When I was requested to write a ‘book review’ for our website on a book that I think every CSMite should read, I was immediately struck by the contrasts between the simplicity of the request and the complexity of the task. The complexity of the task occurs because such a single book that everyone ought to read must, in my opinion, contribute to one’s overall development, which, in turn, poses questions of what one means by ‘personal development’ – health, wealth, power, fame, fortune, values, …. The questions, undoubtedly, continue.
I quickly decided, therefore, to re-phrase the request – to write a ‘book review’ on a book of fiction that I have read and that I think every CSMite should read. This re-phrasing of the request did not help either because I soon realized the difficulty of selecting a single book, among the many books that I have read, as a ‘must read’. Soon, other intangible considerations cropped up: like, for example, the varied interests and tastes that we have as individuals; the differences in each person’s reading levels (beginning reader, intermediate, advanced) or preferences of reading materials; the continually changing nature of these interests as one progresses in their book-reading habits; the ‘cultural’ differences of life in the United States and that in India impacting the writings of authors and publishers in these countries; and so on. I must therefore confess that my current reading list, and hence my recommendations, may not be of much value to those in India. Additionally, I would like to state up-front, in the interests of full disclosure, that my present book-reading interests consist mainly of books on current affairs, philosophy, spirituality and the present-day challenges of energy, climate change etc. with only a passing interest on books on fiction. I have therefore decided to further modify the request – a write-up for the book section on few of the fiction books that I have read (please note that what follows is not the ‘traditional’ book review but a general write-up on books).
Books are the windows to the outside world, book reading provides joy, book reading develops one’s understanding, book reading enhances one’s communication skills, and we can go on and on writing about the various benefits book reading provides. My hope is that this write-up encourages you, the regular readers and the non-readers alike, to join the club of CSMite book readers and to continue, and enhance where possible, the book reading habit.
Undoubtedly, most readers begin their book reading habit by reading books on fiction. So, I offer these suggestions by mentioning the ‘classics’ – works by great writers: Charles Dickens, Somerset Maugham, Alexandre Dumas, Ernest Hemingway, Tolstoy, P. G. Wodehouse (funny), Agatha Christie (mystery) and like-minded authors. Modern fiction writers are many and one can begin with any book of fiction by any author. Some of the books in the fiction category that I have read and will recommend are:
  • Books by Alexandre Dumas:
  • The Three Musketeers
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Twenty Years After
All these books are worth reading but if you have time to read only one book in this set, I will recommend the book, The Three Musketeers.
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • Books by John Steinbeck:
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Of Mice and Men
Both are worth reading, and also his collections of short stories
  • Books by Arthur Hailey:
  • The Final Diagnosis
  • Hotel
  • Airport
  • Wheels
  • Overload
  • Moneychangers
Arthur Hailey chooses one topic, researches it well and develops the central theme that he wishes to convey on that topic in the form of fiction. As you may have guessed, ‘The Final Diagnosis’ is about medicine, Hotel is about Hotels, Airport is about airports, Wheels is about automotives, Overload is about electricity and The Moneychangers is about money. All these books are worth reading but if you have time to read only one book in this set, I will recommend the book, The Final Diagnosis.
  • Books by John Grisham:
  • The Firm
  • A Time to Kill
  • The Pelican Brief
He is a prolific writer and has written many more novels which I have not read (Sarasa is a great fan of his and has read many more books by Grisham). If you plan to read only few of his novels, I suggest you read the The Firm and A Time to Kill.
  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  • Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  • Books by Edward Luce:
  • In spite Of The Gods - The Rise of Modern India
  • Planet India by Mira Kamdar
  • Books by Tom Friedman:
  • The World is Flat
  • Hot, Flat and Crowded
The last 3 books suggested do not fall under fiction but come under national psyche, current challenges etc. I have added these books here to gradually introduce the beginning readers of the book-club beyond interests in 'fiction' to 'current affairs, challenges' etc.
Now that I have mentioned some of the books that I would like all CSMites consider to include in their reading list, I feel emboldened to short-list five novels – The Final Diagnosis, The Firm, Da Vinci Code, The Grapes of Wrath and The Three Musketeers – thus coming closer to meeting the ‘twice- modified request’ that prompted this write-up.
I hope that you are able to find time to read some of the above selections of mine, if you have not already completed reading them.