I have written quite a few posts on writing, and see myself as an eternal writer. A writer is a watcher, a recorder, an analyst, a thinker. All these are intrinsic, and sometimes I refer to myself as ‘a watcher in a dream’. In Advaita, it is said the world is unreal and it often seems that way–people fighting battles, entering conspiracies, hiding their true selves, for what? Then people trying to forget by watching television, meditating, talking, drinking.
Gurdjieff had said that the whole world is asleep. Is the writer’s role to keep one awake? On a more mundane level, I write because I want to share what I know, and sometimes what I think. Knowledge that comes from reading and understanding, but begins with thought. I want to make this specialized knowledge simple, easy to access, and I want more people to know, to be less ignorant, because that too is one way of bringing about change. I’ve written books on history and religion to share this knowledge.
Initially I was more interested in personal writing, in writing for myself. It helped me to focus, plan, understand and forget. Personal writing continues, but nowhere near the same extent. It is still useful, but I can do without it.
One cannot be a writer without reading widely. It is this reading that gives whatever one writes a personal touch. Even when writing non-fiction, the fiction one has read can provide both background and intensity. I may, for instance, write just a few lines on Biafra in a chapter on Nigeria or on Africa, but if I have read a book that depicts what happened [Half of a Yellow Sun], I will write more authentically. So here are just a few of the books I like, not in any particular order.
1.The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse.
2. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.
3. Most other books by Hesse and Mann [but not Siddhartha].
4. The Morning and the Evening by Joan Williams.
5. A Multitude of Sins by J A Cuddon.
6. Dibs—in Search of Self by Virginia Axline.
7. Place Mill by Barbara Softly [a children’s book]
8. The Synthesis of Yoga by Sri Aurobindo.
9. Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
10. Europe: A History, by Norman Davies.
11. Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; also The First Circle, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by the same author.
12. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig.
13. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
14. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
15. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
16. All the plays of Henrik Ibsen.
17. The Mahabharata.
18. The Ramayana of Tulasidasa.
2o. The Golden Treasury [F.T. Palgrave]