January 27, 2022

KITAAB

Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Round-Up: 2021-22 in books – Part 1

15 min read

Team Kitaab explores 2021-22 in books by sharing some interesting released and soon-to-release titles from various publishing houses. This week we are sharing the titles by Speaking Tiger & Talking Cub.

SPEAKING TIGER & TALKING CUB (children’s imprint)

2021 Year End Highlights – Best Books of the Year

SPEAKING TIGER

1. The Demolition and the Verdict: Ayodhya and the Project to Reconfigure India by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay  

Marking the anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992 and the historic Supreme Court verdict on 9 November 2019, this is the definitive book on the issue that had dominated Indian politics for decades. The BJP is going to make Ram Mandir and Ayodhya one of their key election issues in the upcoming UP elections, so this will be really topical.

2. POW 1971: A Soldier’s Account of the Heroic Battle of Daruchchian by Major General Vijay Singh

 As the young Company Commander of the Muslim Company of 14 Grenadiers (an infantry battalion), Major (now Brigadier) Hamir Singh led the ill-fated attack on Daruchchian, across the Line of Control in Kashmir, in which 8 officers, 7 JCOs, and 149 Other Ranks were killed, injured or captured. Major Hamir Singh was himself grievously injured and taken Prisoner of War. He spent a year in Pakistan as a POW until he was repatriated back to India on 1 December 1972. Last seen involved in a hand-to-hand fight with the Pakistanis, Hamir’s whereabouts were not known and he was declared ‘Missing in Action’ until Pakistan acknowledged him as a POW in February 1972.  On his return to India, he was awarded a Vir Chakra based on the testimony of the men who fought and were captured with him at Daruchchian.

The book is primarily based on Hamir Singh’s account and gives a view of war, and of life as a PoW, that only someone who has lived through both experiences can give. From ambitious military plans that endanger the lives of the men fighting on the ground to soldiers who didn’t give up, enemies who honoured each others’ professionalism, Pakistanis nostalgic about pre-Partition India, and the shared sorrow and joy that dissolve boundaries of nation and religion, POW 1971 gives us a view of war, valour and humanity that is as heart-wrenching as it is moving.

3. Enter Stage Right by Feisal Alkazi (one of our biggest books this year)

In this book, Feisal Alkazi narrates the story of two of India’s biggest theatre families with humour and candour. With more than 50 rare photographs and delightful inside stories, this unputdownable book recounts the history of contemporary theatre in India as it has never been told before.

4. Zohra! A Biography in Four Acts by Ritu Menon

In this compelling and perceptive account, Ritu details Segal’s life and work that situates her as a pathbreaking figure in the history of Indian dance, theatre, TV, and cinema. It is based on interviews with directors like Gurinder Chadha, Ken McMullen, and Waris Hussein, etc.

5. Locking Down the Poor: The Pandemic and India’s Moral Centre by Harsh Mander

This is a comprehensive and brave analysis of the largest lockdown in human history—and the immense suffering and long-term damage it has caused. The book includes detailed statistics, ground reports from across India, and the voices of migrant workers, the homeless, relief workers, and medical experts. 

6. Women Who Wear Only Themselves by Arundhati Subramaniam (very well received!)

In this extraordinary book, critically acclaimed poet, writer, and seeker Arundhathi Subramaniam gives us a glimpse into the lives of four self-contained, unapologetic female spiritual travelers.

7. A Taste of Time: A Food History of Calcutta by Mohona Kanjilal (another best-seller this year)

This is an immaculately researched historical and cultural account of Calcutta’s rich gastronomical affair spanning centuries. The book is full of intriguing tidbits about Calcutta’s most renowned eateries, celebrated recipes, and riveting photographs that together give readers more than a glimpse into the Royal Capital’s culinary history.

8. Winged Stallions & Wicked Mares: Horses in Indian Myth and History by Wendy Doniger

Her latest with us! As passionate about horses as she is about Indian mythology, Wendy combines scholarship with storytelling as only she can, to give us a compelling book on the horse in Indian culture.

