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Ten Iconic Books that Will Change You

In this article we share why reading is absolutely essential, as well as the books that we think are essential reading.
BY Skendha Singh |   01-04-2015

Reading is a hot subject for studies and surveys, none of which report the same findings. Some express alarm over children’s reading habits. Others claim that young people are reading more than the previous generations. Then there are arguments about the quality of what people read. And where.

But there is one aspect of reading that all agree upon - that it’s so good for you! Whether you’re in school or have kids that are, reading is as necessary to your well-being as your daily vitamin supplements! As useful as a map. And as enlightening as backpacking across an entire continent.

In more practical terms, while one of the commonest reasons for reading has always been the creation of a better language model; larger vocabulary, accurate word use, grammatical sentences, skilled communication; there are several other benefits as well.

Reading helps you release stress. In just six minutes too. Cheaper and quicker than that pedicure or pint, no? It can help protect you from Alzheimer’s, unlike watching the telly, which is actually a risk factor. Seriously. Reading before bedtime means a better snooze. Spending time understanding fictional characters also improves your social intelligence.

Also, guess what really gives you an edge at university? Yep, reading. Dr. Shailaja Fennell, Lecturer at Cambridge University, says: “Read. Reading is the most important thing. At least one or two books in the summer holidays . . . "

So we’ve given you great reasons for why you should be reading. Here’s our answer to what –

  1. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen):

    Duh. The book that BBC, Gurinder Chadha, Joe Wright and several others have successfully adapted is a literary gift that keeps on giving. Austen’s ultimate comedy of manners is a classic that no book list or lover can afford to miss!

    BrainGain says: Unfortunately, there is no known antidote to the charms of its hero, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Or to that of its heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, whom Sir Walter Scott considered one of the most desirable literary characters ever!

  2. The Waste Land (T.S. Eliot):

    From Austen’s “two inches of ivory, finely carved”, we move to Modernist maestro T.S. Eliot’s poem. Eliot bought his immense scholarship, his fine ear for music, as well as his macabre sensibility to express his perception of the fragmented modern world.

    BrainGain says: Hard reading? Possibly yes! But we can guarantee that your brain will never be the same again!

  3. Siddhartha (Herman Hesse):

    A novella that beautifully narrates the life and learning of a young Brahmin boy, Siddhartha, who sets out to find his own truth. He becomes a monk, a lover, a merchant, a boatman and finally himself. Herman Hesse, the author, involves the reader in every step of the journey. One of those books you can read time and time again.

    BrainGain says: Who hasn’t felt a sense of destiny, distant and undefined, driving them on? This is what makes Siddhartha’s journey resonate so deeply. A classic, yes, and not just for the hippies either!

  4. The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank):

    Published posthumously by Anne’s father, the Diary, written originally in Dutch has been translated into sixty languages! Apart from the biographical interest, it is the book’s literary quality, which makes it popular nearly seventy years after her death in a Nazi concentration camp.

    BrainGain says: Cattiness and closeness among sisters, stupid neighbours, and adolescent crushes. Underneath all this a resolve to “have something besides a husband and children to devote [one]self to . . .” Anne takes no time to become a very dear friend .

  5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe):

    Okonkwo, the protagonist, is a man out to prove himself as a warrior and leader who deplores the sight of any weakness. This strains his relationships with the outside world, especially his deceased father and young son. His extreme measures ultimately bring about his downfall. Achebe’s delicious use of dialect, whether in unstranslatable words, proverbs, songs etc, bring the Igbo ethnic culture to life on the page.

    BrainGain says: Achebe felt it was a writer’s job to give headaches. We wish a disprin could take care of the pain at the end of this book.

  6. And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie):

    A mystery novel that is widely claimed to be in the top ten best-selling books of all time, and a masterpiece from the Queen of Crime! Even if you don’t read mystery novels, this book is the essential page turner.

    BrainGain says: Unputdownable? Hell yes! Move over Dan Brown and company.

  7. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee):

    A nine year old girl, who is also one of the best loved voices in Western literature, tells us about events unfolding in her Southern American hometown. Her father, Atticus Finch, a lawyer has taken up a court case with polarized opposites – black vs white, man vs woman. But right and wrong bleed into each other. In the light of recent cases of racial intolerance in America, the book is all the more relevant. At the same time, it is immensely lovable!

    BrainGain says:  The sequel, “Go Set a Watchman” is coming out soon. Ordinary fans have had to wait for decades. Lucky you.

  8. A House for Mr. Biswas (V.S. Naipaul):

    Do not be daunted by the words like “postcolonial” or by the sheer size of the tome. [Or by what you might have learnt of the author’s personality!] Quirky, exasperating, and sad, the protagonist, Mr. Biswas, can in no way be called a hero! Naipaul details the Indian immigrant life in Trinidad and Tobago, with sensitivity and wit.

    BrainGain says: The novel, according to the hard to please Sir Naipaul, is one his funniest bits of writing and a personal favourite. Enough said!

  9. Don Quixote (Cervantes):

    What comes from reading too many romance novels? This!

    Cervantes’ comic story is about an old man who, inspired from chivalric traditions, sets out on his own quest. A milkmaid with a pimpled face is his fair lady, a donkey his steed, and a simple farmer named Sancho Panza becomes his squire. He imagines inns to be castles and windmills to be giants. This book has tickled readers pink for five hundred years!

    BrainGain says: A book that makes fun of book-reading is one of the best books to read. Ever!

  10. Othello (Shakespeare):

    Flawed protagonist, did you say? See, we’re several points smarter by the end of the list. Love and jealousy are like twin sisters. If you’ve met one, you’ve met the other. Regular stuff. But with Shakespeare, it gets homicidal and becomes one of the finest tragedies ever written.

    BrainGain says: You didn’t really think we’d leave Shakespeare off the list, did you?

So here we have a list of books which will fire new synapses in your brain. We do hope that at least some of them will become your favourites too! Happy reading!



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