Tale of Self-improvement: Books

If there were ever any doubts, dear reader, I am, in fact, a book fiend. I read something all the time and times in my life where I haven’t been reading something were some of the darkest moments. My rule of life is simple: if I’m reading, I’m ok.

Books enrich me in the same way one adds spices to their food or colour to their paintings. They excite and teach, inspire and transport me to different places I, no matter how savvy a traveler I am, would never visit. A bit like with games, by reading books you choose to live many lives instead of just one and I can’t imagine living in any other way.

Dear reader, I will hence share a few books here that have made the biggest impact on me, changed the way I look at writing and generally inspired me to strive for more, not just in honing my own writing skills, but in life in general, inspired me to seek beauty and accept the new and different, instilled curiosity in me that burns to his day. And while this is not in any chronological or otherwise logical order, it’s rather in the order of my memories of these books and how much impacted they have made.

Without further ado, here we go:

Something strange was happening to my sense of time. I decided not to look at my watch for a while. Maybe I didn’t have anything else to do, but it wasn’t healthy looking at a watch this often. I had to make tremendous effort to keep myself from looking, though. The pain was like what I had felt when I quit smoking. From the moment I decided to give up thinking about time, my mind could think of nothing else.

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

This particular, surreal book changed something in me. It was the first book I read that was like a hallucinogenic drug: tripy, alien, yet familiar, somewhere so deep in the uncanny valley that I still shudder thinking about certain scenes. Yet, I couldn’t get enough of the author after it, but no other book took me to such different, dark corners of my mind like this one. From time to time, when choosing what to read next, I’m still looking for something that could bring those feelings back and I subconsciously compare every other work I read with this one.

Feeling extremely foolish, the acting representative of Homo sapiens watched his First Contact stride away across the Raman plain, totally indifferent to his presence. 

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

This was my first sci-fi book (7 book series to be precise) and I don’t think I could have read something better to enter this genre. The ever-lasting questions of are we alone and human reactions in the presence of an alien species, colonisation mindset – all themes repeated over and over in every sci-fi ever have been instilled in me at a young age by A. C. Clarke’s work. Also, if I remember correctly, this might have been the first book to make me sob while reading it: so attached to the characters I was after so many books, I still remember typewriter font in yellow pages through a veil of tears as I read the last chapter.

Their destination was Sietch Tabr – Stilgar’s sietch. She turned over the word in her head: sietch. It was a Chakobsa word, unchanged from the old hunting language of countless centuries. Sietch: a meeting place in a time of danger. 

Dune by Frank Herbert

If Arthur C. Clarke has introduced me to sci-fi, then Fran Herbert has cemented the genre in my mind. Not to mention the fact that his books read like work of art – something to different, so unimaginably long into the future that very few things seem familiar: some words, some buildings, some human interactions. But that is all, familiarity peppered throughout this strange, new world of Arrakis throughout the centuries that changed the meaning of survival not just for its inhabitants, but for the human race. The understanding of cosmic distances of time and space expanded with reading this series of books in a way that I have nought to do but demand for MORE from sci-fi since then.

The Grand Mother [Constancia] did not even bother to ask the six preordained questions about the age, position, illnesses, pedigree, belief, abilities and religiosity of the potential novice, but started straight with the seventh – how can this young lady enrich this, God be gracious, ruined monastery that calls for thirty thousand gold coins yearly just to cover its expensa ordinaris, not to mention the needs and wants of the ladies, also there are only forty designated places for the vowed nuns, our roof is holey, and sisters are under a lot of hardship after the war and, really, conscience doesn’t allow to accept a lady this young without some guarantee that this poor child will not go cold and hungry later, so please, noble Norwysza, if you would be so kind, let us start with the question of potential dowry. 

Silva Rerum by Kristina Sabaliauskaitė

I’ve never read anything like this before and doubt I will ever read anything like it again. Written by a historian and accurately depicting 17th and 18th century Eastern and Central Europe, following a Lithuanian noble family throughout the ages without a single line of dialogue – a masterpiece in creativity and style while staying true to the sensibilities of the times, not afraid to show the harsh reality of the past in this PC world of ours. There are 4 books of Silva Rerum out in the world and I know of one that has been translated to English – I sincerely hope it will be noticed by larger audiences, because if there are just 4, it’s like having 4 grand pieces of art that only a few get to enjoy. This book again changed something in me, showed yet another way of telling the story that flows and ebbs like a river without stopping, just spilling over you in its warm yet unpredictable pattern. It’s the silk of literature that I, and this is true, dear reader, intentionally prolonged and read slowly so it wouldn’t end so quickly.

And there you have it. Obviously, in so many years on this planet, there have been many books that influenced and formed me as a person and to each and single one of them, no matter how humble (looking at you, Twilight, the biggest waste of time and paper ever created) or grand they were, they left something after themselves for which I am thankful. I hope the day will come when I will join the ranks of those that share their stories and humbly make my way to the shelves of other readers. May the written word never die.


Featured image: Letter writing by Carl Larsson, 1912. Currently exhibited in Nationalmusem in Sweden.

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