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The summer reading list

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but there are stories, pictures and narratives that create magic to make a summer delightful.

Published: 22nd June 2017 03:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd June 2017 03:29 PM   |  A+A-

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but there are stories, pictures and narratives that create magic to make a summer delightful. Indian writing across genres is going from strength to strength with a long-awaited novel from Arundhati Roy; a new sequel by Amish on Sita as an invincible warrior; Hari Kunzru’s music story; and Aravind Adiga’s savage take on cricket shows the variety and range. There is the unexpected thrill of the literary explorer—the discovery of Pablo Neruda’s lost poems means experiencing the delight of melodious heartache. A partly written story by Franz Kafka found decades after his death reminds you of a forgotten genius.  And, speaking of masters, another scare from Stephen King about the feral after-effects of all the women in the world falling asleep will make you keep the lights on. It also marks the debut of a prince of horror: Stephen’s son Owen who has co-authored the book.

The Brave New (and old) World of Publishing has some dogged souls—poetry is not the most commercially valuable product for publishers, but that hasn’t stopped new volumes from hitting the shelves. Not all have been mentioned here, but The Penguin Modern Poets series, which feature Michael Robbins, Patricia Lockwood and Timothy Thornton, cannot be missed. Crime fiction continues to chart a bloody course through this year’s literary landscape, and the Scandinavians have not let up on their bloodthirsty imagination: Jo Nesbo’s world-weary, battered Harry Hole is back; The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen—both about women in trouble—firmly establish the fact that crime writing from Sweden and Iceland are as inseparable as Sam Spade and The Maltese Falcon.

The shy Vaseem Khan’s Inspector Chopra with a golden heart is a new star in the annals of Indian crime fiction. Dan Brown is back with another Langdon story—expect more arcane mysteries and heart-in-the-mouth chases. And the inimitable Nobel wizard Orhan Pamuk serves up another murder near Istanbul. And of course, the ever-beloved Ruskin Bond’s oh-so-propah Miss Ripley-Bean—a Miss Marple from Mussoorie—with her extraordinary sleuthing skills uncovers dastardly deeds.

Writers reflect the concerns of the age—immigration and Islam. The emotional upheavals in the lives of three sisters in a small English village, Mohsin Hamid’s dark fantasy about two lovers who escape to the West and are confronted with nightmares, an Arab diplomat’s letters to moderate Muslims and the autobiography of a radical Saudi woman’s transformation into a feminist, examine what it is to be a Muslim and immigrant.

It’s also a season of surprises for the eclectic reader; a new Indian superhero rises from Varanasi; be a Passepartout on a train and order a beer at pub inside a baobab tree in South Africa. For the romantically minded, Durjoy Datta’s bittersweet supernatural novel and Anuja Chauhan’s innovative plot of a dashing fighter pilot and his pulchritudinous love interest are two unmissable reads. Spanish, Hungarian and Marathi translations take you to other lands; the Vazas teach you all about rogan josh, and the story of Czech runner Emil Zátopek set in the Stalinist era will leave you in tears. Colouring books, fairy tales, biographies, memoirs, audio books—this month promises to be a summer of contentment.

Editor’s choice

The Massacre of Mankind
by Stephen Baxter
The man who wrote The Time Ships, the sequel to HG Wells’s The Time Machine is back with another Wellsian tour de force; a sequel to the 1898 classic The War of the Worlds. The Martians are back! History is in reverse—Corporal Hitler, Thomas Edison building anti-Martian machines, Venusian humanoids and super-intelligences from Jupiter coexist in this retro-allegory of fascism.

Kill the Father
by Sandrone Dazieri
Two damaged cops—Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli and Dante Torre—pursue a masked kidnapper, who calls himself “the Father”, to a dark and terrifying end that goes beyond the beheading of a woman in Rome and the disappearance of her little son.

All Quiet in Vikaspuri
by Sarnath Banerjee
Delhi’s colonies are at war over water. Girish the Psychic Plumber, who first appeared  in The Harappa Files, digs for the mythical Saraswati river. A tour de force of savage artistic style and terse captions, it’s a graphic novel for keeps.

