A summer reading list.
Ready, Set, ?Read
A summer reading list.
By Poornima Apte
Ah, the dog days of summer! Time to pull out the beach chair, slather on the sun block, sip iced tea and pull out a book. Rain, you say? Never mind. You can still fry some samosas, make some adrakwali chai and dive into that book. Whether you are at the poolside with a margarita or lazing in a hammock near a beach, there is nothing like a good read to wrap up that quintessential summer experience. While a masaledar book is fun to zip through at such times, summer can also afford more heavyweight reading. Here are some of my picks for the summer reading season. There are action books, easy reads, serious books that make you think, and nonfiction books. Enjoy!
Transmission by Hari Kunzru: Anybody who has read Kunzru's debut, The Impressionist, knows that he is the master of creative storytelling. The Impressionist also made news because it garnered one of the heftiest advances in recent publishing history for the English author. Now comes Transmission and it is one hundred percent fun. Take one jaded body-shop programmer, throw him in Silicon Valley, mix in computer viruses and Bollywood hungama, and add a generous dash of international business machinery. Sounds like a wild ride, but it is the recipe for one hip story. Transmission is definitely my number one desi pick for the quintessential summer read.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri: Yes, you have heard the hype ad nauseam. Now it is time to bite. Reviews of The Namesake have been mixed but Lahiri's signature style is on wonderful display here. Lahiri has an eye that captures the smallest intricacies of the immigrant experience. The Namesake is definitely worth a dekko. The fact that it is an easy, quick read makes it perfect for the beach.
Brick Lane by Monica Ali: This Brit has it all?the writing, the language, the story. Brick Lane is not just another account of an immigrant experience. Ali's Booker prize-nominated story is a sensitively nuanced story of Nazneen, an immigrant fresh from Bangladesh who is gradually feeling her way into the new world. A beautiful read.
Bunker 13 by Aniruddha Bahal: For junta following news in India closely, the author's name should ring a bell. Yes, Bahal is Tehelka man, the one who created a sensation exposing corruption in the Indian government. His first foray into fiction was deemed good enough for Farrar, Straus & Giroux, the more selective of the publishing houses. The book has enough action to make at least one full-length Bollywood movie, maybe more. Plus it is good timepass fun. Another easy-on-the-brain cells, quick read.
The Resurrectionists by Michael Collins: Yes, technically this book is a year old at least, but it is a timeless classic?suspense woven into a superbly told story. The Resurrectionists is one of my favorite books, ever. The story will take your breath away and yes, it is great for the summer. Chances are you will find it in the remainder bins of your local megastore, which is a pity. The book deserves to have sold much better than it did.
Bangkok 8 by John Burdett: "Krung Thep means City of Angels, but we are happy to call it Bangkok if it helps to separate a farang from his money." Any book that starts with such a sentence has to be fun and Bangkok 8 certainly is. It often reads like a Thai version of Lethal Weapon and is a zippy, fast-paced thriller. An added bonus is the setting, Bangkok, which is as alluring as the story.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss: What is a book on punctuation doing in my summer reading list you ask? You know the saying, "It's hip to be square?" That should take care of your question. Besides, Lynne Truss is actually laugh-out-loud funny and punctuation sticklers, especially, will be rolling off their beach chairs with this one. Days after I put down the book, I still scan for punctuation errors on signs everywhere. A recent example was a sign posted at a fundraiser meant for a children's center: "Our childrens' future depends on you," the sign declared. I hoped then that our children's future would at least have better punctuation. This obsession could strike you too?be warned.
Nevertheless if you think a book on punctuation still makes too geeky an impression at the beach, it is small enough to be tucked inside a GQ or Vogue mag. That way you can have your fun and read it too.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: Yes, I did notice the eye-roll but I'll let that pass. It is for good reason that the book stayed numero uno for months. The Da Vinci Code is an old-fashioned treasure hunt made modern. Detective Sophie Neveu and Harvard symbologist, Robert Langdon, crack a puzzle set out for them by Sophie's dying grandfather. It turns out that the grandfather's murder reveals many hidden secrets?including those with larger significance about Western philosophy and culture. The Da Vinci Code has movie written all over it?I picture Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts. So better read it before the movie gets here.
Point of Return by Siddhartha Deb: Another understated classic. The book is another example that shows that you need more than a wonderfully written story to sell well. Siddhartha Deb is a brilliant writer and Point of Return is one of my all-time favorite desi books. Dr. Dam will strike a chord in every Indian. The book is an absolute must-read.
Naming Maya by Uma Krishnaswami: This one is for the middle school set. Krishnaswami is a wonderful writer of children's books and her latest explores a young girl's relationship with her family back in Chennai. I haven't read this one yet, but judging from past endeavors, Naming Maya is sure to be a hit with the kids.
Aloft by Chang-Rae Lee: It is no surprise that Chang-Rae Lee is a more or less permanent fixture at the literary New Yorker magazine. His prose is fluid, profound and beautifully written. One didn't think that Lee could better his earlier books, Native Speaker or A Gesture Life, but Aloft is ample proof of his genius. It is a book that will make you think. Lee's turn of phrases are very clever, a favorite of mine being: "fully-optioned suit."
Little Children by Tom Perrotta: There was that rave review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. Then came another in the weekday section of the paper and a listing in the Booksense best fiction list. Before you knew it, neighbors were pressing the book into your hands, looking you in the eye, and saying, "Read this." While quite often you wonder if anyone is ever happy in Perrotta's suburbia?(everyone is having an affair or is as disillusioned as his characters are), there are genuine moments of truth even in the smallest snippets that keep one reading on. "It wasn't that easy to tell one weekday from the next anymore. They all just melted together like a bag of crayons left out in the sun," writes Perrotta. If you have ever felt that way, Little Children will speak to you. Or at least some of it will.
Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror by Richard A. Clarke: There is such a rash of books out there by Washington "insiders," aren't you at all curious? This one is a great read and certainly an eye-opening one.
Also coming in the summer and early fall are The Miniaturist by Kunal Basu and The Tree Bride by Bharati Muhkerjee. Both promise to be exciting reads.
So pick up that pina colada, pull up a chair, and let the reading begin.
What the Writers are Reading
We caught up with some of the literati before the official start of the summer reading season. Here is what they shared about what was in their summer reading pile:
Monica Ali: I'm reading Correlli Barnett's The Verdict of Peace, a coruscating survey of post-war Britain and analysis of national character. I've just started The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro, and I'm half way through re-reading The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis.
Bharati Mukherjee: As soon as the spring semester is over at UC-Berkeley, I shall be reading the following: Mitra Kalita, "Suburban Sahibs" (Rutgers UP) and Matt Pavelich, "Our Savage" (Shoemaker & Hoard); a novel.
Hari Kunzru: Multitude by Hardt and Negri, Q by Luther Blisset, The Tyrant's Novel by
? Eats, Shoots and Leaves/Lynne Truss
? Borrowed Finery/Paula Fox
? Tears of the Salamander/Peter Dickinson
? Morality for Beautiful Girls/Alexander McCall Smith (I've read all the others in the series)
? White Mughals/William Dalrymple
? The Mummies of Urumchi/Elizabeth Wayland Barber
? Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages/Mark Abley
? The Town That Forgot How to Breathe/Kenneth J. Harvey
? Otto: The Story of a Mirror/Ali Bahrampour
? Excuse Me, Is This India? /Anushka Ravishankar's new picture book (if I can get my hands on it)
? The Van Gogh Cafe/Cynthia Rylant
? Taking Care of Moses/Barbara O'Connor
? No Laughter Here/Rita Williams-Garcia Colibri/Ann Cameron
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