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Turning over a new leaf

By January 9, 2019No Comments

Source : The Hindu Business LineBLink   –    MEENAKSHI REDDY MADHAVAN

A primer to the books worth waiting for in 2019

It is a truth universally acknowledged that almost all New Year Resolutions will probably fall off the radar by the end of January.

Mostly: Quit smoking, get fit and the like. But for a lot of people I know, it’s also “read more”.

If you don’t consider reading a chore but entertainment, a way to pass your time that is unlike any other, a way to travel from the comfort of your bed, then you should be able to read a lot more this year than you did before.

Other tips? Feel free to abandon books you don’t get into by page 50 (there are far too many books in this world for you to waste time on bad ones), don’t feel guilty about reading the same old thing, but remember to challenge yourself a little when you’re in the mood (long flights are great for reading all those books you’ve been putting off) and sink into the luxury of having nothing to do but read your book one cool/hot evening.

No plans, no phone, a little bowl of your favourite snack, your feet curled up underneath you. It’s an experience like no other.

For my first column of the year, I decided to wish-list a bunch of books coming out over the next 12 months that I’m excited about. (This isn’t a comprehensive list, by any means.)

Travel writing

Under Something Of A Cloud: Selected Travel Writing of Dom Moraes, edited by Sarayu Srivatsa (Speaking Tiger): I love travel writing when it’s done well, and the late poet Moraes’s travel memoirs should be exceptional. Highlights include: Remembrances of a childhood trip to Sri Lanka, Australia and Southeast Asia with his parents, and hanging out with dacoits in Madhya Pradesh.

Historical fiction

A Respectable Woman by Easterine Kire (Zubaan): Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres, but I haven’t read a lot out of India, which is why I’m excited about Kire’s new book set in Nagaland right after the battle of Kohima in 1944.

The Prince by Samhita Arni (Juggernaut): More histo-fantasy (that’s totally a genre, right?), this time from one of my favourite writers in the myth space. This one looks like a fun, identity-hiding adventure — a prince in disguise and darkness everywhere. From the blurb: “When an astrologer predicts that Uthiyan, the second son, is destined to be the Chera king, the prince is forced to flee his home disguised as a monk to seek refuge at the court of the Pandya king.”

The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (HarperCollins): I loved Divakaruni’s Draupadi book — The Palace of Illusions. Books retelling familiar myths from different contexts have a great personal and professional interest for me. So I’m tremendously excited about her Sita book — The Forest of Enchantments. I’ve seen some early photos of the cover on Twitter as well, and they are gorgeous.

Sitayana by Amit Majumdar (Penguin Random House): And while I’m in the Sita zone, I’m also looking forward to this “Ramayana without Ram”. We hear from every other person in the epic, including the squirrel who helped build the bridge. I’m not very familiar with the Ramayana, apart from the basic story, so pleased to add to my knowledge.


Figuring by Maria Popova (Knopf Doubleday): I’ve been subscribing to Popova’s terrific newsletter Brainpickings for several years, and this book is her exploration on living the good life, what it means and how you go about it, through a series of interconnected historical figures.

She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen: The Lives and Times of British Women in India 1600–1900 by Katie Hickman (Hachette): I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but when I do, I read history. I’m so glad that authors are beginning to talk more about the women in history; it offers a much more rounded perspective to the male-centric views of history that we’re all familiar with. This is not just a story of the memsahibs, and that’s what makes it fascinating. It’s about all the British women who came to India much earlier to reinvent themselves.

Literary fiction

You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian (Simon and Schuster): I loved Roupenian’s viral hit story Cat Person, and this collection of short stories promises as much cringe-horror. From the blurb: “Among its pages are a couple who becomes obsessed with their friend hearing them have sex, then seeing them have sex…until they can’t have sex without him; a ten-year-old whose birthday party takes a sinister turn when she wishes for “something mean”; a woman who finds a book of spells half-hidden at the library and summons her heart’s desire: a nameless, naked man.”

The Hachette Anthology of South-Asian Speculative Fiction edited by Tarun Saint; foreword by Manjula Padmanabhan (Hachette): I’ve been trying to add more genres to my regular rota, and this year I will read more speculative and science fiction. What better place to start than this anthology?

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan (Penguin Random House): Since 2018 was the year I first read and loved Atonement, plus alternative-history novels are always so fascinating, especially if researched well, and come on! this is Ian McEwan, so we know it’s going to be great. From the blurb: “Britain has lost the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power, and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In a world not quite like this one, two lovers will be tested beyond their understanding.”

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Penguin Random House): I know nothing about the new Atwood except this: It is set 15 years after the final scene of The Handmaid’s Tale and features three female narrators. But I am so excited! Finally, we get to see what happens to the strange world of Gilead!

People who haven’t read the first book yet, here’s your chance to catch up.



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