Ruskin Bond would hands down top the list of most loved authors of India. His simple stories based on the surroundings of Dehradoon that he called Dehra and Mussourie take us to the quaint hills and its simple people. One is amazed at the sheer volume of work he has churned out. In this small book Love Among the Bookshelves, he talks about his love for books.
How he discovered books. And how they became his companion every time he felt lonely. The book is anecdotal, with small incidents from Bond’s life shared along with some pieces from his favorite books by his favorite authors. The book wraps up with a list of his favorite books.
Bond takes you through his childhood. His boarding school routine in Shimla and his holidays that he spent with his parents. He was born before Indian Independence. And his parents were fond of going on Shikaar. He brings out his disgust for Shikaar as a kid. And how he would stay back in the guesthouse in the jungle when his parents went out for hunting. This is when he discovered books that would become a lifelong love, passion, companion, and profession. He talks about the time he spent with his Aunt in Jersey. And then a couple of years in London as a young man.
He speaks about his solitude during this time – having grown up in India where everyone is a friend to living in a formal environment. This is when books became his friends, his escape from the loneliness. And this is when he developed a relationship with the books. Working on various jobs and then choosing to quit when he did not like is a trait that is probably quite common in writers or people who are more internally driven.
He talks about the process of writing his first novel when he was in the UK. And wanted to write about his last year in Dehra. He says he wrote everything that he wanted to and after writing was left with nothing else with him. I guess writers need to do that often to fill themselves with another subject or story and then pour that on paper some day. He talks about short stories and novels. And how the former has longer shelve life than later.
Anecdotes are interspersed with excerpts from Love Among the Chickens by P.G. Woodhouse, The Best of H.E. Bates, Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham, The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens and The Story of my Heart by Richard Jefferies. Before each of these excerpts, he talks about his relationship with the author and his works. For e.g. for Woodhouse, he says – whenever he wanted to shut the world and be lost in an imaginary world, he chose to read Woodhouse.
If you love books and if you love Ruskin Bond, you would love this quick read book Love Among the Bookshelves.
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