Book Memories

I love reading. I can’t imagine a world without books. (Horrors!)
At any given point of time, I have about four books waiting to be read on my bedside table – My online library (yes! they door deliver), my office library, my dear friend and inexhaustible book source Ayesha…

Occasionally the luxury of surfing and getting the books I want at the click of a button – And sometimes I go on a book binge – To Crosswords if it is with my husband… or to Blossoms if I am on my own…

The result of the buying (vs. borrowing) is a (several paces faster than) slow and definitely steady build up of books that now line most walls and shelves of our study.

I can trace my first books back to the time I was 4 years old and living in Mysore with my grandparents… There was one bookshop in town – Going into town was a big deal those days – the planning, the dressing up for the ‘town visit’, the list of canned stuff and other goodies to be bought from the big store in town, and the anticipation of the book store stop… I don’t remember the name of the shop, but I do remember it was just next to the big ‘Bata’ shoe shop – I still have all the books I was bought – And now read them to my son.

Little Mistress Magpie - Book cover

Little Mistress Magpie - An inside page

Although the same authors and characters are available at stores today, the reprints are just not the same. Besides the illustrative style and the paper and print quality, there is something invaluable and beautiful about the old books – the discolored paper, the smell, the name, date and other details neatly written on the first page, the memories that go with each book…

Doctor Powderpill - Book cover

When I was a child, I also got a lot of books that were my mom’s when she was young – I eagerly scratched my name below her’s on the first page – to make the book mine. I did not really feel a sense of pride at that young age – to be getting a book that my mom once owned and enjoyed as a girl – but now I definitely do – especially when I give the same book to my son and write his name third on the list – below my mom’s and mine.
These books are even more special, as I never see them any more in the stores – Some of the same ‘type’ of book may surface occasionally in Blossoms – but for the most part, these books are not accessible any more to this generation of children.

Another beautiful book memory I have is receiving two beautifully illustrated hard bound books from an aunt – The compiled works of Hans Christian Anderson and The Grimm’s Brothers. The water color illustrations in these books brought the stories alive for me – I cried when I was read ‘The Little Mermaid’… Laughed at the silly pictures in the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’… Was enchanted and drawn into the saga of the ‘Snow Queen’

Kids growing up in Bangalore and Mysore of the early 80’s also had access to beautiful Russian and other ‘iron curtain country’ books… Today, some of my son’s favorite stories are from these books. Although he is too small to read and many of these books have no pictures and a lot of text, they have captivated him.

The love for reading is one of the most precious gifts a parent can give to a child. If it hadn’t been for my early and easy access to these wonderful books, I may not have really got pulled into and discovered the wonderful and alternate reality of the written word…

Here are some books that I loved as a child, and am now reading to my son:

  • Doctor Powderpill – Published in 1978.. A beautifully illustrated story written poetically.. (‘In the scorching Kalahari, Up on Mount Fernando-Po, Where the grumpy Hippo-Po, Roams the mighty Limpopo…
  • Hans Christian Anderson (Fairy Tales)
  • Grimms Brothers (Fairy Tales)
  • Happy Days – A collection of short stories awritten around the main character – A little Russian boy Vanya. 
  • Jolly Family – The title page says ‘Soviet literature for young people’ – and the book contains several captivating stories like ‘Kolya Sinitsin’s Diary’, ‘Mishka’s Porridge’ and ‘The Pistol’ (My three year old’s current favorite)
  • Little Mistress Magpie – A beautiful pop -up book about a magpie family who ‘earn’ their share of mistress magpie’s porridge…
  • Floppy – Another poetic book about a naughty pup… (‘All are out so do not knock. On the door there hangs a lock. With the family away, Floppy’s all alone today.’)

These books or books like these may be available at second hand book stores like Blossom or the small book store outside the Airlines hotel… Kids Kouch in Indiranagar sometimes has book sales of second hand books – I think you can subscribe to their e-mail news letter.
I am always on the look out for beautiful old kids books – So it would be lovely if you add your personal favorite sources to this post…


8 responses to “Book Memories

  1. What a beautiful post…for anyone who loves books. Made me feel so nostalgic about my own childhood. My bro and me were/are avid readers too and I remember we were convinced at the ages of 10 and 8 respectively, that we wanted to grow up and own a book lending library. It is still a fave daydream.
    And I abso love the sound of Doctor Powderpill. So if you ever see a copy, grab it for me!

    • hey Gnu – Yes will do! I’ve never seen it available anywhere though… Doctor Powderpill is so much fun to read out loud… ‘A’ anticipates the ‘Limpopo’ and yells it out thrice each time I come to the part where the Limpopo goes…!

  2. As an aunt – it fills my heart with joy to see my lil 4-yr old nephew’s love for stories and books. His current fav storybook – The Ugly Duckling – just 3 months old – is in tatters …testimony to the attention it receives from him. As a mom-to-be I just can’t wait to share my love for books with my baby!
    You’ll find some good titles (& free shipping) from and – only these are not used books.

  3. I totally agree that the new reprints lack that magic but right now, i’m ok with anything as long as my son decides to read. I’ve been trying to make him read, or reading to him since he was 1.5 years old but he was never that interested. He picks up a book now, but not like how we used to do when we were small. So, with the younger fellow, i’ve just let it be..if he wants to read, let him..:-) Nice post btw!

    @ Anu – My bro and I also had the same dream of opening a lending library on the first floor of our house. We even had rubber stamps made! :D

  4. Hey. Nice post. I don’t remember being much of a reader myself as a kid. But i read at least 5 books a day now, all for my son. I remember the Enid Blyton stories and thats what my 7 year old niece has started to read now. I don’t miss the Scholastic book shows. They have a good collection of books for all ages and various kinds, be it just stories, science or art and craft. And then there’s books by Dr Seuss, available at flipkart. I guess the list goes on and on with so many options available now.

  5. So many memories… Books are my best friends too. I too remember reading and re-reading my favorites. And that’s something I still do. If I like a book, I keep going back to it. Every few days, I pick up an old book to check some fact or just to see exactly how the dialog flows :)

    And I am so glad Sid has taken to reading so well. I think it’s going to stay with him :)

    Lovely post. Not just for the ‘book’ memories, but so many others intertwined. The ‘going to town’ episode was so good to read. Could almost taste your nostalgia!

    Keep writing!

  6. Loved the post d. did u enjoy billy bunter and william? my favorite books as a young reader

  7. you know.. I never read Billy Bunter… Do you have any I can read?

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