Saturday is here and has brought along the ideal weather for the weekend. The sunny ordeal we have been going through from the last few days has been broken by a pleasent spell of drizzle and cold breeze. I woke up to a morning fragranced with the sweet earthy scent of ground recently rained upon, the clouds deceiving the time of the day and cold winds brushing away any left over feelings of summer heat. There are two things that can make such a day even better: 1. A good cup of Masala Tea and 2. A cozy book to warm your soul. (Target 1 achieved, Target 2 pending!)
Everyone has a favourite book or books that they reserve especially for such weather; Therefore, I thought, why not list my top rainy day reads? Let’s bundle up in a cozy corner or near a window with our tea and arm ourselves with a great read for the weekend!
Since everyone has a different preference of what they think is ideal for this setting, I will post top 2 books in each genre.
1. Young Adult/Childhood favourites
Such days bring out the little kid in us who wants to jump in the muddy puddles, get drenched playing with the siblings and return home to Mum’s special pakoras. Thus, we tend to return to books which remind us of the lost time, reminiscent of what once was.
- My top book of the list and my all time favourite is The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, from the Little House series. I came across this book the local thrift book market in a battered/loved state. Now, as much as I love new books, there is just some thing almost magical about an old book. It’s like a friend that has time travelled, through various acquaintances, standing the test of time and wear. As I picked it up along with a few others, it remained untouched for a good few months as I struggled with school and other books that sounded more interesting than a cold winter story. I mentioned in my last post that I have selective OCD when it comes to books. I can’t let a book go unread, even if it’s not according to my taste. For the same reason, I picked it up for a trip to a relative’s house as always (I never leave the house without a book in my bag) hoping that boredom would drive me to read it and be done. I started the book dreading a tragedy (I avoid tragedy books and movies like THE PLAGUE!) But what I came across was enough to hook me to the book and finish it in under an hour. It’s the story of Laura (The author herself) and her family of 6, set in the late 1860s, from a middle class background, preparing for the onslaught of a harsh winter. Told through a little girl’s perspective the story captures beautiful moments of the family struggling to make ends meet in the never ending cold, becoming each other’s pillars of strength and emerging victorious in the end. A heartwarming story of blizzards, songs and family love, it’s guaranteed to make any reader fall in love with it, warming their hearts and souls.
- The second book in the same genre is Heidi by Johanna Spyri. It’s the story of a little girl Heidi, who after the death of her parents is left by her aunt with her reclusive and intimidating grandfather, who lives on a little cottage atop a mountain. Oblivious to her grandfather’s black mood, Heidi sets about bringing love and compassion in his life that has been missing since his son and Heidi’s father, Tobais left him to get married to Heidi’s mother. Not only does she charm her grandfather but also brings joy to the other people in the village. It all changes when her aunt returns to take her away to become a companion to a wealthy albeit a disabled and sickly girl, Clara. The story of how Heidi with her innocence and charm, transforms the lives around her and also returns to her beloved home captivates the reader, leaving them with a warm glow.
This is also an ideal weather to catch up on some classics, reverting to a different era altogether.
- The first book in this genre is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It’s not only a celebrated classic but also a favourite of readers of all age groups. Set in the backdrop of rural England, the story follows Mr. Bennett’s family in Longbourne, consisting of 5 unmarried daughters and their mother, always on the lookout for a great match for them to secure their future. The family is a hodgepodge of a socially improper matriarch and her daughters, sparing the eldest two, Jane and Elizabeth, who quite often dispair and berate their mother and sisters on the lack of sophistication and guarded tongues. Enter Mr. Bingley of London, who takes up residence of a large estate in Netherfields, prompting Mrs. Bennett to arrange for and secure a meeting and relationship with one of her daughters. Mr. Bingley falls for the eldest, Jane, leaving her younger sister to fend for herself from the wealthy and condescending Mr. Darcy whom she hears insulting her. The story runs from then on about how circumstances force the two foes to fall for each other overcoming terrible circumstances and their mutual distaste over each other. A story full of wit, banter, trust and love, leaves the reader reeling in the aftereffects of Austen’s great story telling.
