There is an essay in ‘The Groaning Shelf’ about reading in bed. And I so very much identify with it. Most of my childhood summer vacations were spent with a book clutched in my hand, right or left, depending on how comfortable i was, lying sideways , with some chips at hand. It being quite unnecessary back then to keep track of time, the afternoon sun travelled to the other side pretty quickly. But that was my favourite way of reading. Morning, evening or night , reading in bed just seems the right way to read!
The author Pradeep Sebastian ,literary critic and columnist in The Hindu, reflects about his life as a bibliophile. ‘The Groaning Shelf’ is a veritable library of readers’ habits and quirks, a wonderful addition to the ‘Bibliophilia’ genre. The essays are divided into themes such as browsing for books. My favourite section is the essays grouped under ‘Ruined by Reading’. The book also includes Sebastian’s favourite writers and their influences , and his favourite bookstores, imagined and real ! Did you know there is a bookstore dedicated to keeping just the genre of ‘books on books’? And Sebastian’s description of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris is refreshing. Not intimate, but through other books – the way a bibliophile actually travels.
With the summer heat sapping us, we find ourselves eagerly slipping into nostalgia mode. A remembers it as the time when she would re-jacket all the books at home with old calendars and rearrange them. In Walter Benjamin’s words, it is the time for ‘Unpacking my Library.’ Reading Sebastian makes you want to go back home, dust your bookshelves and indulge yourself in re-reading some favourite paragraphs . Touching an oft-read book makes it worth it, even for someone who abhors the cleaning bit. (read: me)
‘The Groaning Shelf’ is our reference-only book, so the next time you visit us take some time out and read it. You will fall in love with this genre of books , like i did.
P.S. Forget Book of the Week, A calls it one of the Books of a Lifetime!!
If you have already read ‘The Groaning Shelf’, you will also like ‘Would You like some bread with that book?’
Author Veena Venugopal chronicles her love for books in these essays and keeps us entertained. Do read ‘My three rules for reading in a Bombay Train’. This is a weekend read , getting to know another reader with each essay.