I used to watch a quiz show on TV growing up where the mascot was a (book)worm, who would come in saying "A book is your best friend". I was sold on that idea and grew up believing that was true.
In some ways, it was. I read a lot, loved that my father drive 45 minutes on a Sunday to take me to one of the best libraries in town.
As an architect, I now like books with pictures more than books with words, but I will try to make a list of the books that have impressed me over the years. I should confess, however, that if you give me a list of top 100 books everyone must read, I will do poorly checking off that list.
Favorite kids book:
When I was 3 and couldn't read yet, my mom would read out this counting book to me about pom pom bunny preparing for his birthday party. I had made her read the book to me so many times that I knew the words by heart. I would sit there by myself, reciting the words out loud, turning the pages at the right time. I forget the name of the book, but it started like this :
"Pom Pom bunny is writing a letter - Please come to my birthday party, it said. How many letters are there? There are 10 letters."
Favorite toddler book: I loved the "Little Golden Books" The Poky Little Puppy, The Fox and the Hound and Bambi were my favorites.
My pick : The Poky Little Puppy
Favorite elementary / middle school book(s):
This is more an author than a book. I grew up reading everything Enid Blyton. From the mystery and adventure series to the Naughtiest girl and finally when my tastes started becoming more girly, St,. Claires ; she kept me entertained, informed and left me with a strong desire to travel to England and live in the English countryside.
My pick: Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton
High School books:
I was a confused kids. My reading choices will tell you that. I would read Nancy Drew, Classics Illustrated, Sweet Valley and did the typical Jeffery Archer , Robin Cook and anything else I could lay my hands on.
My pick : Kane and Abel by Jeffery Archer.
If I was confused in High School, I am worse now. I will try to pick some books that genuinely impressed me and left me thinking.
A million little pieces, James Frey.
It is a semi-fictional autobiography of a 23-year old guy through alcohol,drugs and rehab. Immensely powerful because it is bereft of any self-pity or excuses. It is blatantly objective and honest.
The Namesake , Jhumpa Lahiri
An amazing story about the Indian diaspora in the US, and their identity crisis. The story is narrated in aw way that endears you to the characters and leaves you thinking about how to define home, family and identity.
A Thousand Splendid Suns , Khalid Hosseni
A story of two generations of women in Afghanistan, oppression, terror and the Taliban. It is a story of a male-dominated society, of friendships and hope, of betrayal and the struggle to survive. It is a beautiful portrayal of Afghanistan before the Taliban and how their policies affected the daily lives of people. A beautiful book about human spirit.
India Calling, Anand Giridhardas
First generation American citizen, NYT columnist goes back to visit the land his parents left decades ago in search of a better life and understand his roots. His book is an objective commentary on the state of the country now and his views on the future direction it will take.
The Snakehead , Patrick Radden Keefe
Another of those narratives, this time about the Chinese mafia in NY Chinatown. It is the story of how one woman almost-single-handedly managed to transport an entire district of China to the US illegally and help them lead a better life. It is also about perceptions and how a most-wanted fugitive in one part of the world is a most-revered figure in another.
And, of course. Atlas Shrugged. Before I am accused of blasphemy, let me mention The Fountainhead. Although I might not agree in principle to the underlying message of these books, it is the idea of power and changing the world in these books that impresses me.
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