Tag Archives: Krishna Udayasa

Books 2012: What they loved and hated

Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, novelist

Manreet S SomeshawarBooks I loved reading:
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo: Written like a thriller, this is an insightful and empathetic account of a Mumbai slum
Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden–from 9/11 to Abbottabad by Peter Bergen: a crisp recountal of the search for bin Laden by the journalist who shadowed him from the beginning
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin: The book on which Spielberg’s film ‘Lincoln’ is based, in part, takes us into the life and times of the man who is regarded as America’s greatest President. The parallels with current time are surprising and enlightening
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel: historical fiction at its best
The Dinner by Herman Koch: a whodunnit that unravels over a family dinner that serves up more than just food

Books that disappointed me:
The Village by Nikita Lalwani: an intriguing premise which got lost in disjointed narrative
The New Republic by Lionel Shriver: despite a resonant theme – the issue of immigrants – the books stalls because of an intended ironical treatment that turns out flippant

Books I look forward to reading
Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
Patriots and Partisans by Ramachandra Guha
The Return of a King by William Dalrymple

Krishna Udayasankar, novelist

Krishna UdayasankarBooks I loved reading:
2012 has been a good reading year for me, which makes it difficult to pick a few books. Its also been a varied reading year – there have been works that inspired, entertained and moved. Its also been a good year for reading in one of my favorite genres – mythohistory. Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles was a book that I enjoyed very much. It also reaffirmed my belief that a well-written, well-constructed book can be wonderfully entertaining without losing out on critical value. 2012 was also the year that I discover (belatedly, I admit) the Percy Jackson series. I am grateful that an anonymous 8-year gentleman for a rather convincing endorsement that was shared between the shelves at a bookstore

Books that disappointed me
Of late I’ve been rather wary about books, so I’ve tended to stay away from works I’m not too sure about. Having said which, 2012 has also been a year of disappointments, particularly with the Indian literary scene. I’ve come across many books which made me wish that I had thought of an idea like that, but then, I find that lack of attention to language and craft tend to take away from what could have been an awesome book. The lack of attention and effort is what disappointments me the most.

Books I look forward to reading
As of now, I’m planning to make 2013 a re-run year: Its been a while since I read some classics , so its time to rediscover these gems (and myself in the process). Top of the list of re-reads are Charles Dickens (Tale of Two Cities), William Golding (Lord of the Flies) and Jack London (White Fang, Call of the Wild). I also hope to continue with the Heroes of Olympus series. Will be getting a copy of Superstar Rajnikanth’s biography, signed by the man himself. That is probably my first read of the new year! Beyond that, I’m looking forward to being surprised by 2013!

Monideepa Sahu, columnist and novelist

Books I loved reading

Monideepa SahuThis is a subjective list drawn up under numerous constraints. There are so many more lovely books which I want to read; some which are on my bookshelf and study table right now, still waiting to be picked up.

  1. The Yellow Emperor’s Robe by Kunal Basu (Picador) – The well-researched and vivid details strike the right balance, without miring the story in verbosity or slowing the pace.
  2. Maharana: The story of the rulers of Udaipur by Brian Masters (Mapin)  – I enjoyed this history of the Maharanas of Udaipur for its old world charm and contemporary relevance. The magnificent heritage of the world’s oldest ruling dynasty is made accessible to lay readers with interesting anecdotes and the author’s interesting personal comments.
  3. Astray by Emma Donoghue (Picador) – A fascinating collection of unusual fact-inspired short stories of people who have gone astray. Inspired writing from the author of Room which I absolutely loved.
  4. No Easy Day by Mark Owen (Penguin) – This much-talked-about first-hand account of the US Navy Seal mission that killed Osama Bin Laden, makes for exciting reading. The fast-paced style makes the story read like an edge-of-the-seat thriller.
  5. The Skinning Tree by Srikumar Sen (Picador) – A different sort of story and thought-provoking without weighing too heavy with verbosity or literary flourishes. Makes us wonder how many more wonderful books are gathering dust in the files of unknown writers.
  6. The Lilliputians by Kirsty Murray (Zubaan) – This historical adventure for children set largely in India is imaginative, exciting, and thought-provoking.
  7. Another Man’s Wife by Manjul Bajaj (Hachette India) – A great collection of intense, emotionally charged and beautifully written short stories. A fitting encore from the author of Come, Before Evening Falls.
  8. Black Ice by Mahmudul Haque, Translated from Bangla by Mahmud Rahman (Harper Collins) – This novel by one of Bangladesh’s leading contemporary writers, exemplifies the little-publicised but striking writing being produced on the other side of our nation’s borders.