This is the first full-length book on the significance of horses in Indian mythology.

9. Encounter with Kiran: Fragments from a Relationship by Nayantara Sahgal

This is an intimate collection of emails between Nayantara Sahgal and writer Kiran Nagarkar, published for the first time. Both Sahgal and Nagarkar were outspoken critics of the ruling powers. This book is as much a bold political commentary as it is a glimpse into the life and times of two extraordinary writers who drew strength from each other in their personal and political battles.

10. I Have Not Seen Mandu: A Fractured Soul-Memoir by celebrated playwright Swadesh Deepak, translated by Jerry Pinto

Originally published in Hindi (Maine Mandu Nahin Dekha), this fractured, shattering narrative translated by Jerry Pinto — is among the most unusual books ever published in India and records Deepak’s descent into madness and his brief, uncertain recovery.

11. Tales of Hazaribagh by Mihir Vatsa (receiving great reception)

Once pure wilderness, later a prized garden, and now a land drifting towards environmental devastation through mining, Hazaribagh’s story is one of abundance, loss, and hope. With empathy and in unhurried prose, it combines the best of nature, life, history, and travel writing into an unforgettable portrait of a place and a journey back to one’s self!

12. Sisterhood of Swans by Selma Carvalho (brilliant debut)

One of the best debut novels in recent times — its subtle eroticism and exquisite prose sweep you into the world of Anna Marie Souza,  a second-generation British-Indian immigrant, whose chaotic childhood and broken home create in her an indefinable sense of yearning that propels her into a series of doomed relationships. Sisterhood has an intriguing cast of characters that captivate and delight as much as Carvalho’s writing.  Selma’s short fiction has been shortlisted for several prestigious literary prizes in the UK including the London Short Story Prize, and Sisterhood of Swans was shortlisted for the Mslexia Novella Prize.

13. Video Mariamman and Other Stories by Imayam; translated by Padma Narayanan

In his pathbreaking fiction, the acclaimed Tamil writer Imayam has written about the brutal complexities of the caste system and patriarchy in unadorned, powerful prose. This is a collection of short stories which appears in an English translation by Padma Narayanan for the first time. The book, which is Imayam’s first after winning the Sahitya Akademi award in 2020, includes fourteen of his stories about the cruel realities of the caste system and patriarchy in rural Tamil Nadu.

14. The Garden of Heaven: A Novel by Madhulika Liddle

Liddle’s mastery over historical fiction runs through every page of this gripping tale of two families, two invasions, and two hundred years in the life of one of the world’s great cities — Delhi. A richly human, layered, and dramatic narrative about Delhi on the threshold of a new phase in its long and eventful history, The Garden of Heaven holds the reader in thrall till the end.

15. Last Light of Glory Days: Stories from Nagaland by Avinuo Kire

The book features ten short stories in two parts: ‘The Disturbance’ has three interconnected stories based on the events of the Indo-Naga conflict from the late 1940s-90s. ‘New Tales from an Old World’ carries seven standalone stories that weave together Naga folk legends with everyday life. In this compassionate text, Avinuo describes a world that is as breathtaking as it is shattering; where military occupation and magic co-exist.


TALKING CUB

(the children’s imprint of Speaking Tiger)

The year started with Talking Cub’s first line of board books by Suvi Naidoo, illustrated by Devashish Verma (with many more to come). This is a series of innovative and informative, brightly illustrated books, with funny text for our youngest readers! These were:

