Poet and Writer Romesh Gunesekera's Top 10 Reads

Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1954, award-winning poet and fiction-writer Romesh Gunesekera made the 1994 Man Booker Prize shortlist for Reef. The Sandglass has been awarded a BBC Asia Award and Monkfish Moon, a short-story collection, hailed as a New York Times Notable Book. His latest novel, Suncatcher (Bloomsbury), was released last month. He currently lives in London.

Published Nov 28, 2019 11:27:23 IST
2019-11-28T11:27:23+05:30
Poet and Writer Romesh Gunesekera's Top 10 Reads (Photo: Shekhar Ghosh/India Today)

If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller By Italo Calvino, Vintage Classics, Rs 399

The book I go to whenever anyone asks for a booklist. A book so much about books and reading that it makes your head spin. On lists, it is unsurpassed: “… past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read … extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading …”

Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual By Editors Of Family Handyman, Reader’s Digest, Rs 2,489

A 1976 manual that told you how to fix everything in your house in pre-flatpack England. It helped me build the bookshelves on which the books listed on this page stand. Impossible not to include in a Reader’s Digest column, neatly folding one into the other.

One Hundred Years Of Solitude By Gabriel García Márquez, Penguin India, Rs 399

I was given a copy of Marquez’s masterpiece in the 1970s by a friend who said I should read it if I wanted to become a writer. I did and it changed the way I thought about fiction, even though my own writing went in a very different direction.

The Complete Asian CookbookBy Charmaine Solomon, Hardie Grant, Rs 3,169

The narrator in my first novel Reef is a boy, Triton, who becomes a chef. One Christmas, he is given a cookbook as a present. If my novel had been set 10 years later, Charmaine Solomon’s book would have been available. The perfect gift for Triton: a cook’s tour of 16 Asian countries through wonderful recipes.

Broken Moon By Carole Satyamurti, Oxford University Press, Rs 1,799

The first poetry book of a dear friend, who died in 2019. We met when we were first being published in the 1980s. Looking at this now, I marvel not only at the poems but how she went on to write the extraordinary 800-page modern retelling of the Mahabharata in verse 30 years later.

The Gardens of Light By Amin Maalouf, Abacus, Rs 599

A novel of ideas and history. The Lebanese writer, Maalouf, takes us to the 3rd century CE and shows us the birth of an extraordinarily tolerant religion. It was given to me by a librarian who sadly had to shut down her library in Amman. An illuminating chance encounter where one door closes and another opens.

Crime And Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Fingerprint Publishing, Rs 250

This had been on my ‘must read’ list for ages. I never found the right moment to start it. That moment came, rather appropriately, when I was called for jury service and had days of idle waiting time. A totally gripping read.

Good Behaviour By Molly Keane, Virago Press, Rs 725

A wickedly funny book. The sharp wit, dark humour and devastating loneliness of the aristocratic Anglo-Irish characters in this novel makes me recommend it as an antidote to the safe and shallow.

Katie Morag Delivers The MailBy Mairi Hedderwick Red Fox Picture Books, Rs 284

As generations of young children come to our house, this is the book for storytime. I love it for the memories it brings of a summer I spent in the lodge of a whisky distillery on a beautiful Hebridean island, writing and dreaming of faraway places.

The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald, Amazing Reads, Rs 145

While it’s a classic now, The Great Gatsby had a shaky start when first published in 1926. But Fitzgerald gets every word right. A potent, perfectly formed novel. What more can one ask for?

—Compiled by Ishani Nandi

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