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At Rediff Books, we are passionate about reading. Each of us have our personal favourites, be it for a laid back read, to enrich our mind, to pass away the time, for nostalgic reason, because it has influenced us - the reasons are endless. We thought we would ask some book lovers to share their top books with us. Soon, we will be asking you to share your list too, so keep it ready! Till then, sit back and enjoy what others are reading.

Dilip D'Souza
Picking ten favourite books reminds me, for no clear reason, of one of my favourite cartoons. It has a young boy squatting in front of a large fishtank in a pet shop. The tank is filled with identical-looking fish. The boy points and says to the stricken-looking attendant, standing there with a forlorn-looking little net: "I want THAT one!" My eyes browse my shelves and I see book after book that I have liked, that I would like to read again, that meant a lot to me. I did settle on ten, but I can think of several others that might have been here too. Anyway. Here are the ten, in the order in which I think I read them.

From Dilip D'Souza's Book Case


To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
What do you say about Mockingbird. A story approachable enough to delight a child (my son still looks at holes in trees and says "Boo Radley!"), yet very adult in its power and reach. A simple tale that has the uncanny ability to grab your soul itself. You want to know about growing up, about justice, about the inscrutable ways of the world? Read Mockingbird, and read it every few years.   

Cuba and the Night - Pico Iyer
Iyer is my favourite travel writer: an observant, thoughtful man with an eye for the absurdities of travel. But this is a novel, and I read it just after I returned from Cuba. It spoke eloquently to me of the sad beauty I had experienced there. Cuba is a country for the heart, and Iyer knows that well.   



Into Thin Air - John Krakauer
Into Thin Air affected me more, and longer, than I think I like to admit even today. Krakauer pieces together the story of a young man who disappeared, and was found dead two years later in Alaska; why would a bright youth so spectacularly renounce a comfortable middle-class life? But this brooding, intense book is really an exploration of danger, and what your limits mean, and searching for meaning, and in some elemental way that spoke to me, of life itself.   

With The Old Breed - Eugene Sledge
If there's a better memoir of war, I would like to know about it. Sledge fought with the US Marines in the Pacific during World War II. He is no great writer, but that's the power of this book. He tells us some home ruths about the ferocity, filth and brutality of war, making nonsense of such sentiments as "the glory of fighting for your country." His images are cruel, but unforgettable for being so, and you end this book with a keen appreciation for what the fighting did to this ordinary American.  

I Claudius - Robert Graves
By a stretch, this is the finest reconstruction of history I've read. It's called "I Claudius", but Graves is really telling the story of the maniac Roman emperor Caligula, through the eyes of his uncle Claudius. The portrait of a depraved, yet once-powerful, society is a masterpiece of research and literature, and immensely readable. Claudius's own term as emperor is the subject of Graves's almost-as-good sequel, "Claudius the God".  

Cal - Bernard MacLaverty
This gorgeous love story captures the futility and pathos of Northern Ireland's Troubles -- and generally, of years of conflict between neighbours -- like no other book I know. MacLaverty writes with lyricism and style. His story here so moved me that I actually got in touch with MacLaverty, then visited Glasgow to meet him. He turned out to be even more engaging and warm than I might have expected. A delightful man, a stunning book.   

Cadillac Desert - Marc Reisner
I first came across Cadillac Desert in the hands of a friend I hiked with, in Costa Rica. We were stuck without transport in a tiny town for a day and a night, and my friend lay in a hammock reading Reisner all day. Later I bought a copy and read it, and knew why it has become something of a cult classic. Reisner examines water policy in the American Southwest. But more than that, he explains the wrong-headedness, on various levels, of the urge to build dams. And his true triumph is that he is able to make his book read like a thriller   

You Cannot be Serious (non-US editions called "Serious") - John McEnroe
Is it silly to include a book about tennis here? Not if you think, as I do, that McEnroe is likely the most talented tennis player to ever walk this earth, and a fascinating character as well. I was struck by the honesty in this autobiography: McEnroe doesn't spare himself in addressing his famous flaws and on-court flare-ups. And when he says that he came to understand that he could see angles on court that others couldn't, there's a subtle life lesson there.   


Worst Journey in the World - Apsley Cherry-Garrard
Cherry-Garrard was on Robert Scott's South Pole team in the early 1900s. It was an expedition that failed, but failed so heroically that Scott is an icon to a nation even today. This memoir is as fresh and vivid as if it was written last month, and gives you an unparalleled sense of the challenges these men fought to overcome. The fascinating thing is that Cherry-Garrard's title doesn't even refer to the expedition as a whole, but to one godawful trip he and two colleagues made, in the height of a brutal and dark Antarctic winter, to collect, of all things, penguin eggs.   


Gates of Fire - Steven Pressfield
Did I say "I Claudius" was the finest reconstruction of history I have read? Pressfield runs him very close. He tells us the story of Leonidas and his band of 300 Spartans, who held off a marauding Persian army in Thermopylae in 480 BC. Eventually, a traitor's betrayal led to their slaughter. But by then, Leonidas had inspired the fractious Greek states to come together, and they inflicted a series of crushing defeats on the Persians. Pressfield is magnificent in his retelling of this eye-catching story, and by the end his writing leaves you gasping and wrung out, but man, so satisfied!   

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