The love for reading is a welcome inheritance from my father. I couldn’t have had it any other way. I wouldn’t have!

I can hardly recall when I began reading books by myself. But what I do remember is that every year, just before the summer break, our school would hold a book exhibition and hundreds of books were sold at concessional rates.

Mom would take us; me and younger brother, to the exhibition and I would help myself to a bookish treat of skimming through piles of books for hours. I would buy handsome number of books each summer, mostly mysteries – Drew, Christie, Sir Doyle – majorly. I guess the habit of buying books and reading more and more, has been instilled since then, since the age of 8.

So although I developed a habit of reading since an early age, the sad part is that I hardly remember the titles I read then. Nothing much of the reading memories has lasted this long. My first book, in the true sense of it, is one that I read in grade 6 for our English curriculum. It was a short story by the Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy – That Whereby Men Live. Little else has remained with me, as this story.

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That Whereby Men Live by Leo Tolstoy

The tale is about an angel – Michael, who is punished by God for not following God’s bidding and is sent to earth. Michael is set a task to find answers to God’s 3 questions, only then can he return. What follows is a heart-touching tale, one narrated from the angel’s perspective, which as a student and later as a writer, has beckoned me again and again. Written in Tolstoy’s classic style, it teaches us just how important is to love, to forgive, to understand, to obey, and finally, not look down upon one.

The book in a glimpse.

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God asks Michael to find answers to these questions and return to heaven
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Michael finds the answers to God’s questions

Personally, it’s been a feeling of sheer pride that a writer as great as Tolstoy has been my idol. He inspired my reading as he inspires my writing. As I grew up, I read more and more of his books. Anna Karenina, War and Peace, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Cossacks, Resurrection, his collections of short stories, have been among the books I love most. In the years that followed, I read a great deal of other authors too. But somehow, nothing got closer to creating the magic – That Whereby Men Live – did.

I guess it all boils down to this.

“You may have read a thousand books. But the one that stirs your soul is the one written for you.”

There’s a lot many books I love. But hardly any could leave an impression upon my heart like this book did. That Whereby Men Live, is and will always be – My First Book, My First Short Story, and the Book I Love the most. You may read the full story here. Alternatively, the audio-book for What Men Live By is available on LibriVox. I hope you read it! And here, a list of some of the non-Tolstoy books I love.

Waiting to hear all about your first book. Do share your experiences below. 🙂

This post was written for the #Blogchatter prompt ‘Books I Love’.

Asha Seth