Friday, November 29, 2013

Of Books and Bookshelves

Going through other people's bookshelves is usually a rewarding exercise. You often discover books that you wouldn't have come across otherwise - books that were popular in a particular year or a particular age, and then faded from memory. You also come across authors you might not have tried otherwise.

I was riffling through my in-laws' library recently. I've done it before of course, but this particular stash had older books, yellow with age, that had been bought at least thirty or forty years ago. My father-in-law is a scientist, so the vast majority of the books in the library are related to chemistry or other sciences. A few books on history, some slim volumes of Malayalam literature, some quiz books - these complete the collection.

And the thought struck me - this is how kids get formed. These were the books that were available to my husband when he was growing up, and they were what formed his personality and his interests. Science, history, Kerala - their library is almost a summary of my husband's interests.

And what a contrast to the kind of books I read as a kid. Both my parents are Literature graduates, and the vast majority of the books in their library are novels. There was some non-fiction, of course - but the boring academic work-related kind. So it was natural that I grew up reading more fiction than non-fiction, and still prefer it.

I now feel sorrier than ever for children who grow up without books in the house. Imagine - they grow up without knowing that there are wonderful worlds inside each book - worlds that they can create with the help of a few words, and their own imagination. These children probably know of only TV or music as entertainment - they don't know anything about books! How terrible for them. 
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