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Me and My Shelf: Samit Basu

A peek into the fantasy writer's bookshelf

 

Samit Basu has been writing novels for the past 15 years. Dropping out of the coveted Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad to write the first part of his bestselling fantasy series, The GameWorld Trilogy, Basu went on to author the international award-winning speculative novels Turbulence and Resistance, and a children's series, The Adventures of Stoob.

 

1984, George Orwell, General Press, Rs 195.

Great science fiction's job is not to accurately predict the future. Alternate fictional universes are meant to be mirrors that help us see our world. Orwell's vision of a propaganda-led, totalitarian-worshipping and utterly amoral future is still clear and true. I was young when I read this, and was relieved none of it could happen.

 

The Select Nonsense of Sukumar Ray, translated by Sukanta Chaudhuri, Oxford University Press, Rs 295.

Carroll, Seuss/Gissell, Nash, Lear: Ray's children's classics match the best of these masters, and his other works reveal an immense ability for dark satire, both political and social. A lot is lost in translation, but what resonates when you read the originals is a confidence very few other Indian storytellers possess.
 

Men At Arms, Terry Pratchett, Random House UK, Rs 399.

Sir Terry's Discworld, a multicultural fantasy universe, was the inspiration for the setting of my first novel. Men At Arms is the second book of the City Watch trilogy, a great way to begin your journey into this massive universe. Pratchett's stories are multi-dimensional, funny, dramatic, wise and deeply human. I wouldn't have created a diverse world of fantasy had it not been for him.

 

The Talisman Ring, Georgette Heyer, Random House UK, Rs 399.

I'm very grateful that my childhood reading was completely unsupervised, because if I'd only read 'boy's books' I'd have missed out on so much. Period romances are some of the greatest books ever written, and Heyer's immaculate plotting, unforgettable protagonists and relentless flair for adventure gave me so much joy.

 

White Teeth, Zadie Smith, Penguin UK, Rs 399.

I love sharply written cultural melting-pot books, and Smith's is one of the very finest. Its immigrant and second-generation diaspora characters are comic and tragic, flawed, annoying and immediately loveable.

 

The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien, HarperCollins, Rs 999.

I didn't grow up expecting to find myself represented in English books, and re-reading LOTR in college was a huge let-down, but I remember being 11 and completely losing myself in Frodo's story, and acquiring an obsessive love for alternate worlds that will last through my life.

 

The Sandman Omnibus Vol. 1 & 2, Neil Gaiman, Vertigo, Rs 9,999 each.

This graphic novel series was the biggest, most ambitious story I'd read, and caused my brain to explode. I'd thought Asterix and Calvin and Hobbes---both legitimate masterworks---were as far as comics could go, but I spent a lot of broke-student time in London devouring these books over and over. They made me write comics later.

 

A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth, Aleph Book Company, Rs 995.

 

I read the first major wave of Indian writers in English---Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh, Upamanyu Chatterjee---in my teens, and was very excited by the fact that Indians could write English books that travelled the world. A Suitable Boy and The God of Small Things were both complicated, intense, lyrical and profound books that led to a lot of rash career decisions.

 

Leave it to Psmith, P. G. Wodehouse, Random House UK, Rs 299.

 

This book is impossibly funny, charming, silly and romantic. Read it for pure pleasure, to understand how people enjoyed themselves before kitten and puppy videos existed.

 

The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu, Head of Zeus, Rs 775.

The biggest compliment you can give a contemporary writer is unabashed jealousy, and Liu's novel, the first part of his to-be-concluded Dandelion Dynasty series, made me wish I'd written it. Set in a magical archipelago with a fundamentally Asian culture and history, featuring devious gods, eccentric inventors, doomed lovers and troubled heroes, it reminds me why I fell in love with books in the first place.

 

---Compiled by Suchismita Ukil

Book prices are subject to change. All book details are as seen on Amazon.in.

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