Indian authors pick the books they believe should get an award
Five popular Indian authors pick their favourite that, according to them, deserved to be the winning title of the year
The Moon Shines by Day by Nayantara Sahgal
First of all, let me warn you that it's well nigh impossible to describe or understand what voodoo Nayantara Sahgal has practised to cram such an incredible quantum of powerful social and political commentary and critique, plus a hell of a lot fun, in so short a book. It's all done with such sly ease and facility that all I can tell you is, beware. This is one author who can pull the wool over your eyes while whisking the carpet from under your feet.
As the name of the novel The Moon Shines by Day, and by implication the sun lights up the night, suggests, we are dealing with a deranged world. If you want to carbon-date this world, you will discover that it's a strangely familiar place and unfortunately the date is today and right now. Nayantaraji's reading, along with her intimate grasp of the world we live in, is breathtaking. I could go on but I don't want to spoil the surprises and the fun that lie in store for you.
Sati by Meenakshi Jain
The book, Sati, was released earlier, but I read it in 2017. It offers fascinating insight into how the ritual of sati was shown to be bigger than it actually was, during the British Colonial Raj, to serve some political ends at that time. It also ties in with something that has always intrigued me. There is very little evidence, whether historical or religious, that sati was ever a major ritual in India. In fact, if you go through the list of widows in the Ramayana or Mahabharata, you cannot find women who committed sati. It was an enlightening read, which answered some of the questions I had about this tradition.
Origin by Dan Brown
My favourite book for the year, Origin, by Dan Brown, details the contours of Spain in such minute detail that the reader feels as if he has been teleported to Spain. The last part of the novel, set in Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, is the highlight of the book. The research that has gone into it is amazing. What makes this book even more special special is that all this description does not impact the pace of the plot, which, like it is with any Dan Brown book, moves ahead at breakneck speed. All I wish is that Brown would figure out a way to bring Robert Langdon and his Mickey Mouse watch to India and base a story on the ghats of Benaras.
The Book of Dust
The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. It's beautifully written, and set in an incredibly rich world. And in a time when theocracies and religious hatred threaten freedom worldwide, it is extremely relevant.
Smritichitre: The Memoirs of a Spirited Wife by Lakshmibai Tilak, translated by Shanta Gokhale
Lakshmibai Tilak was a Brahmin and she married a Brahmin, but she discovered that her husband was first, a seeker. Unable to bear the injustices the caste system inflicted on his brothers as much as on himself, he converted to Christianity, much to her horror, but she eventually followed him. This is the first time the book has been translated in its entirety and Shanta Gokhale brings across the simple conversational tone of the original. You feel like Lakshmibai is sitting next to you, under a tree somewhere, and telling you her story. Strong book magic.
Bestsellers of 2017
Kitabkhana's T Jagath reveals the most popular titles of the year that flew off their shelves
1 Sapiens: A Brief history of human kind by Yuval Noah Harari: We sold over 2,000 copies of this title this year. He released another book, Homo Deus, that sold nearly 800 copies. This title is ideal for those who wish to understand the history of humankind. It's narrative is very interesting.
2 An Era of Darkness by Shashi Tharoor: We sold about 1,500 copies: The author has conducted plenty of research and collected data on how the British looted India.
3 The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy: We sold around 1,000 copies. The Pulitzer Prize-nominated title emerged as a popular pick towards mid-2017.
4 I do what I do by Raghuram G Rajan: We sold around 1,000 copies of this excellent book. It is a collection of Dr Rajan's speeches and articles. However, despite his obvious calibre, the book is quite a revelation, not only about the subjects covered but about the man's stature. His simple, lucid style is such that anyone with even a slight interest in economics, finance, banking, interest rates, bad loans, markets, technology, and India in general, will be keen to read it.
5 Em and the Hoom by Jerry Pinto: This title turned out to be the all-time favourite at the bookstore. Read it for its superb storytelling by Pinto.
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