The Secret Books
by Marcel Theroux
A young Russian escapes Tsarist Russia to British India looking for a mysterious manuscript on Jesus, which could prevent the coming of the Holocaust.

Fiction

The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters
by Nadiya Hussain
One of the big books of the year, this story of four sisters—Fatima, Farah, Bubblee and Mae—forms a warm picture of family bonding amidst soul-search and tragedy in a Muslim household living in a small English village. Nadiya is a baker and television star who won the BBC’s The Great British Bake Off and got to bake for the Queen. A cake of a read.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
by Arundhati Roy
One of the most awaited books of the decade, the celebrity author’s second novel has been panned by critics as confusing, illogical and self-cannibalistic. It’s a ménage of much—Old Delhi, New Delhi, Kashmir, Naxal-infested forests; a cleverly told story of love and longing, and damaged people who love life and its challenges.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
by Balli Kaur Jaswal
A challenging semi-erotic read about the young fatherless Sikh-British bartender Nikki who teaches Sikh widows English using a novel method. Another cross-cultural novel by an award-winning Singaporean novelist.

Letters to a Young Muslim
by Omar Saif Ghobash
One of the most relevant books of the year by the author, born to an Arab father and Russian mother, who was the UAE Ambassador to Russia. The book is an appeal to moderate Muslims to unite against religious violence engulfing the world and the harm it is doing to Islam.

Sita: Warrior of Mithila
by Amish
One of the most anticipated books of the year tells the story of the protector and warrior Sita, who defends dharma in this book 2 of the Ramachandra Series as the prime minister of Mithila.

The Rise of Sivagami
by Anand Neelakantan
The first book in the series Baahubali: Before the Beginning describes the struggle of a vengeful orphan to prove the innocence of her father who was branded a traitor to the mighty Mahishmathi empire and its beloved king. Her target is the destruction of the empire and she comes across a dirty secret.

Exit West
by Mohsin Hamid
The author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist explores an Islamic dilemma of young lovers Nadia and Saeed who seek escape in enchantment from the terrible violence exploding in their city only to face the grim reality being a Muslim refugee in the West. A deeply moving story about the power of love in the age of distrust and prejudice.

Selection Day
by Aravind Adiga
Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli make appearances in the acclaimed writer’s new novel about two Mumbai boys whose father trains them to be “the number one and number two batsmen in the world”. Cricket is a powerful metaphor of modern India and the novel is a simulacrum of all that is rotten in the world of Indian cricket.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing
by Madeleine Thien
In this novel by the Canadian writer shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite home young Ai-Ming, fleeing China after the Tiananmen Square protests. From Mao’s time to the present, a poignant story of music, tyranny and revolt unfolds as their artistic lives intersect.

White Tears
by Hari Kunzru
Two young music producers in New York accidentally come upon a forgotten old blues song sung by a faceless black man in a hoodie in a public square. They tape it covertly and technically alter it to resemble a retro song which is uploaded online. It goes viral with unforeseen consequences—paranormal and racist—for both.

House of Names
by Colm Tóibín
An ancient Greek myth retold with elegance and fury, the murderous Clytemnestra avenges her daughter sacrificed by a war-thirsty Agamemnon.

Mr Iyer Goes to War
by Ryan Lobo
In Varanasi, the scripturally obsessed Lalgudi Iyer discovers by accident that he is the reincarnation of Bhima. The new superhero embarks on an adventure accompanied by sidekick Bencho to fight evil. In the process, he wins the heart of the beautiful widow Damayanti. This desi Don Quixote is fighting more than windmills and has no Rosinante of his own.

Friend of My Youth
by Amit Chaudhuri
A novelist by the same name visits Bombay after the 2008 terrorist attacks. Where has his childhood friend, the six-foot tall reformed addict  Ramu, his only remaining connection to the city, disappeared?

