Some famous, some new, some old, some romantic and some just for the heck of it, a list of books that you could read wherever you are
This is treasured signed copy that I had picked at the Valley of Words Dehradun Literature Festival three years back. A treasure trove of simple incidents, beautifully written, this is light reading in tough times. Each story is about two to three pages with a beautiful ending.
A book surpasses all limitations of time and space. And this book by Ganesh Saili brings alive the queen of hill, Mussoorie, sister town Landour and Dehradun valley. For most of us living in Delhi, a trip to this beautiful mountain area is a must-do. Beautifully written, the author, in his tongue-in-cheek style, takes us back to a time when the hills had a different ambience. With less people and more time to chatter, the hills rang with stories of fires, schools, honeymoons, ghosts, tourists and more. Read to know the beauty, the people and the culture of this amazing region. And you will also hear about his friends–actors Victor Banerjee and Tom Alter, famous authors Ruskin Bond and Stephen Alter, the rajas who built summer homes, the Brits who lived in the cantonment and a lot more. It makes the silent indoors lively.
Some authors transport you to their world. And Wilbur Smith has always brought the stories of the African continent alive. I love his expression, language and the drama that is created with a plot within plots. This books revolves around the famous Pharoah Ramses and his insane brother. Wars, gods, kings and kingdoms, it’s a roller coaster that keeps you hooked. And you get to enjoy the ancient world with its power struggles and joyful ends
It’s been around four years since I was invited to a walk in Old Delhi with the famous historian Swapna Liddle and her sister Madhulika Liddle. I wasn’t aware Madhulika was a crime fiction writer. For me, Old Delhi stands for my roots as I was born in Kasturba Gandhi Hospital and lived in Chawri Bazaar for the first three years of my life. And being gifted this signed copy by the author was an added pleasure. But when I got down to reading the Muzaffar Jang story, I simply couldn’t put it down without completing it. And that took me two days. This is not a book you rush through; you read it word by word. The rich language, the detailed information on the era and the way people lived and behaved in the days of the Mughals, the book is such a pleasure. Madhulika reminds me of my favourite Sherlock Holmes. The perfect description of clothing, dialogue and areas is so refreshing. The relationships and the intricacies of greed and revenge are so deeply interwoven in our daily lives that we don’t even pay attention until a crime rings the alarm bell. I loved the sensitive detective as he pays heed to his young wife’s words, the compassion he holds for the trodden and the deep love he has for his foster father. The book brings alive the city of Shahjahannad with it’s canals and horse carts long before I was born.
As a native of Chennai, Tulsi has capture the city, real life people, transition and roots in an explicit manner. There is a movement within the same circle of brightening up the culture and the roots, the good and the bad of the town, the history which gives it an air of grandeur and the ability of the city to absorb, retain, throw out and still grow. She was listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize longlist in 2008. She has written two novels set in Chennai, Meeting Lives and Man of A Thousand Chances. This book is one of narrative non-fiction.
Talking about the change in name of the city, she says, “Madraspatnam and Chennapatnam were twin names of two settlements, the British and the native, side by side near Fort St George built in 1640. To quote from my book, ‘While Madras went on to lend its name to the larger southern peninsula or Madras Presidency, it also absorbed Chennai into its fold as it grew…In the past ten years especially, there has been rapid change of the sort that leads people to distinguish ‘hip’ Chennai from ‘boring’ Madras.’ The change of name has led to people referring to the traditional aspects of the city as old Madras and the newer mall culture as Chennai. But they exist in the same geographical space.”
This is a compilation of her 100 best columns published across various newspapers in the Middle East and South Africa. Story after story pops out, from the author falling sick to learning to sew a button, finding anti-ageing creams, looking young and more. The different columns are illustrated with a lovely cartoon. The credit for the funny illustrations goes to Osama Hajjaj, Jordan’s leading cartoonist. Talespin is a daily dose of laughter, our everyday life which keeps us fit and fine. There are no tall fantasy tales and no great claims. Moreover Malik is someone who loves to meet and talk. She is inspired by travel books, autobiographies and humour writing. Sir V S Naipaul and Bill Bryson are her all time favourites.
A former journalist, Adite’s editing skills are good. And turning from hard core subjects, to heart moving romance has been quite a shift for her. But she has skilfully woven many plot now with young and happy characters and scenic narratives. The story is woven well around a friend’s wedding to be held on the lovely islands and it synchronizes with the resort’s high profile launch. For instance, the launch and the wedding and coverage of all this by a prominent TV channel has been well-written. I liked the coining of phrases, “countess of skills, stony-silence, RBIL mantras” which the protagonist Rayna has cooked up for herself for handling all situations. There is a lot of emotion, suppressed family secrets, hanging on with grit kind of situations, little misunderstanding which make way for mountains of fights, relationship snags, the Indian family above all scenario.
This is a romantic tale that would appeal to rebels. It’s all about facing your innermost fears, the negatives we have been told to suppress. Sonia, the woman who hides the darkest possible secret in her bosom, and Karan the young boy lost in a sea of fights. The lead characters are good people closeted in circumstances they were not taught to deal with in a healthy manner. And then there’s the absolute modern style of living—the girl is a PG in the guy’s house and there is no love lost between the two. But then two strong people are always drawn to each other and it clicks big time. The book has some really moving scenes. It’s a Bollywood masala but it’s also about the grand mixed-up world we live in.
It is a meeting of young cousins, Meera, Tara and Samir, a holiday which spins off an adventure. In the quiet, spiritual town of Dharamshala a storm is brewing. Unknown to anyone, a drug racket takes off, a man dies, a spirit guide helps and three teenagers are busy tracking the rascals. And then there is the theft of idols, sacred temple idols, the proverbial police-thief drama ensues and the children find the missing links. There are secret passages, mysterious doors, abandoned churches and strange men, green boots and shiny belt buckles… Maulshree Mahajan’s debut novel, The Mystery of the Missing Buddha, reminds me of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven series. It thrills and chills but being set in an Indian context has more Indian than sleuthing moments. Though much like the ups and downs of the hilly town, there are high and low times, there are some heart-stopping scenes, betrayals and masks. The curiosity of young children and their love for adventure and mystery leads the Singh Sisters on a drama trail. They rope in their young male cousin, Samir, to satisfy their curiosity and move around the quiet town in a stealthy manner much like a cat on the prowl for its prey. Intelligent, articulate and thinkers, the children can give the police a run for their jobs. Then there are the veritable tourist spots of Dharamshala mentioned in the book which actually make you long for a trip to the town. Set amidst picturesque Himalayas, the serenity reflects in the book and in the mindsets as the children visits Dalai Lama’s monastery, go for treks, and find an old church. Written simply and without much ado, the book makes for an interesting read for all age groups. From the young to the old, all will feel like taking a trip to the town to see where the mystery unfolded. Carry it along, and you just might meet your favourite character.