Some books to add, some to wait for and some for a pause, a quiet pause.
Starting September 2016 to March 2017, I went through a hectic period of writing that included about 70,000 words of my third novel, five short stories with a total word count of approximately 32000, and two fairly exhaustive rounds of re-writing of my second novel, set to be released through Juggernaut, later this month. Add to that some columns on various platforms, my review of the Jaipur Lit Fest, and I have been writing pretty much non-stop. Not complaining, of course!
I read, so I write. I consider this as a pause for the cause, catching my breath, as it were, before embarking on the next long fiction project. Here is the list in no particular order, it may have some spoiler alerts, and all the books are not recent releases.
Sita: Warrior of Mithila By Amish Tripathi
Let’s admit – Amish Tripathi almost single-handedly discovered the Puranic fiction genre for a whole generation of millennials whose engagement with Indian mythology was restricted to an occasional episode of a TV serial. Sita, the second of the five book Ram Chandra Series tells the story of Sita from her birth to abduction. According to the author, the book portrays Sita as a “warrior, a strong woman”. Two years after the blockbuster, Scion of Ikshvaku, Amish’s compelling storytelling skills combined with his profound philosophical foundation make Sita the most awaited book of this summer.
End of Watch By Stephen King
If you have been following the Bill Hodges Trilogy, you probably share my excitement about reading the conclusion of the cat-and-mouse game that commenced with Mr Mercedes. While Mr Mercedes and its sequel, Finders Keepers, were both non-supernatural psychological thrillers, with End of Watch, King returns to the more familiar territory of the supernatural. Brady Hartsfield aka Mr Mercedes, whom we left lying in a vegetative state in a hospital, at the end of Mr Mercedes (Hodges paid him a brief visit at the end of Finders Keepers), returns in this final instalment, as he wreaks havoc without ever leaving his hospital room. Bill Hodges and his ragtag bunch of good guys who stopped Hartsfield in the first part, return to confront him one last time.
We can’t wait to know how it works out, can we?
Operation Jinnah By Shiv Aroor
We all know Shiv Aroor as the award-winning journalist/editor who, as a field journalist, has gone where few journalists have gone before. With Operation Jinnah, Shiv tries his hand at fiction. The only daughter of a highly decorated Indian Admiral is kidnapped by terrorists, and now her father and his team of trained commandos must launch an audacious rescue mission behind enemy lines. But this is more than just a kidnapping. The fate of two nations itself might be hanging in balance. One gets the feeling that the book will draw upon Shiv’s immense experience of reporting of wars and defence matters. Added reason (did I need one?) – the book is set to be published by Juggernaut, who is also publishing my own crime thriller The Dark Road, later this month.
That makes me and Shiv, authors-in-arms, eh?
In Her Image By Adam Croft
British novelist Adam Croft has been something of a cult figure in the self-published circuit. His books sell in numbers that many traditionally-published writers never get to see. The man is prolific. Adam also represents a new brand of writers who engage with their readers/followers exhaustively through social media. His new book, In Her Image, is about a young girl’s desperate attempts to stay one step ahead of her stalker. In Adam’s own words, this novel is “a pure psychological thriller that will leave the protagonists as well as the readers in a state of panic. What is going on? Who can you trust? And the scariest thought of them all – it could happen to anyone.”
What’s not to like?
Into the Water By Paula Hawkins
Two years after she knocked us out with her astonishing debut Girl on the Train, British novelist Paula Hawkins returns with Into the Water. Set in a small riverside town, the novel tells the story of a woman trying to solve the mystery of her sister’s death while taking care of her now orphaned niece. Will Paula essay the impossible task of surpassing her dream debut? I don’t know, nor do I care. Paula writes, we read – that is how it works.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North By Richard Flanagan
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2014, Richard Flanagan’s novel tells the story of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian army doctor who becomes POW during the Second World War. The novel traces separate story lines of Dorrigo’s affair with his uncle’s young wife before he is sent to the frontline, his horrific experience as a POW in a Japanese prison camp, and his reflections on the past as a decorated war hero in the post-war era. The POW parts are like a hellish version of The Bridge on the River Kwai. The doomed romance between Dorrigo and Amy has all the inevitability of a Greek tragedy. The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a moving account of a man who discovers what he has lost.
Tunnels of Varnavat By Gautam Chikarmane
Set in the Puranic times, Gautam Chikarmane’s novel tells the story of Badri, who after giving up the life of a Kshatriya, is now working as sort of a Puranic civil engineer, taking care of the mesh of tunnels running underground. But when Duryodhana hatches a plan to kill Pandavas, only Badri can save them. Gautam’s book has a sense of contemporariness even in a Puranik background, and in Badri, he has created a character that has an air of everyday heroism about him.
The Modern Monk By Hindol Sengupta
We arrive at the first non-fiction entry in my list. Hindol, the suave editor-at-large of Fortune India and bestselling author of books like Being Hindu and Recasting India, draws upon his own background as a ‘child of the RK mission’ and vast research to give us a very modern, very rational, and most of all, a balanced look at Swami Vivekananda’s life. From Swami Vivekanand’s engagement with Darwinian principles to his keen interest in trade and from his relationship with his many disciples to his complex relationship with his own guru, Hindol’s book is a fascinating look at one of the most under-discussed and enigmatic personalities of our history.
The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest By Anatoli Bourkeev with G Weston Dewalt.
How do you define courage? Climbing the tallest peak in the world? How about launching a solo rescue operation to save your clients in blizzard conditions with near zero visibility at over 24000 feet? How about doing all of this hours after summiting Mt Everest without supplemental oxygen? The late Kazakhstani guide Anatoli Boukreev did just that, saving three of his clients left for dead single-handedly. Those who read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer know part of the story already. In that book, Krakauer, though appreciative of Toli’s feat of courage and bravery, also spent a lot of time assigning part of the blame for the disaster that left eight people including the expedition bosses of two teams dead, to Bourkeev’s decision to descend ahead of his clients after the summit. With The Climb, Bourkeev gave his rebuttal. Which one of those men was more honest in their narrative? We may never know, but only one of them chose danger and saved lives. To me, that’s all that matters.
Test of Will By Glenn McGrath
Those who followed Australian pace spearhead Glenn McGrath remember him as an epitome of economy. From run-up to the bowling action, everything was measured, precise and devastating. Now, in this autobiographical tale, the Aussie opens up about losing his wife Jane to breast cancer, raising his children and finding love again. I expect Glenn to bring to his writing the same sense of economy and accuracy that made him one of the most feared bowlers in the world.