Review by Radiyah Manjoo
Allow me to indulge myself this month. Not everyone is a bouquet person, we don’t all love flowers or the concept of having them gifted to us. I, though, do. I love flowers, I love them growing freely, I love them picked, I love them gifted to me and I love gifting them.
It’s July and it’s a pretty cold winter in Johannesburg which means it is dry and not very pretty. On top of this, we’ve been going through it as a country, add an ongoing global pandemic on top of it all – so why not just do something about it? Reading is a form of escapism, and we can all do with a bit of forgetting all that is ugly for a bit and immerse ourselves in a book or a world other than ours where things are not as cold, not so grey, and not so intense.
I can’t give you a happy romantic story to lift the spirits, nor recommend any specifically romantic books that will make you feel all warm inside, but I can share with you some books that, like flowers, reflect beauty for me. Books that the thought of them makes me feel a little better and brightens my day. When I need a bit of relief, I can find it within these pages, and when things are too much, I can forget about it all by entering another place and time. I hope that these books listed here, some of which are my favourites, will bring you comfort too.
The Prophet, Khalil Gibran
This is my all-time favourite book. I’m not the type to read a book more than once but this book is the exception. Khalil Gibran gifts a collection of advice in the form of a tale and everything is beautiful about it. Each chapter is wisdom, but applicable wisdom that seems so fitting in every circumstance. It’s one of those rare books that you can pick up at any time and find something that you can relate to. A lot of the parts might be familiar as you might have heard snippets here and there but trust me, you want to read it all.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
A true classic. I couldn’t write about flowers and beauty without writing about this book. I read it as a youth (ah, youth) and it definitely holds a special place in my heart. Quite possibly, a bias exists owing to the fact that I have always loved Atticus Finch, but the book itself is so powerful – even today. Harper Lee is able to take such an ugly situation and make a wonderful story. It’s also very impactful and full of lessons. Perhaps I relate to it so much because it follows a young girl who is a bit of a loose cannon, but either way, it’s a keeper. I even have my own copy – a gift to me from my sister. Was it stolen from school? Maybe, but it’s mine now and I didn’t know it was illegal until years later.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
I once asked for book recommendations and more than any other book, this one was named. We all love this book. It’s not a happy story, let me not mislead you, but the story is so so good. Sometimes the popular guy is deep too – who would’ve thought? You will (probably) cry, it will be powerful, and you will be left with the feels after reading this. I’m going to defend my inclusion of this book in a list that is supposed to be “happy” by saying that sometimes reading about another’s dire circumstances makes us a bit more grateful and appreciative of our own.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
I can basically smell the candy just thinking about this book. To be fair, any of Roald Dahl’s books are a pick-me-up to be honest. This one sticks out specifically to me for a few reasons. In primary school, our teacher would spend the last period of the day reading to us from this book. How we looked forward to it! I distinctly remember Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the joy of getting to listen to it. One of the simple pleasures of life as a child is having someone read a book to you – not in a monotonous and uninterested way but the proper way, with excitement and animation. Shout out to Ms. Mc Williams who read to us with as much drama as the book deserved. It makes me a little sad to think how special it actually was in hindsight and that and some of us had no one else who would read to us, so she gave us more than the book itself. We also lived at the convenient time to experience the remake of the movie (the book was better) which was pretty well done too. I could go on about this book, but I will close with a reflection about whether we, as book lovers, are doing any work to foster the next generation of book larvae. Questioning myself, when last did I read to someone? Do children get to experience books being read to them anymore? Am I that old?
With these times (and all other rough times), if you need a time to indulge yourself, go ahead. Forget your list to complete for a bit and pick up one you love, relive the moments if you must, skip to the page with the line you like to read over and over again. It was Umberto Eco who said unread books are far more valuable than read ones, and I agree, because we don’t know what we could find in them – they have the most potential for us. I have loved some books, enjoyed a whole lot of those I’ve read, and I am still excited for those to be read. How wonderful that there could be another book that I could love more? How much enjoyment is there left? The human is phenomenal in that there are so many stories, it’s mind-blowing. Yes, this is all a metaphor for hope and potential. There are still stories and there are still chances, maybe it’s just a sad chapter we’re on and it’s all going to be better? If it’s hard to find joy anywhere else, let’s look in some books? Or maybe buy someone a bouquet – whichever.
I do apologize that this is so “me-centred”.
I would love to know your favourites too. I am always keen to read anything anyone recommends so go ahead!