- The second book under this category is Aunt Jane’s Nieces by Frank L. Baum. Baum, who is famous for The Wizard of Oz and the spin-off novels, has written an equally beautiful novel depicting a tangle of relationships, trust and greed. The story starts with a wealthy but poorly Ms. Jane Merrick, who has no heir to her vast fortune, left to her by her Fiancé, Thomas Bradley, who expired before the marriage could take place. Left alone in her old age with no one but her fiance’s nephew, Kenneth Forbes, she pays no attention or compassion to the boy, instead, sending off for her neices by her own siblings. She is showcased to be a selfish and cold woman, calling for them by bribing and financially enticing them. Then enter Beth, Louise and Patsy, all with different traits and characters and the story continues to reveal in the end, which of the three possible candidates inherits her vast estate. Intriguing and full of twists and surprises, it’s one heck of a roller coaster ride!
This climate often pushes the imagination to the extreme, dragons and beasts come alive and often drive us to read about far off lands with magical beings and Kings and Queens!
- The top novel under this criteria is none other than The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. This epic is a timeless fantasy and a must read for everyone. Although the story should start with the prequel, The Hobbit, TLOTR itself has a prologue for anyone who doesn’t have the access to its copy. It’s the story which starts off by Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit (not to be confused with a dwarf) who lives in a cosy cottage in The Shire, Middle Earth, a fictional land, with his nephew, Frodo Baggins. Bilbo, who had aquired a magical ring during his early adventures passes it on to Frodo since the magic has preserved his body as that of a young man but he often feels stretched and is in the dire need of rest. Aided by his old friend, Gandalf, the grey wizard, Frodo realises after a few years that the ring in his possession belongs to Sauron, the dark Lord who fashioned the ring for himself to rule the other magical rings and ultimately, the Earth. On a run to destroy it in the burning fires of the Valley of Doom, Frodo embarks on a long journey with 3 other companions, Sam Gamgee, Pippin and Merry. An extraordinary story with even more fascinating characters, Tolkien has written a spellbinding tale full of songs, wit, valour and determination.
- The second book is a historical fantasy story called The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillips Gregory. Taking the English royal court backdrop and real characters but fantasized circumstances and story, it’s the story of King Henry VIII and his unfortunate second wife, Anne Boleyn. In real history, Anne Boleyn came from nominal backgrounds along with her sister Mary, whom their father conspired to be set up in court as prospective mistresses for the King. Things get complicated because of his previous marriage to Catherine of Aragon, from whom he had no male heir. Entranced by Anne, he changes the laws to finish his first marriage and get married to Anne. From hereon, starts the real fantasy story. Anne and Mary are shown as rivals who compete for the favours of the King and Mary betraying her sister. Set in the tone of harsh politics, ruthless rulers and lost relationships, it’s a great read for anyone wanting to be teleported to the Royal English Court.
Dark clouds and thunderstorms are such a great setting for a great horror story.
- The first one is Short Stories of Horror by Alergon Blackwood. I came across the book almost a decade and a half ago and till date it remains the creepiest and the scariest of the stories. Since I had the original old copy, I got to experience Blackwood’s sinister story writing first handedly and if you can find one, I assure you, the definition of horror would completely change for you. More than the acts, the actions of the characters and their nature is what disturbs you the most. It’s a must read for all horror fanatics!
- The next one is the pretty obvious, Bram Stroker’s Dracula. It’s the pioneer of its kind and for me, remains the unbeatable horror story of all times. The bleak setting, sprawling and daunting mansion, eerie silence between the characters and the little nuances of shock and thrill keep the reader on edge till the very end. With the many adaptations and interpretations, inspired stories and explanations, Dracula is a cult favourite and it’s backdrop an ideal one for a dark day as this!
5. Thriller/General Fiction
When the day is too dreary for a horror novel or too slow and dragging, a great thriller is always the right pick me up!
- The top one for this genre is The Magician by William Somerset Maugham. The story follows Arthur Burdon and his Fiancé Margaret through a series of events in which they offend and earn the ire of a sinister figure, Oliver Haddo, a self proclaimed magician who intends to one day create life. It’s the story of revenge, love, betrayal and unexpected twists.
- The second favourite here is The Red Room by Nicci French. I love the husband and wife duo’s stories and this is one the most recent ones that have left an impact. Kit Quinn, the protagonist, who is attacked and kept in a red room by a serial killer, returns to the crime scene despite her fears and hesitation to solve the crime and apprehend the culprit. Famous for their twists and turns, the story is captivating, thrilling and at the same time, as with all Nicci French books, the reader is left with vague, restless feeling.
And because I know a reader would always be on the lookout for more reads, here are a few other books, great for the weather but in no particular categorization:
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carol
- The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
- A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin
- The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
- A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Happy reading and a great weekend to you!
Until next time!