Hooked by their bookshelves
Seven authors. Seven hand-picked lists. We invited some of India’s finest writers across genres to choose favourites from their bookshelves. Check if your list matches theirs
Mumbai author Kiran Nagarkar confesses that he is a slow reader. Pic/Atul Kamble
The favourites on the shelf include: the Clay Sanskrit Library, and the Loeb books of Greek plays and Latin history. I return again and again to Proust.
And I have an entire shelf dedicated to the work of VS Naipaul, in which the prized volume is a special edition of the Bogart story from Miguel Street. The inscription reads: A little memento from the beginning of my career given to you at the beginning of yours.
Aatish Taseer’s most recent title is The Way Things Were (Macmillan)
I don’t have all my favourite books here. But I often read and re-read favourites like The Shack, by William P Young, The Watch That Ends The Night by Hugh MacLennan, The Concubine by Elechi Amadi, A Designated Man by Moris Farhi, and Australian poetry.
Although it is about great loss and unbelievable grief, The Shack ends in a deeper understanding of the nature of life on earth, and how to go further. I like books that leave the reader with hope and light. I think life is too short to waste it on reading books that bring you down.
Easterine Kire’s most recent title is When The River Sleeps (Zubaan Books)
As I am not a speed reader, the look of my bookshelf doesn’t change a lot. This bookshelf is probably 50 years old. Graham Greene, Peter Matthiessen and George Vidal have a place of pride on it.
To tell you the truth, I am a terrible reader, as I rarely go back to my favourites. Kaput by Curzio Malaparte is another sentimental favourite. Among Indian writers, I like the writings of Amitav Ghosh and Arundhati Roy.
Kiran Nagarkar’s most recent title is Bedtime Story (HarperCollins India)
There are old favourites and new, of course. Amongst my growing up books were a lot of animal stories as that was a real passion. So, Watership Down by Richard Adams and Born Free by Joy Adamson have remained on my shelf.
Then, there are the newest growing up books like Payal Dhar’s Slightly Burnt and Himanjali Sarcar’s There’s Something About Muskaan, which are heart-breakingly beautiful, tender stories of growing up different. I love reading young adult fiction more than anything.
Just to add to the funk, there is Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider, which is a treasured addition to my shelf because she signed it to me after I had done a storytelling session with her. The book I am currently reading is going to find it’s place on my best reads shelf.
Stephen Alter’s Becoming a Mountain is a spectacular book into a world I know so little about: mountaineering. He wrote this as part of a healing journey after he and his wife were attacked in their Landour home some years ago. I guess much of my favourite list is made up of books that are simple, tender and authentic.
But, yes, I do admit, that the prime space on my shelf, is reserved for books written by me. But that’s true for most authors, at least, I hope so!
Paro Anand’s popular title is No Guns At My Son’s Funeral (Roli Books)
Two that come to mind: Mervyn Peake’s The Titus Books — a trilogy; which is outstanding imaginative writing, with stunning characterisation and drama and attention to detail. The second; Jay Griffiths’ Wild: An Elemental Journey (non-fiction), jackhammer-hard writing on people and the environment.
A favourite author of yore (I haven’t re-read him for long), Patrick White, (Riders In The Chariot, Voss, A Fringe of Leaves, etc.) Then, there’s Spike Milligan, both the Durrell brothers (Lawrence and Gerald), Rumer Godden (The River), Salim Ali, Salman Rushdie, Kenneth Grahame, Jeremy Clarkson... and many more who will come rushing into my mind the moment I send this mail!
Ranjit Lal’s most recent title is Bambi, Chops and Wag (Roli Books)
Since I live in the wilderness, I stock up my bookshelf as and when I come to ‘civilization’. I just finished reading KR Meera’s Hangwoman, which is an exceptional story of a woman’s grit, and is beautifully interspersed with compelling tales from her family history.
I am currently reading Kamila Shamsie’s A God In Every Stone, which is a heady narrative of a woman’s search for her lost love through her discovery of archaic sites. Lined up on my bookshelf for reading next are Shamsur Rahman Faruqi’s The Sun That Rose From The Earth; David Lynn Golemon’s Ancients; and Bruce Chatwin’s Anatomy of Restlessness.
Manisha Sobhrajani’s most recent title is The Land Where I Dream Of (Hachette)
This is my sister’s bookshelf, not mine. But I’m away from home and anyway, so many of my favourite books are here too! Many of them from childhood: The Wind In The Willows and Tintin.
The Story Girl by LM Montgomery, (author of Anne of Green Gables), is lesser known but even better. There are books that my sister and I bought or read simultaneously: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, for instance, an outstanding novel of magic and delight. There’s Kiran Nagarkar’s Cuckold and I Allan Sealy’s Red.
Then there are books that I recommend such as: The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake and Spring Snow from Yukio Mishima’s Sea Of Fertility tetralogy (a group of four related literary or operatic works). And, many more besides these.
Manjula Padmanabhan is also an artist. Her next novel is The Island of Lost Girls (Hachette)