Diary of a book lover

Published: May 25, 2012

The power books wield is grossly underestimated; it’s not just an avenue of entertainment, but a time portal. PHOTO: MYRA IQBAL/EXPRESS

I almost stole a book once, from a library in Rawalpindi. It was a beautiful copy of Dombey and Son; I’ve never seen one like it again, with paper almost silk to the touch. I had kept a track of the book for months – it was never issued, except by me. It won’t be missed, I thought, and the theft will only come to surface when the yearly audit happens. Who knows where I’d be by that time? I held the book for a long time, justifying my action and finally walked out, without the book.

It was my first and last attempt. Do I regret it? Well, I have mixed feelings, but if I speak in all honesty, I do. And please don’t start on the ‘others-will-read-it-too’ lecture because I am sure it’s still at the bottom of the shelf, dust gathering on those silken pages.

People hardly read Dickens (in this part of the world) and most of the ones who do, usually read the more popular titles. A case in point is yours truly, who read Bleak House 10 years after first reading Dickens only to realise that this was his best book.

The memory of the unsuccessful theft came a few days back when I was dusting my shelf and took out my rather boring copy of Dombey and Son. Of course, when it comes to books, looks hardly matter.

Yet over the years, I have managed to accumulate numerous copies of the same book, owing to the cover, and at times, the cover alone.

Mostly I am a sucker for first editions and sometimes, one finds these gems lying under a pile of dusty books in old book bazaars (markets). It is hard to describe the rush of joy one experiences on finding such rare treasures – open display of joyful feelings is best left for later if you desire a good (read lowest) price.

Among the many gems in my small library is a copy of The Brothers Karamazov (first edition by The John C. Winston Company, 1949) with an introduction by William Somerset Maugham. I snatched this book from the hands of another customer with the pretext of having a look, turned around and bought it; I have no shame when it comes to books. Besides, I did him a favour. *Evil laugh*

The power books wield is grossly underestimated. It’s not just an avenue of entertainment, but a time portal which, at a turn of a page, can transport you from Mount Olympus to Mr Wonka’s chocolate factory.

However, very few are willing to take the plunge from one world to another via the written word, opting instead for re-runs on television or throwing birds at strange contraptions. Although I must admit, quite sheepishly, that I too fall victim to the allure of killing green pigs.

But seriously, when was the last time you read a book? A book which made your heart race or one which had you rolling on the floor, hysterical with laughter?

When was the last time you carried a book with you everywhere? Or read that one book, which you read slowly, because you didn’t want it to finish ever? Or the book which inspired you to write or the one which made you suffer from an inferiority complex? Maybe there was one which had you stay up late, because putting it down was physically painful?

Are books a part of your life? They are truly a beautiful part of mine.

Follow Farheen on Twitter @farocleopoco

Farheen Zehra

Farheen Zehra

The author is a writer of synopsis (mostly) and a book lover. An amateur actor and photographer, she lives in Karachi with her husband, who is also an actor. She tweets @farocleopoco.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ayesha Pervez

    “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read.”

    Mark Twain

    Nice blog.Recommend

  • S. Zafar Iqbal

    Thanks for sharing your love of books with us. It is reassuring to know that one is not alone in his passion for the books.

    Such topics are wonderfully evocative of one’s own feelings for the books. I know, books make me happy. They are a source of nourishment for my soul. And I can say, books have helped me explore the world, meet the greatest minds, and even witness history in the making, without leaving my study.

    To quote Thomas V. Bartholin, the renowned Dutch mathematician and physician :
    ” Without books, God is silent, justice dormant, natural science at a stand,
    philosophy lame, letters dumb, and all things involved in darkness.”

    No wonder the first word, or message, or commandment that God revealed to our Prophet(pbuh) was “Iqra”. Recommend

  • http://www.wowelldone.blogspot.com Hakuna Matata

    The last book I carried along with me everywhere was God Of Small Things By A. Roy.Recommend

  • Sane

    A good article. Leaving a handful, the younger generation and even the middle aged people have no reading habits. I am not mentioning subject related or course books. One of the cause of degeneration of society is not reading books. Book reading gives insight and inculcate vision, through which you look at your own and around. One of the cause of intolerance and corruption is that we do not read books. Books are assets, a life long assets. Many must have witnessed that once a book lover is passed away, his/her heirs sell books as trash. These books are then found on footpaths for sale at throwaway price.Recommend

  • nida mirza

    such a beautiful article.it made me remembr my own feelings when reading a buk.in th beginning, i m readng at th speed of three page per minute.but towards th end, i m going so slowly,sometimes putting it down, simply to stretch th time frame of reading it! as i dont want it to finish! this line too is worth repeating.
    ‘It is reassuring to know that one is not alone in his passion for the books’. cuz i m the only person i know who enjoys classics more than modern bestsellers!Recommend

