Akhil Sharma's Top 10 Books
The author of the short-story collection A Life of Adventure and Delight as well as the novels Family Life and An Obedient Father, Akhil teaches creative writing at Rutgers-Newark University and lives in New York City.
Akhil Sharma is the author of the short-story collection A Life of Adventure and Delight as well as the novels Family Life and An Obedient Father. He teaches creative writing at Rutgers-Newark University and lives in New York City.
War And Peace (Leo Tolstoy, translated by Constance Garnett, Modern Library Classics, Rs 628)
This was written during one of the happiest times in Tolstoy's life, right after he got married, and one can feel the joy in the characters and the writing. Every page seems to contain a joke. The Garnett translation is a work of genius and other translations, though faithful, don't seem as full of music.
Selected Stories Of Anton Chekhov (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, Modern Library Classics, Rs 699)
By far the greatest short-story writer, Chekhov reinvented the sentence, pushing the subject far from its beginning and so encouraging an impressionistic feel. He could write about everything and though this collection has most of the best stories, it is missing some jewels.
The Jeeves Collection, Box Sets 1 and 2 (P. G. Wodehouse, Arrow, Rs 1,838 and Rs 1,799)
An incomparable collection, these Wodehouse novels are like how [Robert] Frost described a poem working, an ice cube moving on its own melting. Whenever I have a friend facing a disease these are the books I press on them to relieve them of their worries.
The Greenlanders (Jane Smiley, Anchor Books, Rs 1,000)
This extraordinarily strange book is like nothing I have ever read. It is the Norse epics made into a novel, which takes you into another time and another belief system and never leaves the essential humanity that we all have and have always had.
The Mayor Of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy, Penguin Classics, Rs 250)
For me, this is Hardy's most poetic and technically sophisticated novel. The novel has three time schemes: a Roman past, the past of the 1830s in which the novel is set, and the present of the late 1800s when the novel is written. This combination adds mythicism to the writing and makes all the coincidences feel reasonable.
Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway, Random House UK, Rs 399)
While [Hemingway's] A Farewell to Arms is a more technically polished book, The Sun Also Rises is odder and unresolved and so there is more of a sense of life and of a style struggling to capture it.
Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (Vladimir Nabokov, Penguin Modern Classics, Rs 544)
Nabokov's memoir is heartfelt in a way that the cool perfect Lolita and Pale Fire are not. In this way one senses a way to relate instead of merely admire and so for me this is the book that I treasure most.
Pride And Prejudice (Jane Austen, Collins Classics, Rs 199)
This is the perfect novel. It is so wise and funny that it seems hard to believe that it was ever written and that it did not always exist.
Ulysses (James Joyce, Penguin Classics, Rs 550)
After many years of lying that I had read it, I finally did so with a guide by my side. I sat on a bench next to a river and spent a month on it, and now that river is always associated with Joyce. The deep humanity, the tenderness and the comedy of the book are so profound that the references to Greek mythology feel not so much a forced armature but a lovely and essential form of dignifying.
A Personal Matter (Kenzaburo Oe, Grove Press, Rs 1,065)
This brief, intense novel, translated by John Nathan, is funny and heartbreaking and full of the unexpected. Rarely have I read about a pathologically selfish person in a more understanding way. It also gave me an enormously intimate portrait of Japan.