One of my habits (started when I was a teenager) is to make lists of books that I wanted to buy. I keep a paper (much folded, scribbled and hence dilapidated) in which I constantly update my wish list, crossing out names when I have bought them and adding new ones.
Either I have bought more books than I can possibly afford or my wants are coming down, my current list has only seven names on them. To record the symmetry of today’s date for posterity (also my father’s 60th birthday), I thought I would list down the seven books I am going to buy next.
1. Red – I. Allan Sealy
Sealy is one of the most underrated authors in the Indo-Anglian space. He has consistently produced fine novels (Trotter Nama and Everest Hotel are the two I have read), which have not been best selling probably because he is not marketed as aggressively as, say, Vikram Seth. This is not to say he is better than Seth, though!
Red is his latest, of which the paperback version is now out and has an interesting premise. It takes inspiration from the life of Henri Matisse and is named after his favourite colour. Each of the characters is named after a letter of the alphabet and these 26 chapters make up the novel. Intriguing!
2. India After Gandhi – Ramachandra Guha
Guha is the finest writer on cricket that I have had the privilege of reading. For a long time, I used to claim that the three best cricket writers in the country – Sujit Mukherjee, Mihir Bose and Guha – are all Bengalis but Guha’s idolization of Vishwanath (initially) and Rahul Dravid (later) led to a sneaking suspicion and subsequent research showed that he was a Kannadiga.
As for this book, a modern day history of India written by a non-partisan and erudite scholar is always welcome since all our history syllabi routinely ended at that midnight of August 1947. And for events after that, I have relied on India Today Special Issues and urban legends. Maybe, Guha will be able to give the period a balance between authenticity and readability. And of course, the last line is priceless!
The book has also received unanimous praise from the reviewers as well as the author himself, who has called it ‘the most important book I will ever write’.
Maybe. But even without reading it, I can state that his Corner of a Foreign Field is probably better written. After all, the subject is more fascinating!
3. You Must Like Cricket? – Soumya Bhattacharya
4. Men in White – Mukul Kesavan
Anecdotal histories of cricket, I never tire of. There is an innate charm in hearing what a person was doing when India lifted the World Cup, when Javed Miandad hit that momentous six and when Bangladesh scored the winning run. If the person has a gift of the gab, then I am hooked for the rest of the evening. And if there is vodka in the vicinity, I am staying the night at his place! Both the authors have written extensively, on cricket among other things. Also, the ambit of their chronology roughly coincides with my own cricket watching days so I am relatively protected against the boredom of legends from time immemorial. I can relate to post-1970s stuff but theories about Mushtaq Ali – being India’s best one-day batsman it never had – can be a little soporific. Also, from their blogs on Cricinfo, they appear to be more chatty than scholarly, so hopefully there will not be too much talk on whether Sehwag’s right foot is moving as much as it should.
5. The Gardener’s Song – Kalpana Swaminathan
The detective – Lalli – made her debut in the Page 3 Murders, which I listed among my favourites of 2006 in the Food category! This is Lalli’s return to a Bombay apartment block where a despicable inmate gets murdered. A classic setting for a murder mystery, where there is a fixed group of suspects and gradually everybody seems to have a reason to kill the victim.
The reviews have pegged the level of detection higher than the first one – and of course, Lalli has a lot of charisma. After all, she is India’s first woman detective in print.
In cinema, Rituparno Ghosh’s Shubho Mahurat had Rakhee playing the role of a detective, known only by the name which her niece and de facto Watson (played by Nandita Das) called her – Ranga Pishima. The story was based on a Miss Marple novel and the film was very well directed with interesting sub plots.
6. The Google Story – David Vise
Very soon, all our life’s possessions and information will be locked in electronic accounts, all of which will be controlled by Google. By promising to pay us if our friends click on links on our blogs, they have started to take intimate information about our life, universe and everything. It is only a matter of time before we get an e-mail saying “Psycho-analysis of our Orkut profile, transcripts of your Google Talk conversation, pictures uploaded to your Picasa account and your posts on Blogger have confirmed that you are having sex with Ms ******** right now. We have debited your credit card $10000. If you refuse the payment, a movie of Google Earth pictures of the activity will be posted on YouTube.”
So, I just want to figure out how they are going to achieve that and this well-written book has been highly recommended for that!
And don’t laugh. If in the early 90s, somebody had told you that in fifteen years from now, you won’t be able to start your computer without software from a bespectacled Harvard dropout, you would have laughed – right?
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J K Rowling
Will Harry die? Where can I get an Invisibility Cloak?
Who will win the Quidditch Cup this time?
How many pages are there in the book?
How is Snape coming back?
Will the finale live up to the promise?
Is Ron going to ‘get’ Hermione?
Can I take that day off?
Where are the other Horcruxes hidden?
What does ‘hallows’ mean?
Where will the final showdown with Voldemort happen?
Can she resolve all of it in one book?
Is Dumbledore really dead?
Will the Fabmall guys manage to deliver it on the 21st?
And most importantly, is my guess about Harry’s aunt correct?
People write reviews of books they read. I wrote previews!