Things to Leave Behind
by  Namita Gokhale
Kumaon is where Gokhale and her illustrious clan is from and the texture of this novel is taken from its exotic tapestry; an ancient lake, strong women and determined Englishmen—the Lower Mall Road (‘for dogs, servants and other Indians’), and native women in black and scarlet pichauras are all part of this ambitious literary mosaic.

Homegoing
by Yaa Gyasi
This debut novel narrates the century-spanning story of two sisters born in Ghana in the 18th century: one a slave and another a slaver’s wife and their descendants in America today. The title is derived from an old African belief that after death, a slave’s spirit will travel back to Africa where it finds home after passing.

Sleeping Beauties
by Stephen King and Owen King
Middle America’s greatest literary historian  and his son have a new ace up their sleeve—all the women in the world suddenly fall asleep. If awakened, they become feral. Only one woman is immune; is she the devil or the deliverer?

The Red-Haired Woman
by Orhan Pamuk
Another red from the Nobel laureate author of My Name is Red on a murder near Istanbul and a homecoming that marks a tragedy and the conflict of civilisations.

The Association of Small Bombs
by  Karan Mahajan
The 2016 novel by Indian-American writer opens with Kashmiri terrorist Shockie bombing a Delhi market. The story of the aftermath is told through the eyes of the bomber, the injured and the mourning families of victims.

Collectibles
I’d Die for You and Other Lost Stories
by F Scott Fitzgerald
Unpublished stories by arguably America’s greatest urban writer and author of The Great Gatsby of which 16 are finished and one is uncomplete.

Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems
by Pablo Neruda
Just when one thought one had read all of the word’s most romantic modern poet’s heartbreaking verse comes along a volume of twenty-one previously unknown poems about love and politics. They were found by archivists in 2014.

The Burrow
by Franz Kafka
Posthumously published fiction, which includes an unfinished story about a mole exploring tunnels it had dug—a dark allegory of futility.

Nonfiction
Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik
by Devdutt Pattanaik
Finally, the popular TV show Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik in book form explores stories, symbols and rituals of Hindu culture. It answers questions that have obsessed the curious mythology buff: Why are most temples dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva or the goddess or why did the Pandavas land in naraka?

From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds
by Daniel Dennett
What is the origin of the human mind? What is consciousness and its driving force? The famous philosopher finds answers in culture, responsible for the richness of thought and reflection.

How the Hell Did This Happen: The US Election of 2016
by PJ O’Rourke
America’s leading satirist is at his acidic best in this hilarious retelling of the Presidential election that brought Trump to power: And Hillary? ‘She’s the second worst thing that could happen to our nation. I endorse her.’

That’s The Way It Crumbles: The American Conquest of the English Language
by Matthew Engel
The journalist-turned-author traces the American invasion of the English language from the early days of the New World and explains how America’s cultural supremacy affects British gestures, celebrations and way of life.

Post-Truth
by Evan Davis
The power of lies subverts reason and leads people to believe the lies of politicians while losing faith in governments. Why?

The Rub of Time
by Martin Amis
A collection of diverse essays by the master litterateur on the life and works of Vladimir Nabokov, Donald Trump, Princess Diana, Diego Maradona and Jeremy Corbyn.

Age of Anger: A History of the Present
by Pankaj Mishra
An analysis of the rise of populism and the collapse of the liberal-democratic ethos as a result of globalisation and greed. He argues popular insecurity has brought to power authoritarian leaders like Trump and Erdogan.

Crime

Death Under The Deodars
by Ruskin Bond
This is nothing less than an Indian Agatha Christie living in Mussoorie—Miss Ripley-Bean witnesses a murder and is seen by the murderer. What follows is a madcap investigation involving stranglers, terriers and a hotel pianist.

Origin
by Dan Brown
Robert Langdon returns for the fifth time to solve what the publisher’s blurb says, “the dangerous intersection of humankind’s two most enduring questions, and the earth-shaking discovery that will answer them”.

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