I believe any writer, certainly any avid reader, has certain books that mean more to them than others.
I know I do.
Special books that have comforted me, changed me, challenged me.
From 1998 – 1999 I lived in France as part of my BA. It was the same year my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. Still one of the worst years of my life. When it was over, I spent almost five months living in Spain. I spent four of those months sitting in a small shed by the side of a roundabout for seven hours every day, selling excursions to tourists.
In that small, stuffy shed with no air conditioning and no electricity, I read, wrote and slowly came back to myself. I listed to mixed tapes on a battery-operated radio and picked up rotisserie chicken before biking home. I learned the Spanish for, ‘3 tickets to Barcelona on Thursday’s excursion,’ and ‘Are there any more seats available for the Flamenco night?’ The house was broken into and everything my grandmother had left me was stolen. After that, I slept with a kitchen knife by my pillow and checked under every bed and in every cupboard as soon as I came home. Scared at every noise and still furious that my dream of living in France had blown up in my face, I missed my grandmother and tried to find a new dream. A new life.
I kept a diary and read James Clavell’s Shogun for the very first time.
It’s an incredible book. You become utterly immersed in a fascinating, historical world. (I realise that a lot of my treasured books are historical novels.) But it’s not just the world. It’s how a man who finds himself in a world that is completely foreign to him, slowly opens his mind to the new impressions and learns not only to cope with the enormous change in his life, but finds a whole new way to live it. A way of balance and zen, reflection and reason. Set against an intriguing background of love, war, religion and politics.
The more I read, the more my outlook began to change. As my outlook changed, the entries in my diary changed, too. When I left Spain, I left with a dream.
Ever since that summer, whenever I am faced with an unwelcome change, I read Shogun. Again I find peace and tranquility and harmony, wa.
Usually with a cup of green tea.