The only thing I can really rely on for simple peace and pleasure is a good book.
Cracking open the fresh spine of a book with the smokey scent filling up your lungs when the pages flutter open. The new anticipation and excitement flowing through your bones to explore a new world and promise to escape.
The great comfort you feel when there are endless possibilities to taste food you've never tasted before, falling in love with a stranger you'll never meet again, the connection to places you've never visited. The ability of getting lost in your own imagination.
Reading allows self-reflection and self-discovery by transporting you to a world of unknown giving you the freedom to gain new knowledge and a better understanding of life. The fact that it's such a versatile form of entertainment, you can pretty much do it anywhere. On the train, in waiting rooms, in the car, on a plane, in a coffee shop.
You gain a relief and satisfaction when you've finished a book, cover to cover, slam it closed, eyes beaming with your head staring at the cover in complete awe after your eyes have just completed it's final dance across the page.
You feel inspired. Your mood has lifted and you are ready to use that knowledge for the greater good.
I remember when I was little, my mother would always read to me before I went to bed. Enid Blyton's, The Famous Five, was always a childhood favourite until one of the books ruined the ideology of Father Christmas, which my mother read out loud until it suddenly clicked, to which it was too little too late. Once I finally learnt how to read myself, it was like my life had changed.
We have always had books in the house. My father ensured we had an endless supply of books, ranging from History, English Literature, Black History, Geography, Politics, Biography and Fiction to Non-Fiction. A whole room dedicated to books called, the Chill Room.
My father always said:
"The fact that you possess the ability to actually read the written word and understand and encode its meanings and cultural references, the next step would be to access books or literature that either arouse your curiosity or complement and support your beliefs and point of view".
A perfect Saturday to me is wandering the endless aisles of a hidden book store, gently picking up each book and flick my way through each page, inhaling the book's past.
However, without fail, I find myself returning home with a heavy bag, walking like a child on her first day of school, buckled over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I then hurriedly rush home to add all my new purchases to our library of books in alphabetical order, make a cup of tea and disappear into our cosy armchair to decide which one to start.
Starting a new book is exciting and creates structure. Whenever I have felt down, or it's raining outside and I need a pick-me-up, I choose a book and get stuck in.
So I have been thinking about books that have inspired me in time of dire need. The books that have really opened my mind and allowed me to find escape or educate me somehow. Here are some of my favourites:
THE ALCHEMIST BY PAULO COELHO
The Alchemist is about personal dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts. Santiago, a shepherd boy, travels from Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of buried treasure. This book was given to me at The Great Book Club. At first, I was a little sceptical but I wasn't really into that whole spiritual thing but I gave it a go and fell in love with it. I read it at such a time where I felt a little lost and needed a bit of direction. The story is full of inspiration and wisdom encouraging us to chase our dreams, have faith and trust in our future. Only you have the power to create your own destiny. I have always lived by the mantra'Only you control your happiness'.
EAT, PRAY, LOVE BY ELIZABETH GILBERT
You've probably heard about this book so many times, and you've probably yawned at the thought of a story about a divorcee traveling the world to 'soul search' but it is way more than that. Elizabeth Gilbert had reached a crisis in her life where everything she had in her life was not fulfilling. She embarked on a journey around the world, stopping off to eat in Italy (and to learn the language), praying in India and finding inner peace and true love in Bali. The book explores how one woman's unhappiness lead to her achieving spiritual peace in her life and therefore leading to happiness. After the break-up with my ex, I catapulted myself back into this book because I knew I needed some kind of direction and without fail, makes me remember how important it is to love yourself before you can love anyone else.
I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS BY MAYA ANGELOU
This is Maya Angelou's autobiography beautifully evoking her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. She learns the power of the white folks at the other end of town and suffers the trauma of rape by her mother's lover. The story follows her journey to San Francisco where she learns to love herself, be kind to others and to set herself free of imprisonment. An truly inspiring read if you want to believe in the kindness of humanity again.
SHANTARAM BY GREGORY DAVID ROBERTS
I had been told to read this novel by so many people but for ages the size of the book scared me and I convinced myself I wasn't ready. Flashback to now, 2016, I finally took the plunge, purchased and read it ALL and I will never look back.
In short, it is an epic novel starting in Bombay about an escaped convict with a false passport who flees from a maximum security prison in Australia. A hunted man with no home, family or identity travels through Bombay's underworld mixing with beggars, gangsters, prostitutes and holy men in the search for love and meaning. He experiences war, prison torture, murder, bloody betrayals and the mafia. A novel exploring a passionate love for India and extraordinary human experience, it is definitely worth a read.