Trudging through the year, somehow our dusty shelves and stacked bedside tables start telling a tale of neglect and ignored words. Kanika Sharma picked the brains of India’s leading publishers and editors, to get the best out of the second half of 2014. Go ahead, start reading!
I just finished an excellent translation of two of Sangeeta Bandopadhyay’s novellas by Arunava Sinha, am nearing the end of Chris Hadfield’s fascinating An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth and have started on Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. I have a habit of dipping into short pieces and right now, it’s one or the other of David Sedaris’ charming collections of humorous essays.
FaceOff, edited by David Baldacci, promises to be a ‘thrill-a-minute’ read, with some of the biggest names in crime/thriller fiction, including Ian Rankin, Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver, Linwood Barclay, Michael Connelly, paired up to produce 11 stories that bring their popular characters head-to-head. Swati Kaushal’s Lethal Spice is a deliciously gripping thriller set against the backdrop of a reality cooking show, in which one of the judges collapses and is declared dead. Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes has the master of horror turning to detective fiction. The Silkworm, the second in the Cormoran Strike detective series, by Robert Galbraith is sure to be just as atmospheric and riveting as Cuckoo’s Calling. And for those who haven’t read it already, Donna Tartt’s brilliant The Goldfinch, which has won the Pulitzer Prize, is the book to linger over and savour.
Penguin Random House India
My author Siddharth Mukherjee sent me a marvellous essay on the Japanese idea of beauty by Junichiro Tanizaki called In Praise of Shadows. I am absolutely loving it.
I adore reading thrillers during hot summer afternoons as the day comes to a standstill. The new Jo Nesbo is on my list and I also loved Daniel Silva’s The English Girl. EM Forster is a big hero of mine, and I am saving Damun Galgut’s novel to read soon. It’s just out. Karl Ove Knausgård is the current literary sensation and hailed as the Proust of Norwegian literature. I have the first book of his epic autobiographical series by my bedside table. Lastly, I am publishing an amazing novel, this June, called A Bad Character, which the Vogue magazine has called it The Debut of the Year and Rana Dasgupta has hailed it as one of the great novel of the 21st century Delhi. It’s sexy and haunting, and nothing like I have read before.
I’m currently reading the first in the Underland Chronicles — Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (of Hunger Games fame). I’m quite a YA fan and this book hasn’t disappointed so far.
The Muslims are Coming, by Arun Kundnani. I didn’t grow up reading too much non-fiction; it’s only after a wonderful talk I heard at the Jaipur Literature Festival, on getting out of your comfort zone as a reader, that I began to make a conscious effort to read more non-fiction. Luckily, there are many accessible, informative books, and this one — about the costs of the ‘war on terror’ and what it has meant for Muslims — promises to be one. Sarah Waters’ Paying Guests will be out soon, and I cannot wait. I loved her last book, The Little Stranger, an eerie tale about obsession and class in postwar England. The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker has received an enormous amount of attention. It’s a huge bestseller in Europe and has just been published in the US. The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq is highly recommended as he incisively dissects contemporary society. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach is a must for her wit.
Recess is a choice that’s work-related. Samskara is a classic that I hadn’t got to somehow and halfway into it you can’t help but marvel at the brilliance of AK Ramanujan’s translation of UR Ananthamurthy’s novel. Our Moon Has Blood Clots was recommended strongly. Ian McEwan’s work is brilliant and his writing style economical.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon has an appeal across ages. Cave Art: The First Paintings by Vishakha Chanchani is ideal to take along on a trip to museums. Who Could That Be At This Hour? from The First of the All The Wrong Questions quartet — Lemony Snicket series is a whodunit in its signature moody, and dark style making it perfect for young adults. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is a Yearling Newberry award winner. A book for young adults that holds a puzzle at its heart and reflects the reality of contemporary life. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is a brilliant graphic novel. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a collection of short stories that evokes relationships, emotions, and conflicts.
Without doubt, I thought Akhil Sharma’s Family Life made for an absolutely brilliant read; I’d surely recommend it. I’ve just begun reading this rather obscure-sounding but most insightful book. It is a biography on the late Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay by Jasleen Dhamija that has been published by the National Book Trust. I found it at the National Book Trust fair. She was clearly way ahead of her times. Few would be aware of her contribution unless they belonged to the area of her expertise (crafts and textiles). There’s another title — the first that I’ve just downloaded on my Kindle, which has grabbed my interest though it’s early days. It’s called Five Star Billionaire and has been written by Taiwanese author Tash Aw. I chose it as it earned several good reviews. Besides, I felt it would be interesting to read about a diaspora based on a Chinese-Taiwanese milieu set in the United Kingdom.
—As told to Fiona Fernandez