The wonders of my reading life never cease to amaze and enchant me. Working two weeks out of four every month and endless travelling has meant I read more. I abandon Bombay every monsoon and drag myself to less-soggy spaces and with myself I drag a handful of literature to keep me company. Here’s a list of books that kept me dry, engaged and in raptures this season, I can’t recommend them enough. I’ve had silent reading parties over the past few weeks, these parties have been remarkably decadent, it involves my own company, excellent food – (home made since I’ve been home or take out when I’ve been at the lovers) and beverages that I don’t have to share. I sit, deftly, under my shamiana of silence and read and eat. It’s rather perfect. In no particular order, let me share my literary philanderings!
I’m falling steadfastly in love with short stories, along with brevity I think a good short story evokes a certain emotion which each sentence furthers. Mita Kapur does a brave job of finding narrators who recount memories of food. Like any good meal there are dishes you love and then there are dishes you turn your nose up at. While I loved Wendell Rodricks’s tribute to Tia Rosa, I turned my nose up at Janic Pariat’s Porridge!
On my list are two other anthologies of food writing that I’m greedily waiting to devour – The Penguin Book of Indian Writing on Food edited by Nilanjana Roy and The Oxford Anthology of South Asian Food Writing edited by John Thieme.
I was the first person to buy the book in Calcutta. Never mind that Rowling didn’t write it, it still felt very much like her. The details that this book provided filled me with nostalgia, I remember reading the first book in 2000, when I was 14 years old. This script version is an extension of Harry’s life and I noted that Hermione kept her last name after getting married, but Ginny didn’t and how cool was the Sorting Hat’s role in the book, it truly becomes an effective trope employed by the writers to give you a sense of Albus’s character. Scorpius was silly but very endearing, while I loved the booked I’m eagerly waiting to see dementors descend into the audience and Poly Juice Potions come to life when I see the theatrical production shortly.
So many great books arrive late in our lives. This is one such. Solomon’s book cannot be finished and the book will never finish with you. It is expansive in thought and range. It is intimate and troubled and hopeful and insightful, but it is an intensely observed piece of work. I keep returning to parts of it especially on long, calm, humid evenings. This one haunting quote from the book is going to see me through a lot of relationships in life “some people are trapped by the belief that love comes in finite quantities, and that our kind of love exhausts the supply upon which they need to draw. I do not accept competitive models of love, only additive ones.” If there is one question Solomon asks through the book it is this, “to what extent should parents accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves.”
I’ve been waiting for Ghosh to produce a piece of non-fiction since In an Antique Land. Ghosh’s authorial concerns since The Hungry Tide are darkly covered in this book, about floods and cyclones and droughts and all things climate change. It’s hugely disturbing to note how there’s little to no literary documentation of grave natural calamities that have happened in India over the past decade. The book is riveting because of its lack of academic jargon, tables, figures, and numbers. With climate change at the crux of its DNA Ghosh explores its relationship with fiction and politics. I read an interview of his where he lists a few writers who write climate fiction who he loved reading; Liz Jensen and Barbara Kingsolver. Putting these on my list!
The one thing I’ve come to accept is that organised religion is flawed, and comes with a vast set of limitations. Waking Up explores the illusions of spirituality and investigates it in a curiously scientific manner, Harris maintains that spirituality ‘remains the great hole in secularism, humanism, rationalism, and atheism’. Thankfully there’s a hint of humour and none of the self-righteous hogwash that pompous spiritual writers resort to. Harris scientifically dispels superstitious religious dogmas. I loved Waking Up (!) and since I’ve spent the last year meditating with alarming rigor and have taken psychedelics through my adult life I’m convinced that the core of spiritual experiences are important truths about human consciousness. I read this book rather slowly, underlining parts and reflecting on my own meditation practice. My practice that I have come to rely on for a deeper sense of self, to become more observant of my actions and my thoughts. Transcendental Meditation has made me far more focused on things that matter, it has allowed me to strip away the banal, the excess and the unnecessary and allowed me immense calm and helped me feel ‘boundless love’.
At dinner the other day, a friend asked me to recommend a good book that I read recently. Before I could look up from my carbonara I promised him I’d blog my list of books. These are the ones I’d recommend in a heart beat they pass my literary philandering test. Being an unfaithful reader, I’ve realised what makes me abandon books; writers who indulge in verbosity and construct sentences that drive me nuts. Although a critical reason to be a book-adulterer is variety and options. I cannot resist starting new books while reading something. This habit reflects poetically in my love life too. The original affair is abandoned for greener pastures! Anyway, strong characters, a creative narrative structure, and a good book cover drove me to the authors on this list who apart from being brilliant solipsists are also articulate, engaging and endearing.
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