  • My First Fun Animals Book: Have you seen a hen with a pen? Or a croc in a frock? Your child will find all kinds of animals doing silly and crazy things in this book! The simple rhyme on each page is perfect for reading aloud, and the bright and clever illustrations will delight both toddlers and parents.
  • My First Funny Jungle Book: The jungle has gone all topsy-turvy! Can you recognize these funny new animals? Discover a never-seen-before animal on each page of this book that will fire your child’s imagination. Enjoy a wonderful world that children will want to explore again and again!
  • My First Animal Families Book: Papa Penguin looks after baby penguin, while little elephants have lots of aunties and a granny! With bright and playful illustrations, this book introduces a child to the lovely world of young and old animals–cubs and chicks, calves and kittens. The text provides a gentle first lesson on Indian kinship names.
  • My First Animal Friends Book: Do you have a dog for a friend? Or is the squirrel in the tree calling out specially to you? This delightful book gently introduces a child to common birds and animals. The happy and bright illustrations bring to life creatures big and small who live all around us. A charming book about identifying animals and making friends with them.

Picture books:

1. Clock in the Jungle by Ketki Pandit, illustrated by Sneha Uplekar

Age-group: 6 years and above

A beautifully illustrated picture book that introduces young readers to the world of wildlife in the Western Ghats. It includes a small quiz at the end that will help children retain information. Children can also learn to tell the time as they read the book.

2. A Little Spice Is Extra Nice by Sruthi Vijayan and illustrated by Sanjana Ranjit

Age-group: 6 years and above

This is a delightful picture book that introduces young readers to the world of spices and food. It gives readers a peek into life in Mattancherry, the spice town of Kerala and includes trivia from history that will interest all readers.

3. Last Night I Saw a Dream by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Sudeshna Shome Ghosh, illustrated by Adrija Ghosh

Rabindranath Tagore’s charming poem about a city on the move comes alive in a brilliant new look. With beautiful illustrations by Adrija Ghosh that bring to life the city of Kolkata, this book of poetry will provide hours of joy for every child to read and imagine with.

Age group: 6+ years

4. What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up by Jerry Pinto, illustrated by Ashok Rajagopalan

Best-selling author and illustrator Jerry Pinto and Ashok Rajagopalan come together in this hilarious picture book. With easy rhyming and easy-to-read words, the book is perfect for beginner readers. Age group: 6+ years

Early chapter books:

Baby and Dubdub by Khyrunnisa A.

This is a warm and funny story about friendship by best-selling author, Khyrunnisa A. This is her first chapter-book! After all, love is love, whether it is four-legged, or crawling on all fours. It’s got delicious illustrations by Aaryama Somayaji

Age Group: 7 years and above

Non-fiction:

1. The Story of the First Civilizations: From Mesopotamia to the Aztecs by the Bal Sahitya Puraskar awardee Subhadra Sen Gupta (posthumous publication)

Subhadra, who passed away on May 4, 2021, due to COVID19, leaves behind a fun and informative book for children about the ancient civilizations from around the world – Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indus Valley, China, Greece, Rome, the Americas, and Africa. Laced with maps and rich illustrations by Devashish Verma, the book delves into the cultures, inventions, architecture, governments, and little-known stories about our origins.

2. Tipu, Sultan of the Siwaliks: A Wildlife Adventure by Amirtharaj Christy Williams

An exciting and heart-warming story of a group of elephants in a forest in north India, and a group of dedicated wildlife researchers who worked among them.

3. Magnificent Monuments of India: Taj Mahal, The Story of a Wonder of the World, Tilottama Shome; illustrated by Kavita Singh Kale

In Taj Mahal, Tilottama Shome, an architect herself by training, lucidly narrates the story of the Mughal dynasty and how the Taj Mahal came to be built. Accompanied by detailed plans, maps, illustrations, and photographs, it explains how the Taj was designed, the deep symbols that lie hidden everywhere in its plan, and the stories of the people who built it—from a mighty emperor to renowned architects to the humble stoneworkers and masons who worked on it for years. 

As wonderful as it is moving, this beautifully designed book will educate young readers on their heritage, as well as inspire them to create and appreciate beauty for themselves. 