  • sadia

    When was the last time you carried a book with you everywhere? Or read that one book, which you read slowly, because you didn’t want it to finish ever? Or the book which inspired you to write or the one which made you suffer from an inferiority complex? Maybe there was one which had you stay up late, because putting it down was physically painful?
    totally agree with thisRecommend

  • Zoha

    Beautifully written. I confess to have stolen dusty books from shelves in a library at my university, never having felt guilty. The God of Small Things, Kartography and Shantaram are a few books I took my time finishing and it was almost sad when they ended. I’d recommended these to any contemporary South Asian literature fans!Recommend

  • megamind

    one that made my heart race was Crime and Punishment.Recommend

  • sunflower

    very beautiful indeed, u took up some points which i always do ;ppp but yes reading a book is altogether takes u a different world besides readind need patience in the beggining u wont find dat interesting but it slowly grows on you,,,,Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Excellent article – although I have never felt this strongly about a particular book, the longing described is a familiar one from those many trips to book stores in my formative years. As a child, I would choose from a set of library books by the same author based on the number of pages – the longer the better! In 1998, Random House came out with 2 lists of the top 100 novels of the 20th century – I still haven’t read all of them, but they continue to be a major reference point when deciding on high-quality reading. One of the oldest and most respected institutions in Bombay (for people of our ilk) are the used book sellers at Flora Fountain. While you find books (used or worse, pirated) being sold on the roads in most cities, what sets these gentlemen apart is their level of knowledge of various books and authors both from readers’ feedback as well as a commercial value standpoint (my Bengali friends would say that College Street is the same or better, but it isn’t for classic fiction, I’ve tried). Many of the initial books in my collection were purchased from these old friends – I still have my first copy of To Kill a Mockingbird that I bought from there in 1996 for INR 20. Even now, if I’m in Bombay for a day, I somehow try and fit a trip to Fountain into my itinerary.:)Recommend

  • Sinclair

    Very nice article. But “Bleak House” being the best by Dickens? I think I have read all his books, but surprisingly it is “A Christmas Carol” which comes out to be the best. It is short, yet takes you through a range of emotions before ending in gratefulness. All of his books follow this, but Bleak House is particularly dark owing to his unmasked disdain for British Lawyers (considering that he was one to begin with) and Judiciary. My next favorite is “Great Expectations”.Recommend

  • vush

    @the author no body would ever read this article if they arent a book lover. i . and books will always remain a part of my life, i like being lost in another world and maybe i haven’t read as many classics as you. but the beauty of wuthering heights and little women will remain in my heart forever. one gets completely lost without books and honestly, i hate that books are now being replaced by online reading. there is a peculiar smell of old books isnt there?> and a certain childlike joy when one finds a book at a cheap rate! rummaging through old stacks in some pile and finding a piece which is rare will always be amazing.
    truth be told im so much so as a fanatic that i dont let anyone borrow my books im sorry is i come across as shallow but i have lost too many of my babies ruined and molested with mango stains, pen marks and highlights. it infuriates me and my best friend is given a book under so many instructions. she returned that book with a strained neck and that was the last time she borrowed it. how can one not love books? words are mighty and a collection of them when forms a story is magical itself. i always carry a book with me and nobody ever gets to touch my library for which i get many glares but im sorry i don’t care! ”
    “There are no books, lumps of lifeless paper,,,but MINDS on shelves”Recommend

  • Sumaiya

    HUNGER GAMES! <3 ;) read it whole in one single go!Recommend

  • dante

    I never read any books. To me, books are an added burden to carry. Instead I do all the reading online, mostly technology and business world related. Besides with Sony readers and kindles, there’s no more a need to carry anything when you can just purchase and download an electronic edition. E-Ink technology looks almost like printed paper. With colour e-ink, now you can even enjoy reading full colour magazines such as time.Recommend

  • http://usamarehman.blogspot.com/ Mohammad Usama

    I crave for them, they have indeed almost everytime made me learn, experience, laugh, cry and the best part CHANGE myself!
    I dont stop reading them, btw, Dickens is my favourite!

    However i feel sorry for my nation, the students of my country!!
    just the mentioning of ‘reading’ or ‘books’ makes the generation of Today sick and dull!!
    and then you expect to make your country as the best of all??
    how would that be possible!! ?Recommend

  • Cynical

    @Ayesha Pervez

    Knew this quote from Mark Twain.Thanks for reminding.It’s worth in gold.Recommend

  • politically incorrect

    Books can be your best friend if you are inclined.Recommend

  • Ayesha Pervez

    @Cynical… Your welcome! :)Recommend

  • Kumail

    well written! It’s a thousand time better to read a book instead of wasting time watching political talk shows.Recommend