active citizen. I appreciated how the author’s work created a sense of foreboding, making the story thrilling while portraying an important message. I went on to question the material I was learning in history classes at the time, supplementing my love of history with a healthy dose of suspicion for Orwellian societies past and present. Let’s be honest, I felt really cool to have read something that made me engage with world affairs in a different way than my peers.