Forthcoming in the Magnificent Monuments of India series: The Kailash Temple at Ellora


SPEAKING TIGER 2022 HIGHLIGHTS

1. The Loves of Yuri by Jerry Pinto

From one of the finest South Asian writers of our time—author of the multi-award-winning Em and the Big Hoom—an immersive, richly detailed novel about friendship, first loves, and the great city of Bombay, set in the mid-1980s.

2. Villainy by Upamanyu Chatterjee

The master of the art of black humour and satire in an avatar we have not seen before – a crime writer.  Villainy has all the ingredients a good thriller should have: a body in a park, a delinquent teenager with a passion for gambling – and firing his rich father’s unlicensed gun – and a courtroom drama that has a most unexpected ending. Will truth and justice prevail – or will the mysterious body in the park tilt the scales and lead to a completely different outcome in this story where everyone is a villain and the sort of person you would meet in the neighbourhood park during your morning constitutional?

3. A Book of New Beginnings (Edited and with an Introduction by Jerry Pinto)

A shining treasure of meditations, consolations, and inspirations from voices as diverse as Rumi, Tolstoy, Vivekanand, Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, Lao Tzu, Pablo Neruda, Ghalib, Tagore, Marie Curie, the Dalai Lama, Gulzar, Shailendra, Ruskin Bond and unsung, everyday people with an extraordinary gift for hope and perseverance. Edited and introduced by one of India’s finest and most beloved writers, and beautifully designed and produced, this is a timeless book, a book of comfort and courage to possess and to gift.

4. The Tombstone in My Garden and Other Stories by Temsula Ao

Five stories by one of Nagaland’s best-loved writers, each one carries a message and a mirror to life in the northeast, from the part that nature plays in day-to-day life, to domestic violence and the problems of the ‘outsider’.

5. Why They Killed Gandhi

Gandhi was accused of dishonesty and treachery by Nathuram Godse and his co-conspirators. He was blamed for the Partition, for ‘appeasing’ Muslims, for failing the people of this nation. As the author says, ‘The only thing Gandhi was spared blame for was the intense humidity experienced in the year 1947–48.’ But are any of Godse’s accusations valid? If not, then was there another reason to assassinate Gandhi? And was Godse’s ideological mentor, V.D. Savarkar, involved in the conspiracy? Ashok Kumar Pandey’s Why They Killed Gandhi, translated from the celebrated 2020 Hindi title, lays bare the facts of the murder, exposes the ideology that killed him and offers a passionate defense of Gandhi and his politics.

6. Uncaged: My Days in the CBI and the IPS by Amar Pratap Singh

A former CBI director recalls his days in the CBI and the IPS when he dealt with some of the most sensational cases in recent times, from the 2G and CWG scams to dealing with the Big Bull and the Aarushi-Hemraj double murder.  Singh was also instrumental in getting the Lokpal Act amended to safeguard the functioning of the CBI.  A candid and gripping account of thirty years spent in the killing fields of Bihar as an IPS officer, and then in the country’s premier investigating agency.

7. Shiva: An Anthology; edited by Karan Singh

From the cosmic dancer Nataraja to a mendicant beggar, to the androgynous Ardhanarishvara to the ascetic-turned-householder, the stories on Shiva are abounding. At times benevolent and at times a merciless slayer of beasts, Shiva continues to be the most ambiguous figure in Hinduism. In this anthology, edited and introduced by politician and philosopher Karan Singh, some of the greatest Indologists and scholars — like Namita Gokhale, Wendy Doniger, Devdutt Pattanaik, Alain Daniélou, Alka Pande, Aldous Huxley — come together to unravel this great conundrum.

8. Citizen Gallery: How a Storefront Mid-wifed Modern Art in Bombay by Jerry Pinto

A unique biography of two unique individuals – Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy, who ushered in and nurtured a new era in modern art in Bombay with the birth of Gallery Chemould back in 1963. Pinto’s well-researched and delightfully anecdotal biography, illustrated with exclusive pictures from family albums, explains why Chemould is still the go-to place for artists and art lovers.

