#6. The Girl on the Boat – P. G. Wodehouse

“Never! Never! There is no man at Ealing West! There never was a man at Ealing West!”

It was at this point that Jno. Peters began for the first time to entertain serious doubts of the girl’s mental balance. The most elementary acquaintance with the latest census told him that there were any number of men at Ealing West. The place was full of them. Would a sane woman have made an assertion to the contrary? He thought not, and he was glad that he had the revolver with him. She had done nothing as yet actively violent, but it was nice to feel prepared. He took it out and laid it nonchalantly in his lap.

The sight of the weapon acted on Billie electrically. She flung out her hands, in a gesture of passionate appeal, and played her last card.

“I love you!” she cried. She wished she could have remembered his first name. It would have rounded off the sentence neatly. In such a moment she could hardly call him “Mr. Peters.” “You are the only man I love.”

– Shocks all around, The Girl on the Boat

Ever since my father gifted me Summer Moonshine for my eleventh birthday, I’ve loved Wodehouse. I love the way he cooks up his elaborate plots and the wry tone in which he delivers the funniest of jokes. I love the ambivalence of the complicated simplicity of the cushy lives of his protagonists. I’ve wasted several eyelash wishes wishing for a butler like Jeeves. During the summer of 2003, I remember devouring every single Wodehouse at the British Library with a zeal that worried my parents. In other words, Wodehouse is an author I’ve loved for years and years. And I’ve loved him so much that I thought that it wasn’t humanly possible to love him more than I did – but then I read The Girl on the Boat and realized that I was mistaken.

The Girl on the Boat is undoubtedly the best Wodehouse novel I’ve read. Though there are several books from the Jeeves and Wooster series that I worship, they are instruction manuals for putting together agricultural machinery compared to the comical masterpiece that is The Girl on the Boat. Starting off with the travails of a mother who has to resort to extreme measures to prevent her son’s marriage, the story then meanders to an entertaining voyage on the boat mentioned in the title and then to the idyllic Windles.

Full of misunderstandings, broken engagements, interfering aunts and elaborate ruses – The Girl on the Boat has everything that is wonderful about Wodehouse. The finest and funniest part of the book is the aptly-titled chapter Shocks all around that had me laughing for hours on end. If due to some awful twist of fate, you can only ever read one Wodehouse book, I hope that it shall be this one because this is the maestro of mirth at his finest.

#4. Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid – Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler)

“Life is a turbulent journey, fraught with confusion, heartbreak, and inconvenience.

This book will not help.”

You cannot expect anything but brilliance from a book that has the above statement for a blurb. The book starts off with a parable of sorts – with a bitterly unhappy ending that teaches you to “never search for a wise man, particularly in your neighborhood, where so few of them live.” The parable is followed by a collection of quotes and important bitter truths that everyone needs to know (but which will not necessarily help everyone – or anyone, for that matter) and wise remarks made by Snicket at “dinner parties and anarchist riots”.

And I LOVED them all. Almost all the quotes are really funny – and yet, they’re also rather thought-provoking. But more than all that, they are comforting – reading Snicket is like talking to a very old, very dear friend. And whether you’re feeling confused or sad or struggling with an overall feeling of doom that one cannot escape no matter one does – this book can make you feel better. It’s sort of like what he says about crying – “Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced events in your life that have made you cry. So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.” Even if your circumstances have not changed one bit, randomly flipping to a page in the book and reading the quote there can make you smile and that could perhaps make you feel a little more poised to take on whatever’s troubling you. So, I guess that one of the bitter truths proved wrong after all – the one on the blurb that says that this book cannot help you out in a life fraught with confusion, heartbreak and inconvenience.