You cannot devour an illustrated book. You must savour it. You have to feel the texture of the page and its weight on your palm, linger over the typeface, look at the pictures first in one sweeping glance, then once again to imprint each detail in your mind. Then and only then must you turn to the next page.

When we add illustrations to a book, it is a threesome of imaginations. In an illustrated book, the pictures add just enough to stimulate our visual juices, like a climbing frame for the mind’s eye.

I suppose it gets more regimented as we add more pictures; graphic novels have not much room for us to imagine our own visuals, films even less so. Understandably, as we illustrate more, the dissonance between the reader’s imagination and that of the visualiser grows. The best illustrated books achieve that fine balance of adding another layer to our imagination without overpowering it.

So it was that I recently bought and savoured the illustrated Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone. Much has been said about this beautiful book and I shall not add to it except to say that it is indeed, very beautiful and to be treasured. There were times when the artist’s imagination and mine corresponded and times when it didn’t, but it was always delightful.

I finished the book, shut it with a great happy sigh and thought, what books would I love to see illustrated. And why? A joyful Saturday of daydreaming later, here is my little list:

His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
Lyra’s Oxford with its spires, the shifting daemons of the children, the intricate instruments, all state of the art, but very different in look and feel from our gadgets, some steampunk imagery would work for my imagination here. Then, the Mediterranean sun beating on the ground of a lonely Cittàgaze with its feral children, Will’s oozing wound, the Authority’s menace, the fallen angels and their ethereal love – this is a trilogy rich enough for a ménage-à-trois of imaginations to run riot through it.

I would even go so far as to say that illustrations are essential for this story; most imaginations, like mine, would like a helping hand here.

The style? Lyrical and ethereal, I think. Watercolours would work for me, fine ink drawings and etchings too.

The James Bond series, Ian Fleming
With the surfeit of Bond films, their varied interpretations, and the multiple actors playing Bond through the decades, it is time to go back and read Ian Fleming’s originals all over again, this time with illustrations. Forget the obsession with girls – bring the era back alive for those of us who never knew the 1950s and let Fleming’s panache come through undiluted.

I am not fussy about style and no expert myself – but Roy Lichtenstein comes to mind. On a perverse day, I would go for Norman Rockwell on acid. Just take the twee out and bring a dash of viciousness in.

The Golden Gate, Vikram Seth
Nearly thirty years have passed since Vikram Seth’s novel was published in 1986. Vikram Seth’s Californian novel in sonnet form, inspired by his discovery of Eugene Onegin, gave him the perfect instrument with which to tell his poignant story.

When the words tell their tale so well, I quiver in excitement to think what illustrations could do to this book. I suddenly realise as I write this that I have only seen San Francisco with my own eyes or in films, never in illustrated form. I try to imagine this undulating, misty city with a wealth of visual perspectives, in an illustrated book for adults.

I cannot do justice to it. Let poetry and illustrations synergise into even greater art.

A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
It is time we looked, really looked, at London and Paris of 1755 again, as they appeared in that era. Was the steam-powered, smoky, under-construction industrial London with its malnutritioned poor really like today’s Indian megacities, as I have always imagined it must have been? Was the terribly exploitative, heartless, ridiculously unequal Paris of those days on guard, but celebrating with defiance, as it is today?

As the poor seethed, did the aristocracy really think it would all pass? Was it all like today’s India and the greater world? The average life expectancy in the 1750s was thirty five years in France, marginally higher than that of Britain. What would this book look like illustrated?

Mrichhchhakatika, Sudraka
Our Sanskrit classics are long overdue for a post Amar Chitra Katha revamp. Mrichhchhakatika (The Little Clay Cart) is a love story that encompasses all strata of society – the ruling class, the rich, the impoverished, the working class… and all this using both Sanskrit as well as Prakrit dialects.

Mrichhchhakatika was a middle finger to the Natyshastra’s diktat that only the nobility should be featured in plays. It was revolutionary in its own time.

How would I illustrate ancient Ujjain and its citizens in the fifth century BC? Would I use Harappan art as my inspiration? Look towards Ajanta and Ellora, perhaps?

Or, in a complete break with tradition, keep the illustrations contemporary along with the text, so the timelessness of the story hits me anew? Shift the story to another country altogether? Would it still pass the litmus test for all classics and hold its own? My bet is it would.