Vinay Virmani on 5 books he couldn't live without

A lifetime of reading has prepared actor Vinay Virmani for CBC's annual battle of the books. He'll be defending The Hero's Walk by Montreal author Anita Rau Badami on Canada Reads. Below, Virmani shares a list of the books he's loved, from a novel he calls "pure literary gold" to the nonfiction book that perfectly articulates his frustrations with modern-day dating.

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The first book he ever read

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl was one of the first books I ever read and it took my imagination on a roller coaster ride. It was a wildly sensory experience that opened up my mind in ways I never imagined books could do. Also, Charlie has to be one of the most endearing characters of all time. Reading it at a very young age, I learned early on about the pitfalls of greed and the need for humility. But the most important lesson it taught me was this: Act like an entitled brat and you'll be thrown down life's garbage chute.

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The book he can read any time, any place

Since it was first published in 1923, Lebanese-American author Khalil Gibran's seminal work, The Prophet has never been out of print and has been translated into about 50 languages. The book explains that spirituality is not some elevated concept, but is, in fact, something we should work into our daily lives. Delivered in beautiful poetic prose, it offers uncommon wisdom on a variety of subjects that are common to us all - like love, work, joy, sorrow, pain and friendship. This book has always had a way of speaking to me at different stages in my life, and always will.

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The book he identifies with

Being Indo-Canadian, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri really spoke to me. Growing up, I was often caught between two conflicting influences: the Indian traditions of my parents at home, and the "mainstream pop culture," which I was surrounded by outside. However, this story truly hit home because it helped me gain a deeper and richer understanding of my own parents' immigrant journey. It taught me to respect their enormous sacrifices, salute their adventurous spirit and discover the many challenges that they must have faced as new immigrants - whether it be adopting a new country, fearing the loss of their cultural identity, or adjusting to new climates in both business and weather.

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The book he calls "pure literary gold"

The Alchemist is a simple tale that holds within it some deep truths. Alchemy is a mystical process through which you transform base metals into gold. Author Paulo Coelho uses alchemy as a metaphor for personal and spiritual transformation. He shows us that our purpose in life is to convert our baser nature and qualities into something more pure and refined.

We often take long journeys in the hope of finding treasures and rewards, only to discover that the journey itself was the reward - and that the treasure often lies buried close to your heart, or within it. The Alchemist is a literary treasure that I will always hold close to my heart.

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The book that accurately portrays the frustrations of modern-day dating

Okay let's be real. Dating in the times of social media has never been more frustrating or ambiguous. "Face time" is no longer a euphemism for kissing; it's an app.

Aziz Ansari, one of the most original voices in comedy today has totally nailed this cultural shift. The fact that he teamed up with the world's leading social scientists to study behaviours, messages and other communication cues, makes it even more amazing. Technology has changed dating culture, as we know it forever. If you want to find love in the time of Tinder, definitely read Modern Romance.

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