Fact – Stranger than Fiction?

The readers of this blog must be no stranger to the fact that I love books. There is something inherently soothing in the sight of a book; the enchanting scent of it’s pages drawing you towards it and its words promising to enlighten, exhilarate and comfort you. A book doesn’t ask questions, it does not judge. All it does is take you on a journey, lending you the wonderful chance to live vicariously and above all, letting you amass a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. I always tell my friends that a book is the best substitute of a time machine and an excellent cure of boredom.

Ever since I started working, I have made it a monthly ritual to buy books as soon as my salary is credited. My sister and my friends have come to terms with the fact that every shopping trip of ours has to feature a trip to the bookstore. As a result, my house now looks like every bookworm’s dream and every mother’s nightmare. My bookshelf, having being crammed long ago refuses to induct any new book. Creaking repeatedly, it has made its message clear that my books can go someplace else. Hence one can find my books strewn across all the rooms, settling wherever they can, cheerfully making themselves at home and incurring the wrath of my family. However, the flip side of owning too many books is that it takes ages for me to make up my mind about what I should read. All the unread books clamour for my attention and I try not to make eye contact while deciding. I ask myself what I am in a mood for, in order to assuage my dilemma. Each time I ask this question, I come up with a different answer.

“Fiction or no fiction”, every self respecting reader has had to face this pressing question. Answering this does not seem as easy as it seems. One gives the reader a chance to forego reality and the other looks to reinforce it. I have tried but have never been able to come up with a consistent answer to this question. For, there are times when we are worn out by the world around us and immersing ourselves in someone else’s world seems to be a plausible escape. And at times, we realise that truth is in fact stranger than fiction and we do need a dose of it.

I am a great lover of fiction but have learnt far more from reading non fiction. When I was younger, I used to scoff at works of non fiction and I thought there was no fun in it. However, as I grew up, I understood that I was missing out on a treasure of knowledge. I take great pleasure in reading biographies. As a student, I loved reading biographies of business and political leaders. Lately, I have taken to reading biographies of my favorite authors (Dicken and Hemmingway are the ones I have finished) and have been staggered by the way their mind worked. Another favorite reads of mine are the works which trace the history of cities and explain how their culture came into being. I got interested in such works after I read the incredibly insightful Maximum City, by Suketu Mehta. Travelogues are another obvious favorites of mine and I particularly love the works of Paul Theroux. What really impresses me is the amount of research driving such books. I have great respect for such authors who strive hard in ensuring that the truth is presented as accurately as possible. However, few make non fiction as mesmerizing as Bill Bryson does. His body of work is awe inspiring and I admire the way he traces the evolution of mundane things with humour and insight. Brimming with trivias and anecdotes, he is by far the most engaging writer of non fiction I have had the pleasure to read.

I like to strike a balance between fiction and non fiction. However, there are times when works of non fiction really surprise me. It is enlightening to delve deeper into the world we live in and the one we have evolved from. Not to mention the trove of trivias that makes one chuckle at humanity’s quirks and be wowed by it’s ingenuity.

Written in response to Daily Post – The Great Divide

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