9. Speaking Tiger will be publishing a series of books on little-discussed aspects of the Kamasutra by Alka Pande

10. After such bestsellers as The Hindus, Ring of Truth and Winged Stallions, and Wicked Mares, also forthcoming in 2022 is Wendy Doniger’s memoir of her time in India between 1965 and 1966.

11. The award-winning author of The Adivasi Will Not Dance, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar has a new novel in 2022, The Memorial.

12. Free Fall: My Experiments with Health and Wellness by Mallika Sarabhai

In this no-holds-barred book, danseuse and actor Mallika Sarabhai gives her own take on everything from losing weight to pregnancy, how to quit smoking and how to unmess your head – but don’t expect any tried and tested formulas here!

13. Zac O’Yeah’s travel memoir – Digesting India: A Writer’s Notebook of Travels with the Tummuy

In life, there’s nothing more pleasant than a great meal in a nice restaurant in the company of a great book by a good author, thinks Zac O’Yeah in his moments of unabashed holiday hedonism. So in his highly personal travel memoir, we journey across India on a culinary pilgrimage, often off the beaten track, sampling local edible (and sometimes nearly inedible) specialties while musing over literary matters. Digesting India is a wildly entertaining and highly erudite adventure through the landscapes of Indian gastronomic art, as experienced by O’Yeah, a Scandinavian-origin Indian writer with a readiness to stomach anything and everything that grows or walks on earth. Well, almost.

14. Mark Tully’s memoir

One of the most celebrated observers of Indian politics and society, whose name is still synonymous with the BBC, Mark Tully, writes about the more than five decades he has spent living and writing in India, his adopted country  – and the many fascinating characters he has hobnobbed within the course of those years, from the most powerful politicians like Indira Gandhi and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, film stars and tycoons, to the ordinary people he meets on his walks around Humayun’s Tomb.


TALKING CUB 2022 HIGHLIGHTS (the children’s imprint of Speaking Tiger)

1. An action-packed adventure series from Ashok Banker about a super boy spy, Arun Gond

In the series, Arun goes on fantastic adventures that take him from the forests of Kerala to the White House. In each place, he unravels a magical mystery and defeats dastardly villains with his superior knowledge and tech skills. For readers 8 years and above.

2. Further Adventures of Gulgul from Ashok Rajagopalan 

The first three books of the Adventures of Gulgul series were published in 2021. In the new books, Gulgul has many more funny and heartwarming adventures as she hops from planet to planet meeting all kinds of weird and wonderful creatures. In each book, there is a gentle message of friendship and love. For readers 7 and above.

3. The Kailash Temple at Ellora in the Magnificent Monuments series by Tilottama Shome will be the second book in the series after the Taj Mahal

In this one, go on a journey right back into the time of gods and demons, kings and queens, and when an awe-inspiring work of art was brought to life on stone. In this book, which is filled with photographs and illustrations, Tilottama Shome explains concepts of Hindu temple architecture, narrates tales from history, folklore, and mythology, and brings to life this magnificent example of art and architecture for a young reader. For readers 10 years and above.

4. A series of short biographies of extraordinary Indians by Swati Sengupta

The life stories of some remarkable Indian men and women come alive in this series of short, informative, and readable biographies. All the books are about people who made immense contributions in their fields and changed our society in deep and long-lasting ways. For readers 10 years and above.

5. The Prophecy, The Key and The Shadow by Payal Dhar

An edge-of-the-seat fantasy adventure trilogy featuring amazing world-building and dizzying action. Published under the Speaking Tiger Young Adult imprint.

6. More board books by Suvi Naidoo, illustrated by Devashish Verma;

A series of informative and innovative board books for the youngest readers. Previous titles include My First Fun Animals Book, My First Funny Jungle Book, My First Animal Families Book, My First Animal Friends Book.

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