The Bhagvad Gita
Apart from being a guide to life and a great philosophical text, the Bhagvad Gita could beat any self-help book that we are so familiar with nowadays. Its teachings are universal. Whenever I have to make big life decisions, I read it.
Letters to a Young Poet
by Rainer Maria Rilke
It’s a book of 10 letters by Rilke, the early 19th century German poet, to one of his young students. They are very emotional letters about his own experiences and his musings on life and writing. The book is the best guide to writing I’ve ever found.
The Stories of John Cheever
by John Cheever
Most of the characters in Cheever’s novels and short stories are based in American suburbia, mostly suburbs around New York City. He was one of the first to talk about urban communities and issues of identity and alienation in America. His works taught me that you can be truly ethnic in Westchester too.
Upon the Old Hotel
by Joseph Mitchell
Mitchell pioneered a style of journalism that first appeared in his city pieces on ‘The New Yorker’ from the early 1930s to 1960s. This collection has some of his best reporting about odd characters and places in New York City, seen through his gifted eye for detail. He taught me how to write about cities.
by Salman Rushdie
I love this book because it revealed my own city to me in ways that I didn’t know it existed. It’s one of the most definitive books on Bombay. But besides the city, which in itself is a character in the book, the narrative is rich and powerful because of its memorable protagonist, Saleem Sinai.