What to read this summer6 min read . Updated: 09 Mar 2016, 08:27 PM IST
Five leading book editors pick their best for an eclectic list
Five leading book editors pick their best for an eclectic list
The long, lazy summer days are here. How better to prepare for it than getting a reading list into place, besides getting the air-conditioner serviced. We asked for help from those who read for a living. Five talented editors who lead publishing houses pick books for an eclectic summer reading list.
Karthika V.K., publisher and chief editor, Harper Collins India
Don DeLillo’s Zero K has to be first on the list. To be published in May, the novel has been described by his publishers as one of his finest ever. I am taken by the central premise: a billionaire father with a younger wife who has been diagnosed with cancer; a secret medical project that seeks to redefine the ways in which we die—and need not. To read DeLillo is to find oneself on continuously shifting sands, with the occasional deep dive. I usually come up for air feeling hugely relieved that I am not after all within the novel and can retreat to a far more mundane reality.
The other book, or rather series, that I’ve begun and intend to read through, is by Elena Ferrante. I can’t believe I took so long to get around to reading her; she’s had me hooked from page one. My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child (the Neapolitan novels, as they have come to be known) are translated from Italian and tell the story of two girls growing up in a poor neighbourhood in Naples. It’s a coming-of-age tale, a bildungsroman, the sort of fiction that you can easily escape into and which ends up telling the story of a nation and a time in history even as it traces the localised intimacies of growing up and finding friends.
In non-fiction, the book I am looking forward to reading is Radhika Vaz’s Unladylike: A Memoir. Having bumped into her a few times at book events and followed her on social media, I am quite sure this is going to be one fun page-turner with lots of chuckles and genuine insights into our lives and times.
And because I am so excited about some of the books that we are publishing at Harper this year, I am going to include one of my favourites: White Magic by Arjun Nath. It’s a visceral gut-wrenching exploration of what it means to fall into drugs and the long climb back—a debut work that deserves to find a wide readership.
Finally, I know I am going to spend a part of my summer break with the gorgeous Collected Works of Jane Austen I was gifted a couple of months ago and have been waiting to get into. It’s a large format, exquisitely illustrated hardback that should make for several hours of undiluted nostalgia and pleasure—work and kids and dogs willing!
Meru Gokhale, editor-in-chief, literary publishing, Penguin Random House India
The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee(out 17 May) is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read—it opens your eyes to the new world, challenging what we know about what makes us into the individuals we are. It interweaves science, social history and the story of his own family to explain genetics and confront the extraordinary influence of heredity on our lives, personalities, identities, fates and choices.
The Great Derangement is Amitav Ghosh’s big return to non-fiction after his much-loved Ibis trilogy. To be published in July, it talks about climate change—I can’t think of a more urgent and timely book at this point in our history.
Jihadi Jane by Tabish Khair, a June book, is a fast-paced novel about two Indian-origin girls from England who go to Syria to join the ‘Islamic State’. This one is a real page-turner!
Pyre by Perumal Murugan is a masterful and heartbreaking story about innocent young love pitted against intolerance and chilling savagery. The book will be out in April.
Diya Kar Hazra, publisher, Pan Macmillan India
Summer’s about holidays, and getaways, love and romance. And that’s exactly the sort of reading one must indulge in. Rau is the thrilling, unputdownable, heartbreaking love story of Peshwa Bajirao I and the beautiful and accomplished Mastani, set against 18th-century Maratha history. This Marathi novel by N.S. Inamdar, a popular classic, inspired a couple of TV series and the recent movie; it’s translated by Vikrant Pande.
Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You marks the arrival of a brilliant new voice. An intimate, powerful, unforgettable novel about desire, obsession, and trying to come to terms with all that shapes us—our past, our guilt—making us who we are and how we love.
Zero K is by far my favourite Don DeLillo: spare, haunting, contemplative, life-affirming. Perfect for those who’ve never read DeLillo (!) and all who love Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.
Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles: India through 50 Years of Advertising by Ambi Parameswaran is as much the story of Indian advertising as it is about India—our tastes, lifestyle—how advertising and society have shaped each other. It’s a fun, fact-filled trip down memory lane that will have you singing jingles as you reminisce.
Poulomi Chatterjee, editor-in-chief and publisher, Hachette India
One of the absolute must-reads this summer will be Bhaskar Chattopadhyay’s Patang. It’s a truly chilling crime thriller featuring a ruthless serial killer given to gruesomely killing his victims and arranging their bodies in a grotesque manner, the maverick investigator hot on his pursuit and some spectacular twists. Few Indian crime novels are this gritty and gripping.
There’s also the very talented French crime writer Pierre Lemaitre’s award-winning The Great Swindle. Set in France in the final years of the First World War, it is marked by Lemaitre’s singular talent at storytelling. Captivating characters, nail-biting suspense, and the pin-point precision with which it portrays what war does to human beings will make it a perfect summer read.
In non-fiction, there’s the very interesting Filmy Manager by Srinivas B. Vijayaraghavan. It takes a look at four essential qualities for successful management—leadership, strategy, organizational behaviour and entrepreneurship—through unlikely examples in Hindi films. It’s tremendously insightful, and as serious in its treatment of management principles as it is entertaining in being a sharp, fresh look at the films that we have enjoyed so much. Definitely a holiday must!
Small Databy Martin Lindstrom also promises to be an engrossing read. Lindstrom, one of the world’s premier brand-building experts, combines armchair travel with forensic psychology to catalogue tiny clues in the impulses and preferences of consumers in different markets across the world that reveal big, surprising truths about consumer and human behaviour in general. Some great real-life brand and business stories in there, and it’s just been declared the ‘best book of 2016’ by both Forbes and Fortune, so it’ll be one to lookout for.
Chiki Sarkar, publisher, Juggernaut
This summer, Abheek Barua’s The Beheading and Praveen Swami’s Gold Flake will be the smartest crime novels to come out of the country. Journalist Swami is the Raymond Chandler of Kashmir, his book featuring the hardboiled, cynical, wholly disenchanted Superintendent Farooq Reshi and written in high octane prose.
The Beheading by chief economist at HDFC Bank, Barua, is the only Indian crime novel that brings a sophisticated understanding of forensics and police procedural and in Inspector Sohini Sen, a world weary, alcoholic, pill addicted, middle-aged cop, we have an extraordinary character.
Svetlana Alexivich and Arundhati Roy are two amazing and distinct writers at the height of their powers. In Second-hand Time, the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature, Alexivich comes to her subject as if she were a novelist bringing a real sensitivity and tenderness to the reporting.
In Things That Can and Cannot be Said, Roy’s encounter with Edward Snowden is bristling with questions and ideas.