Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan's Picks For Her Bookshelf
The Delhi-based author shares her ten most favourite books.
Author of the popular blog Compulsive Confessions, Delhi-based writer Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan's first book You Are Here came out in 2008, followed by five novels. In her latest, The One Who Swam With The Fishes, the author delves into the Mahabharata with a retelling of the tale of Satyavati, the mother of Vyasa.
Ramona And Her Father (Beverly Cleary, HarperCollins, Rs. 463)
Ramona Quimby, Beverly Cleary's lively, questioning heroine was the first time I recognized myself on a printed page. Ramona thought the same way I did, and her problems might have been slightly different, but it was in her little nothing-happens-but-everything-happens adventures that I realized it was okay to march to the beat of her own drummer. All the Ramona books are fantastic---it's a series---but this one is the best of the lot.
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret (Judy Blume, Macmillan Children's Books, Rs. 350)
I was already familiar with Judy Blume through her Fudge series, but this book, wow, it blew our collective 12-year-old minds in class. We circulated it in school till the covers of my paperback fell off; at any given time, it was with a different one of my friends. To read a book at the age when it is aimed at you is a transcendent experience.
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott, Vintage, Rs. 199)
I was 11 when I made a trip to the US to visit Alcott's house. Since I was the youngest reader on that tour group, the guide made an exception and let me go up to "Jo's garret" where no one else was allowed. I remember standing there and looking around---a real-life author sat there, in flesh and blood. It might have been the first time I considered writing as a profession.
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte, Penguin, Rs. 250)
It was a long ride to school, and one day, I asked my seatmate if I could look at the book she was leafing through. It was an abridged version of Jane Eyre. I read it through that ride, and I pleaded until she let me take it home with me. I remember the thrill of discovering a book I found that hadn't been recommended by an adult.
Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell, Simon & Schuster, Rs. 599)
It was everything my romantic soul desired: a sprawling epic, a feisty heroine, lots of men kissing and making dramatic speeches. Often when I miss deadlines, I swoosh my hair around and declare, "After all, tomorrow is another day."
The Catcher In The Rye (J. D. Salinger, Penguin, Rs. 399)
Almost every writer will admit to reading The Catcher in the Rye and that it made them want to write, and I am happy to admit to that cliche. It had a major influence on me: Holden Caulfield with his inner monologue and the way he looks at the world, the way everything seems so immediate and yet so remote.
Bridget Jones's Diary (Helen Fielding, Picador, Rs. 350)
Way before 'chick lit' and pink covers were a thing, Bridget popped into our lives, a 30-something navigating single life very differently from Carrie Bradshaw. Where Carrie was fashionable and intimidating, Bridget wore "scary pants" to fashionable parties, talked about her weight and came up with things like "emotional f*ckwittage". I loved Bridget, because it was a version of adulthood I could buy.
English, August (Upamanyu Chatterjee, Faber and Faber, Rs. 299)
Even though it was published in 1988, I came to it much later, when Indian Writing in English was being written about with capital letters and acronyms (IWE). It contains searing descriptions of being an English-educated person stuck in a small town. The details, the nightmare-reality of it all, was so very strange and yet not-strange.
Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth, Aleph Book Company, Rs. 995)
I continue to reread this book every couple of years. I know parts of it by heart. Although I have not yet forgiven Lata for choosing the wrong boy, I do understand why she made those choices. There are some books that age with you, and A Suitable Boy will be a companion to me whether I am 18 or 80.
Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi, Random House UK, Rs. 599)
One of my first encounters with graphic novels in a memoir format. It made me think about the way we tell our stories, whether straight up or through drawing them, and what place women's stories have in the world. It got me thinking about feminism and history, and once you're on that path, there are all sorts of new avenues to explore. I haven't stopped exploring yet.