Feeling Bookish: Literature for the Troubled Soul

Written By

Ushasi Sen Basu

Feeling Bookish: Literature for the Troubled Soul Loading

I like to read.

“What kind?” people are fond of asking, rather pointlessly I think, since nobody ever buys me any books. Everyone I know seems to think I’m in dire need of coffee mugs.

I myself am a profligate buyer of books online. It’s a flawed process at best, since I must be sure to know the names of the books I want, and google them to see if they’re worth buying before sealing the deal. I feel a pang of nostalgia every time for the good, old-fashioned system of browsing through the collection in a store (a physical one with shelves and books you can touch) and asking the in-house expert (there always used to be one hanging around in the old days) for recommendations.

I’ll tell you why the online method is flawed. For some time now, I’ve been craving some light reading to soothe my frazzled nerves. On discussing this with a cousin, she told me of some delightful stories set in Scotland; all about the quiet, gentle ways of villagers and the quaint romances among their fresh, apple-cheeked young people. No fuss, no melodrama; just tranquility and descriptions of food and drink. Though I hear their haggis is vile, I was prepared to overlook that.

 I could almost smell the salty sea air; and the lilt of the Scottish accent in her lyrical description. I wasted no time to whip open my laptop and log onto Flipkart, before asking her what the name of this wonderful book was; that I already felt would be like a balm to my troubled soul.

“I don’t remember”, she replied callously.

Try as I might to jog her memory through her three-day-long stay; my cousin remained obdurate. She just could not remember the name of either book or author.

Since then, I have been possessed by a burning need for this book. (“It could even be a series”, she’d carelessly added — fat lot of good that she was.)

Ergo, I’ve been trying all sorts of keyword combinations in Google — “Scotland, Scottish, historical romance, haggis, balm for troubled soul + Scottish”, etc.

The results have all been rather startling; and not remotely what I had in mind. They all seemed to be Scottish and sometimes historical variants of “The 50 Shades of Grey”. I was unaware that so many 14th Century Scottish lords had a penchant for electrically charged clamps and handcuffs. Though one must admire the practicality of these Scots in having multi-purpose dungeons. (“Since our last political prisoner died yesterday, dearie, the dungeon is free again should you wish for a wee spot of electrocution while being beaten around the head with a sheep, my fair lass”… Sir Abercromby of the McQuarrie clan growled invitingly.

His girlfriend kneed him sharply in the groin in response. “Och, my laird,” breathed his bonny lady rapturously to the form curled up at her feet, “was that as good for you as it was for me?”)

I’m thus stuck with re-reading the old, soothing books I own (James Herriot’s account of his veterinary practice in the Yorkshire dales calms me right down) and reading the wonderfully witty one-liners on my collection of coffee mugs.

I write this as an open appeal to anyone who can supply leads on my search.

You will have my eternal gratitude. (And a collection of barely used coffee mugs.)

***

These are some of the many books which have given my overheated brain the pleasant sensation of being steeped in deliciously cool water. Of course, there is unhappiness and strife even in these, but the lasting impression is one of consolation. The online process isn’t flawed if you know exactly what you want, and trust me you want to read these if your soul needs soothing.

  • The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell: Lyrical descriptions of his childhood in Corfu; populated by hilariously eccentric people and animals.
  • Anything by James Herriot: Rolling green Yorkshire dales, and amiable descriptions of the people and animals he encounters.
  • The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin: Not a compilation at all but a beautifully simple story about a bookstore owner.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A touching novel on human friendship in times of adversity.
  • Anything by Ruskin Bond: Beautiful, soothing prose set usually in the cool climes of our hill stations.
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce: A middle-aged man begins to walk and cannot stop; reflecting on his life as he goes.
  • Anything by Jane Austen: Needs no explanation!
  • Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson: A fun, well-written look at life in America.
  • Chocolat by Joanne Harris: About magic, chocolate and people changing for the better. What’s not to love?
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: Because I enjoy the idea of someone travelling the world, eating loads and meeting people they’d never have met otherwise. And understanding the human experience better in the process.

 

To read the previous installment on books for toddlers in this series, click here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ushasi Sen Basu, 37, lives in Bangalore and is the erstwhile Editor-in-Chief of SiyaWoman.com. She published her debut contemporary literary fiction novel, 'Kathputli’ in early 2017, in both Kindle and paperback formats. Ushasi has been a professional writer and editor for over a decade. She also has an unpopular blog called The Crib that pokes fun at everything, including herself. Ushasi (aka Shashi, "U" and 'You-Over-There') loves literature and music, and dances like nobody’s watching. She is the mother of a five-year-old girl, who is the joy of her life and grudging guinea pig for many of her parenting experiments.

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