RUSKIN BOND BOOK: A WRITER OF THE HILLS: Top Books
Perhaps the most loved author in the country, by children and adults alike- Ruskin Bond turned 86 this May. He had started writing when he was just 17, a time when he had stepped out of school. He has written more than 150 titles, many of it penned for children, some are story collections, other memoirs, and some poetry too. Read more about Ruskin Bond Book here.
Bond, who is the receiver of two Padma awards, the Padma Shri in 1999 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014, now lives with his adopted family in Landour, Mussorie, India. He has also been awarded the Sahitya Academy Award in 1992 for Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra.
The Indian author of British descent has spent a major part of his life on the hills of Dehradun, Shimla, and some of it in the hustle-bustle of Delhi. It has been 70 years now that Ruskin Bond has been writing and there must have been very few people in India who have not read anything written by the great writer. So, here is a list of 10 Ruskin Bond books you must read at least once:
1. THE ROOM ON THE ROOF
The book is about a young orphaned boy, Rusty. He does not have any real family after his parents’ death. Though he lives with his guardian, Mr. John Harrison, he is very lonely and sad. Rusty goes through an array of emotions: confusion, obligation, helplessness, loneliness, and sadness. His guardian John never lets Rusty go to the bazaar even though he is half-Indian as he feels that Indians are very dirty, and he had a superiority complex with the Indians. But what happens when Rusty gives into the temptation of going into the bazaar? The book written from a teenager’s perspective is a mirror of Ruskin’s own experiences because when he wrote this book, he was just 17. The book’s theme lies in racism and to follow one’s own instincts.
2. THE BLUE UMBRELLA
The Blue Umbrella narrates the story of Binya, a young girl from a remote hilly village who leads an ordinary life. One day she comes across a blue umbrella with a few picnickers in the forest. She falls in love with the umbrella instantly and when the picnickers offer her the blue umbrella in lieu of her lucky charm, she instantly accepts the offer. Binya carries the umbrella everywhere and soon it becomes the talk of the village. The blue umbrella brings various adventures in Binya’s life while giving her the ultimate life lessons of kindness, sacrifice, and letting go. Ruskin Bond has managed to weave magic with this simple tale of a girl from the village but an exceptional way of storytelling. Various human emotions like jealousy, naivety kindness, and possessiveness are brilliantly portrayed.
3. A FLIGHT OF PIGEONS
This book is historical fiction and it might be based on true events. It is a narration of how events unfolded through the voice of Ruth Labrador, a thirteen-year-old British girl. It is set against the backdrop of 1857 uprising in Shahjahanpur. We get to see a changed perspective when sides switch. Ruth witnesses the massacre of British civilians in the church and it so happens that her father is one of the victims too. She along with her mother, grandmother, aunt and cousins take refuge in kind-hearted Lala Ramjilal’s house. Javed Khan forcibly brings Ruth and her mother, Miriam to his house for the sole desire of making Ruth his second wife. Women like Ruth and Miriam lived in constant fear and dread. An extremely sensitive and insightful book that brings out the saga of the survival of women who took refuge in hostile situations but were successful in living their lives on their own terms.
4. Rusty, the boy from the hills
This book narrates the story of an imaginative and curious boy, Rusty, to whom amusing things are always happening. The book tells the stories of Rusty’s most exciting escapades and his development from early childhood to early teens. Rusty was a character made by Ruskin Bond to spin stories about his own past. Rusty’s life reflects Ruskin’s life as they both live with their grandparents in Dehradun, surrounded by a variety of peculiar animals, to making his way to London and fulfilling his dream of becoming a writer. The book is a fun, easy read and extremely comforting in its simplicity.
5. A HANDFUL OF NUTS
The story set in Dehradun during the 1950s is Ruskin Bond’s own story of his early adolescent years. The narrator lives alone here in the company of a few friends who are ambitious but empty on the pocket. Whatever meager amount he receives by writing in newspapers and magazines, he helps his friends with that money. His friends Sitaram, William Matheson, Jai Shankar, and Suresh Mathur all have some or the other problem to deal with. Ruskin Bond with his expertise storytelling brings out the culture of small towns and makes the readers feel in between the characters. The readers can feel how amazing it is to lead a life in a small town. A great humorous book that vividly brings out the simple events of early adulthood.
6. ROADS TO MUSSOORIE
This novel is an ode by Ruskin Bond to his home for more than forty years- Mussoorie. A candid and funny chronicle of his life in Mussoorie, Ruskin writes about his excursions to the various hill stations in and around Mussoorie. This book is more like a journal of Ruskin’s experiences in the city which includes little anecdotes of his climbing companions and of the English movie culture in the hills. He also describes other mundane activities like breakfast and trees, but the beauty of his writing lies in the fact that he makes these mundane things not-so-mundane. This book gives you an account of what life in the hills must be like. It gives the readers a slice of life from the mountains.
7. OUR TREES STILL GROW IN DEHRA
It is a collection of fourteen soulful stories. The major common theme in all the stories is a homecoming. Some stories also have Ruskin talking about his father and family who used to live in Dehradun probably when the British ruled the country. The stories are staged around Dehradun, Mussoorie, and Fosterganj. Other than homecoming, the theme of the death of nature is also given importance as Ruskin is always concerned about the nature of the hills. His stories are very engaging and full of vivid description. It is a treat to read Ruskin’s novels full of ordinary but hopeful characters while taking a tour of the foothills of Himalaya.
8. LOVE AMONG THE BOOKSHELVES
This book is about books and reading. It is part memoir and part anthology. It is remarkably interesting as he is such a famous writer and when he talks about how he got into reading; it has got to be interesting. Ruskin tells his readers how he discovered books first and then various authors. He started with P.G. Wodehouse’s ‘Love Among the Chickens’ then moved on to Agatha Christie, Jack London, Joseph Conrad, and many more authors. He also talks about his holidays in which he spent most of his time reading classics. then he tells about his time in London where he was so lonely that he was reading a book a day. Reading about your favorite author’s reading journey is fascinating in its own way. This book will give the readers a different feeling about the world.
9. A FACE IN THE DARK AND OTHER HAUNTINGS
This book falls in the purview of the mystery and suspense genre. Through a collection of short stories, the author asserts that even those people who think of themselves as powerful and non-believers of evil spirits, find themselves at a fix when confronted by strange or horrible situations. These stories are eerie and leave the readers haunted in a melancholic sort of way. Bond, undoubtedly, is the best horror storyteller for children as his stories do not scare the hell out of you but they are eerie in a comfortable sort of manner.
10. SUSANNA’S SEVEN HUSBANDS
Susanna’s beauty and wealth meant that she had no problem in finding a husband for herself. But somehow, the husbands did not last long. She is the sole heir to her reclusive father’s estate and rumored treasure. The story is written from the perception of Arun, Susanna’s neighbor. The novel is now made into a major motion picture by Vishal Bharadwaj- 7 Khoon Maaf. The book, though short, is written in Ruskin’s inimitable style, and with the elements of horror and mystery in it, it is altogether a fun read.
Lastly, Ruskin Bond’s autobiography Lone Fox Dancing has him talking about his own life with incidents that have made him into the man he is now. A must-read book if you want to know about Ruskin Bond in detail.
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I find my solace in reading and trying my hand at writing.