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Top 10 books to read when you are depressed

Books are handy weapons to stave off blues - be it the dregs of the Sunday evening or a nasty bout of flu. When you are depressed, it takes herculean efforts to shake off the feeling. And I'm not even talking about the more severe, clinical form of depression. I can't get myself to pour myself a glass of water the day after Diwali; on Fridays on the other hand, I am the epitome of eternal sunshine. For such moody, dull days, these top 10 books are the surest way to dust a little sparkle in your life.

1) Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog): This is Jerome K. Jerome at his absolute best. It was published some 130 years back and is still capable of eliciting raucous laughter. It is the honest journal of three young, bumbling flatmates and their dog on a river cruise. Look out for some meandering, pedantic pages, but they offer some relief from the relentless humour. 

2) James Herriot's Dog Stories: If you love animals (and dogs, in particular), this is the ultimate comfort book. The ploddings of a Darrowby vet are full of kind, affectionate characters and strong-willed and delightful animals. Beware the occasional whammies - the life of a veterinarian is not all roses. But this is a collection of stories, so you need not dwell overmuch. 

If you are still not an animal-lover, you will become one after this book. 
3) Ice Station Zebra: It is difficult for me - an avid aficionado of  Alistair MacLean - to narrow down to a single book, but Ice Station Zebra is the first and the most striking book that comes to my mind. Set amidst impossible surroundings of the Arctic Sea, its characters are the typical motley lot of most of MacLean's work. Led by the stoic, wise-cracking and highly capable Dr. Carpenter, this is a brilliant spy-thriller. Its cliffhangers and breakneck speed are a world apart from our daily drudgery. 

4) I Capture the Castle:  This is a lovely, flowing book which calms the nerves. Dodie Smith's novel is an innocent journal of a young girl and her spectacularly bizzare family residing in a dilapidated castle. It is very womanly and soft and goes best with a steaming cup of tea (you can actually feel comfort curling up inside you).

5) The Amulet of Samarkand: Start with this, and I guarantee you that nearly every trouble in life will seem that bit less intimidating. Jonathan Stroud is a remarkable story-teller; his characters are cheeky and in perpetual trouble, which only makes them cheekier. There is something unapologetic about Stroud's books. His stories are rooted in fantasy, minus all the fairy dust. This particular story will introduce you to the abominable Bartimaeus. The rest, you ought to find for yourself.

Once you are done with the adventures of Bartimaeus in the rest of the trilogy and The Ring of Solomon, you can embark on the Lockwood series by the same author.

6) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Oh the times we had reading this gem ! As far removed from reality as possible, and yet uncomfortably familiar, Douglas Adam's flagship novel is riotously funny. You jump from one bizzare thing to the next, totally unimaginable circumstances in the inter-galactic sojourn of the very British Arthur Dent. This story can also be viewed as a satire of sorts but the kind that'll lighten the burden of philosophy.

7) Leave it to Psmith: One of the several iconic characters ever introduced by P.G. Wodehouse, Leave it to Psmith is a tribute to the suave Psmith and his adventures at the Blandings Castle, surrounded by thieves, secretaries and the family and friends of the adorable Lord Emsworth. There is really no single Wodehouse that stands out more than the other, but for a start, this is a recommended pick.

8) Kiss Kiss: Or any book by Roald Dahl. They so deliciously macabre that you really do frown and marvel at the same time. His are mostly short stories and Dahl is renowned as a terribly engrossing story-teller. Story after story is downright creepy, but the strength of narration is what makes them page-turners. Even as children, neither Matilda nor Charlie and the Chocolate Factory exactly qualified as kids' stories. As adults, you feel the same way about Kiss Kiss; these stories need not exist, but like nightmares, they stick. 

9) Luka and the Fire of Life: Salman Rushdie is a serious author of epic books like Midnight's Children and Shalimar the Clown. Yet he is also the creator of the brave brothers Luka and Haroun. Luka and the Fire of Life is a delightful children's story. It has its morals and fables all right, but what appeals to this book as an adult are the puns and the satire. Despite the hinted targetted audience, you will be easily drawn towards this book as a grown-up, courtesy mostly the brilliant narrative skills of the author and the relevance of the incidents and the sites to present-day events. It is a very witty read indeed.
10) The Catcher in the Rye: And last, but not the least, one of my favourites. J.D. Salinger's brutally honest mind-journal through the eyes of  Holden Caulfield is so intimate, it doesn't really feel like you are reading a story. The Catcher in the Rye is a deeply introspective book, (and has courted a lot of controversy in the past) and it endears readers to the protagonist, almost in a self-piteous way. In some small way - or big - we identify with the young boy. We agree with him and live our lives with him, letting it takes us where it wills. Sometimes it kills us with boredom, on other occasions, it is just exhilarating. But life it is, and we like it for everything it gives us - pain, joy and confusion.

When you are depressed, you basically need anything that can take your mind off things. These 10 books will help you achieve all that and then some more. These will make you can laugh, cry, think and feel glad about being alive. That's what books are for.  

P.S. I cannot stop myself from suggesting The Way to Dusty Death by Alistair MacLean as another terrific read. It centres on the world of formula-one racing and has an otherwise simple plot, but it has grit and a super-cool protagonist. 


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