On developing the habit of Reading Books

by Dr. R. Narayanaswami

When I was requested by a group of employees to write a ‘book review’ 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 personal 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 that I have read and that I think every CSMite should read to a book review of a book that I consider as a ‘great book’. 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 ‘great book’. 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 level reader, advanced reader) 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, namely, 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 ‘windows to the outside world’. Book reading provides joy. Book reading develops one’s understanding, enhances one’s communication skills etc. One 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. Reading books to children when they are young and not yet reached reading age is the best way to make your children lifelong readers, those adults who were not read to when they were young need not feel bad; today is the first day for them to begin to start reading, it may take a little while to start a new activity but starting without waiting another day is the best way to start becoming a reader. Once started, you will not drop the habit. So, those who are not book readers now, today is the day to get started!

Undoubtedly, most readers begin their book reading habit by reading books on fiction. So, I offer these suggestions by mentioning the ‘classics’ or works by great writers: Charles Dickens, Somerset Maugham, Alexandre Dumas, Ernest Hemingway, Tolstoy, P. G. Wodehouse (funny), Agatha Christie (mystery) and like-minded authors. Those were the authors of the books that I read as a school and college going student. Ny children, grown up in the United States and gone to school in USA have a different set of authors that they begin their reading. Fairly soon before high school many of them read science fictions and into advanced reading levels, again due to high emphasis of reading in USA. Some of the books in the fiction category that I have read (while in high school and college) and will recommend are:

Books by Alexandre Dumas:

  • The Three Musketeers
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Twenty Years After
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

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.

Modern fiction writers are many and one can begin with any book of fiction by any author. The 1963 Nobel prize for Literature winner John Steinbeck whose 2 books that I read around that time are:

  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Of Mice and Men

Both are worth reading, as also are his collections of short stories.


Another author, by name 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.

  • The Final Diagnosis
  • Hotel
  • Airport
  • Wheels
  • Overload
  • Moneychangers

As you may have guessed, the book ‘The Final Diagnosis’ is about medicine, Hotel is about Hotels, Airport is about airports, Wheels is about automobiles, 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.

Another author, by name John Grisham, writes thrillers based on law and mystery. Few of his books that I have read are:

  • 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
  • In spite Of The Gods – The Rise of Modern India – by Edward Luce:
  • Planet India by Mira Kamdar
  • The World is Flat by Tom Friedman:
  • Hot, Flat and Crowded by Tom Friedman:

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. If you have read some or all of these, my suggestion is to request you to continue with reading list of books on current affairs, climate issues, monetary matters and topics and onto economics of nations and books written by national and world leaders.