Reading between the years
In a celebration of publishing and reading of the last 10 years, we invite 10 Indian authors to share their book of the decade
Jerry Pinto's pick
Smritichitre: The Memoirs of a Spirited Wife by Lakshmibai Tilak
My book of the decade is Smritichitre; The Memoirs of a Spirited Wife by Lakshmibai Tilak in the Shanta Gokhale translation (Speaking Tiger, 2017). I make no excuses for this being a book that came out in 1934. It is a timeless classic and speaks to us today in a voice that is clear and fresh and vital. This translation is not the first but it is the complete work, not edited according to patriarchal notions of what matters and what doesn't. But more than that, it keeps the piquancy and wit alive; we hear Lakshmibai speaking and we hear her speaking in English and it doesn't sound weird. This is what great translation does. It builds bridges across time and language.
Paro Anand's pick
Flyaway Boy by Jane De Suza
While it's incredibly difficult to pick one book as the best of this decade, the one that keeps jumping to the top of my mind is Jane De Suza's Flyaway Boy (2019) from Puffin. It features a young boy who doesn't fit in. He doesn't fit into any of the boxes that define children and indeed human beings. So, where do we put him? And if we can't define him, does he not exist at all? Jane's gentle raising of questions with a light touch and humour forces us to examine otherness and look within. A powerful book that should be read by young and old alike.
Devapriya Roy's pick
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I will go with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah [the novel follows the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian immigrant to America] that I purchased in Calcutta in 2013, since it's a book that I have not only re-read several times, I have also recommended widely and even gifted at weddings! Americanah is eminently readable, perfect for a holiday, and yet sophisticated in form and ideas, to bring you back to it.
Anita Vachharajani's pick
Mumbai Fables by Gyan Prakash
Gyan Prakash's Mumbai Fables, published in 2010, helped me see my city differently. Prakash's narrative is layered with legends, poems, books, novels, mysteries, newspaper articles, film songs, advertisements, architectural styles, comic books and paintings inspired by the city. Through them, he shows us the kaleidoscopic hotch-potch that Mumbai's story is. History and geography of places are always linked, but in Mumbai, the linkages are crushing and life-giving at the same time. It's an absolutely delightful record of a lovely, tender and harsh city.
Manu S Pillai's pick
Goat Days by Benyamin
Published originally in Malayalam as Aadujeevitham, and translated into English in 2012 by Joseph Koyipally, Goat Days by Benyamin strikes me as one of the most extraordinary novels of this decade. It is horror and dark, human comedy both, as well as a tale of aspiration, endurance and will. Set in the Arabian desert around the travails of an enslaved Indian immigrant, the book's structure is simple. But what it communicates is so tremendously powerful and so full of force, that with it, Benyamin truly scales literary magnificence.
Anand Neelakantan's pick
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Having read this in 2017, Sapiens gets my vote. I began reading his other titles, too. It gives you a great perspective of the world and how religion and stories have shaped it, and an understanding of how humanity has progressed. Logical and thought-provoking, it has helped me look at fiction with a new lens as well as write my own books, such as Book 1 and 2 of Baahubali. The writing style is lucid, and as a writer I know how difficult it is to achieve that. I look forward to reading whatever Harari brings out next.
Ashok Banker's pick
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
In the second decade of this new millennium, I finally caught up with many old greats like Anthony Powell's A Dance To The Music of Time series and Richard Ford's Independence Day, as well as wonderful new discoveries such as Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous and Tommy Orange's There There, but by far the most outstanding find was Deborah Levy. Her novel Hot Milk (2016), despite the cringeworthy title, is a masterpiece of a novel. Every book by her is a wonder but for me, Hot Milk stands out as one of the greatest novels of this or any decade.
Vishwajyoti Ghosh's pick
Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto
It's been a good decade for books with many original, diverse voices. Of these many have found a space on my shelf with Em and the Big Room (2012) topping the list. It's a book I keep going back to, for it is very brave. It's never easy to stitch such a personal, immediate experience of growing up so beautifully with the time and the city it's set in. It paints a much larger canvas than one's home and not for a moment can I slip a Bombay I've been dragged into. Written so simply, it looks effortless but is deceptively so.
Amrita Mahale's pick
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels are phenomenal. I read them in 2015.The world she builds, post-war Italy and working class Naples, as well as the rich inner lives of her protagonists, all glow with detail and life. She blurs the lines between literary fiction and a soap opera to create a modern, feminist epic.
Shabnam Minwalla's pick
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
The four books that make up the Neapolitan series follow the intense friendship between Lila and Lenu, two girls from a rough, working-class neighbourhood in the Naples of the 1950s. As little girls, they play with dolls and dodge bogeys, real and imaginary. Later, they deal with marriage, love and betrayal. But their friendship stays with them through the tumultuous decades. Although she has written the most magical prose of the decade, the real Elena Ferrante has managed to hide behind her pen name and kept her identity a secret.
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