Fresh perspectives. Book recommendations. New insights. Random information. These interviews with different readers bring new points of view to Chapter Two. To kick off the series, Viraj Maniar talks about what he’s currently reading, where he likes to read, and why you don’t have to be a book snob.
Erika: Let’s start with an introduction. What are some general things we should know about you?
Viraj: Obviously my name is Viraj. I’m a third year medical student living in Indianapolis. I’m doing this as a favor to my girlfriend… just kidding, don’t put that in there. (Oops.)
I don’t get to read as much as I want, but it’s one of my favorite forms of entertainment, even though it’s not just entertainment. I always acted as if I didn’t like reading in school in all my English classes, but I was lucky to have teachers who taught the classics really well. Like I thought I only enjoyed the magical or fantasy stories, but they taught the less fantastical, more mundane literary stories well. That being said, I still prefer those grander stories.
E: What are you reading right now?
V: I’m reading Golden Sun, the second book in the Red Rising trilogy. I’m also halfway through three different books that I’ve started, then gotten too busy and stopped, which I kind of feel guilty about but I keep telling myself that one day I’ll go back and give each book the attention it deserves.
E: Which books are those?
V: There are too many… Complications, by Atul Gawande; The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs; that book you gave me… (A Sense of the Mysterious, by Alan Lightman)
E: What was your favorite children’s book? And what’s your favorite children’s book now (if it has changed)?
V: Does that include Harry Potter or no?
V: Well when I was a kid I loved Dr. Seuss books. Those were the first I knew how to read. But looking back on it, Harry Potter books were the ones that hooked me to reading.
E: Where do you enjoy reading the most?
V: In bed, because it’s the perfect place to relax. It’s somewhere where you’re already used to following your mind, like when you dream, so it’s not an uncommon place to escape reality and immerse yourself in another world.
Second would be any form of transit because it’s a really good way to pass time.
E: What fictional character do you most identify with?
V: Gogol from The Namesake, because that book is basically about my life.
E: If you were stuck on an island for a year and could only bring one book, which one would you choose?
V: This is so much pressure! One book and I’m on an island? Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.
E: Do you have a favorite author? (Who?)
V: If I had to pick one, I guess I’d pick — avoiding J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin (Why do so many people abbreviate their names?) — Michael A. Stackpole. He wrote a lot of Star Wars books and was really great about creating adventure and characters that felt real in science fiction and fantasy. But I feel like my answer could be different depending on what I’m into at the time. But today that’s my answer.
E: What factors make you decide to pick up a book? Cover art? Length? Someone nagging you repeatedly about needing to read it?
V: Probably the biggest thing is word of mouth surrounding a book. I think I’m less likely to pick up a random book simply because the cover art is cool. I’m more likely to rely on a recommendation from a person who knows me or an author who I really like.
E: If you could live within the world of any book, which would it be?
V: Oh man. I guess it’s not fair to say Star Wars because it’s a movie. Also not many people are very happy. I guess it’s cliche, but it’d be cool to live in the Harry Potter world because you could be a wizard and have your magical world within the world as we already know it.
E: You have the chance to recommend one book and explain your recommendation — go!
V: I guess I would recommend what I’m reading right now: the Red Rising trilogy. It’s a young adult series, which makes it easy to read. It’s action-packed and just full throttle fun. It’s great if you like stories about utopias where all of a sudden the world gets flipped on its head. It’s set in the future, but it all deals with stuff we deal with today — classism, how the poor are treated, segregation — I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but it’s a good book.
It’s okay to let yourself read something that’s not polished or literary gold. Sometimes it’s okay to let yourself read something that’s just fun.