Books that disappointed me
Liking a book or not is a very subjective thing. I’m quite likely not to pick up romances or self-help books, not because such books are of poor quality, but simply because the genres don’t excite me so much.
However, I did read The Magic by Rhonda Byrne (Simon & Schuster) and came back feeling it didn’t live up to the hype. There’s nothing original or truly insightful here. Just common-sense, everyday advice spelled out in plain language in a systematic and largely simplistic and repetitive manner.
The Land of Seven Rivers by Sanjeev Sanyal (Penguin-Viking) – This ‘history of the geography of India’ is smoothly written and friendly to lay readers. But, I felt the viewpoint was rather glib at times, and the book would have benefited from deeper research and scholarship.

Books I look forward to reading

  1. Vanity Bagh by Anees Salim,
  2. Vicious Circle by Wilbur Smith,
  3. Singapore Decalogue by Zafar Anjum
  4. Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s novel due in mid-2013 from Aleph Books. The story is set in Jharkhand, among the Santhals. Perhaps, the first time a novel about Santhals has been written in English

Ankur Betageri, poet & short story writer

Ankur BetageriBooks I loved reading

I have been reading books of philosophy this year.. I must have read some fiction and non-fiction as well but I don’t remember them too well. The best thing that I read this year (I am yet to finish it) is definitely Heidegger’s Being and Time. The book I just finished is Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. Being and Time is the most revelatory book I have ever read… each page opens up new avenues of thought and makes you think about existence the way you have never thought before. From Foucault to Sartre to Baudrillard… every philosopher who has shaped the horizon of 20th century thought has been influenced by the groundbreaking ideas of Heidegger. I picked up Consolation of Philosophy with lots of expectation but it didn’t turn out to be as exciting, or novel, as I expected it to be. It is a medieval metaphysical meditation on the futility of fame, wealth, power and other such ‘things of the world.’ Also, this year I read Foucault’s History of Sexuality (part one and two), and it is a great read, especially part one; it changes the way you look at sex and sexuality, esp. when you realize how sexuality, as we understand it today, is a 19th century concept, and how our idea of sex has changed through different historical periods.

Well.. I don’t think I have read any contemporary literature this year. The closest thing to contemporary lit I read was Hoshang Merchant’s The Man who would be Queen. It is a racy read, Merchant calls it “autobiographical fictions”. So you don’t know how many of his crazy sexual exploits across three countries is true but I felt the narrative was rather incoherent — he jumps from one topic to another, a bit too casually for the reader’s comfort, without satisfactorily completing any thread of thought.

I don’t think I should go on like this but I think it is a good exercise for me, to remember all that I read this year. I am surprised at how little of contemporary literature I read these days!

Another book that I liked a lot is the non-fictional graphic book Bhimayana written by Srividya Natarajan and S Anand, and illustrated by Durgabai and Shubhash Vyam, on the life of Bhimrao Ambedkar. I was particularly impressed by the use of an Indian idiom in the illustrations. Durgabai and Subhash have used “dignas”, the traditional Indian panels, and have completely done away with the comic-strip format of western graphic novels. The different kinds of speech bubbles used in he book (the “scorpion-sting” speech bubble for people whose words have a sting, for example), the novel use of newspaper and magazine reports as part of the narrative, the incident of the artists themselves being treated as invalids by the neighbours of the publisher, when they come to visit him in Delhi — all these make the book a poignant and resonant read. And, the thought of bringing a pop, hep and predominantly urban medium like graphic novel to engage with a taboo topic like untouchability (and its 21st century avtars) was, I think, fantastic in itself.

Books I look forward to reading
I am looking forward to reading The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant in 2013! Ha ha.. Seriously, that is the only book I am looking forward to read. And, maybe, I will also read Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis about which I have heard a lot of good things.