I still remember my first visit to a library. I was 8 years old and my elder brother wanted to introduce me to the world of books. The Public Library in Trivandrum was set amidst a vast expanse of greenery. The building, though dilapidated, had the serene touch of Parisian architecture. My brother, who was a voracious reader (still is), then took me for a tour through the intricate maze of books. I got dizzy watching books piled upon books. Thousands of them, in all contours and shapes, stared at me from their hard/ paper binds. That day my brother picked one book for me. It was a hard bound edition of an Enid Blyton story. Though I had to resort to a dictionary to make out most of the words, I still enjoyed every bit of it. Matter of fact, I was hooked! My close association with books started from that day onwards.

Books were an integral part of my growing up phase. From Hardy Boys, Sherlock Holmes and Biggles in School to Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon and Alistar Mclain in college ,it was fun discussing the books with friends, trying our best to thrust our skewed interpretations of the stories on them. I was really fortunate to have a close coterie of book enthusiasts through out my life. Each book that we read was discussed at length, bringing forth the pros and cons of the characters involved. Sometimes the discussions would even turn into fiery arguments which will be settled amicably as our love for books obviates all other disharmonies.

There are a few books which has greatly influenced me. To name a few, "Roots" by Alex Haley which was my bible and inspiration for quite sometime as it dealt with a man's relentless struggle for survival in an unfriendly environment, "To Kill a Mocking Bird" by Harper Lee a masterpiece on the throes of growing up, beautifully depicted through the eyes of a little girl, "The Passions of the Mind" by Irving Stone, which offers a peep into the life history and the fascinating mind of Sigmund Freud , "The God of Small Things" by Arundathi Roy , for its sheer exuberance of similes and exemplary writing style and "Tuesday's with Morrie" by Mitch Albom , a touching tale of a dying old man , trying to pass on his repertoire of knowledge and life skills to his one time student, who is grappling with success. There are many others which I have not mentioned here, but have left a profound impact on my thinking prowess. It is a wonderful feeling to get lost in the intricate labyrinth of a book and glide along the course it takes you, often to a beautiful surrealistic world. The joy of reading is something to be experienced.

Reading makes you more aware of the things that we see around us. It enhances our intellectual prowess. When you read, you tend to mull over the words and the sentences, unlike watching a movie where one image follows the other and there is no scope for letting lose our imaginative skills. Books are also sources of vital information. Be it a novel or a magazine, there is always something to take away from them.

I still remember, when I was reading "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown, I downloaded the painting "The Last Supper" and "Monalisa" by Leonardo Da Vinci from the internet to learn more about the meaning of symbols and signs. The book created a furor world over because of its clandestine depictions and deviations from history. Nevertheless It helped me to know more about the works of a genius like Da Vinci.

Our association with a book does not end with a single read. You tend to read it again and again. The best part is that the more you re-read a book, the more different perspective it throws open. That is why books are always considered to be wonderful assets, which you can cherish for a life time.

The joy of reading is something that we need to pass it on to our younger generation. It is a pity to see that the kids nowadays are hooked to video games and television. They are enamored by the obnoxious cartoon series and violent video games which blur their rational thinking and make them belligerent and abusive. The fairy tales and the grandma stories of yester years, which played a vital role in spurring the imagination and shaping the character of our tiny tots, have been replaced by "Power Rangers" and "Ben 10" of today. There is degradation in the values and ethics and these young minds live in a distorted world full of deceit and malice. The morals that we need to uphold in life is imbibed at a very tender age, and it comes mostly through reading. We need to help our younger generation to fall in love with printed letters. Once they get a taste of it, the magic unfurls itself.

There are many who really want to read but are worried about getting started. A Library is a good place to start. That will help us to get acquainted with the best selling books and the latest authors. For book enthusiasts there are a plethora of competent authors out there who will keep you glued to your seat with their inimitable writing. For surrealism and mystery you may read books written by "Haruki Murakami" and "David Mitchell" ,who are the best in that genre. For spy thrillers / action, you have "John Le Carre", "Robert Ludlum" and "David Baldacci". For drama, you have "Jeffrey Archer", "Orhan Pamuk" and "Gabriel Garcia Marquez". For legal enthusiasts, you have "John Grisham" and for romantics you have "Robert James Waller" and "Tony Morison". Depending on your taste, you just need to pick one and read. Reading invigorates and broadens our knowledge horizon. Though each book that we read may seem like a tiny speck in the sky of knowledge, the more we read the more colors we can add to our lives.

The joy of reading .......Just imagine being ensconced in a chair with a book to read, sipping a cup of hot coffee. The fragrance of the new book and the aroma of the freshly brewed coffee make you forget everything else around you. You will be then transported to a whole new world, a world created by the author where the characters come alive and talk to you.

That is when you truly experience the joy of reading .....

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