10 Books Close To Nilanjana S. Roy's Heart
The author of the award-winning The Wildings and The Hundred Names of Darkness shares her top picks from her bookshelf.
Nilanjana S. Roy is the author of the award-winning The Wildings (2012) and The Hundred Names of Darkness (2013). Her essays on reading are collected in The Girl Who Ate Books (2016), and she has edited two anthologies. She writes on books, life and art for The Financial Times. She's warming up slowly, but pleasantly, to the writing life, after many happy years as a reader and editor.
Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, Scholastic, Rs. 195)
The past is never that far off, and Frankenstein retains its electric charge, especially in the 1818 edition, with its setting in the frozen waters of the Arctic. Any modern story about robots and AI--what we create and love, even when they might destroy us--is in her debt.
Five Plays (Mahasweta Devi, Seagull Books, Rs. 325)
She is probably better read in Bengali, but for English speakers, Five Plays gives you a glimpse of Mahasweta Devi's extraordinary range, that powerful voice of conscience and humanity, from Mother of 1084 to Bayen.
Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience (Gitta Sereny, Vintage, Rs. 899)
Sereny interviewed Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka, patiently, "with determination to question but not to hurt". Evil was not something external to us, she believed; it was a choice, a failure to take responsibility for the consequences of your actions.
Haroun and the Sea of Stories (Salman Rushdie, Penguin India, Rs. 299)
In the land of Kahani, Khattam-Shud has an evil plan to block the source of stories and contaminate the Sea of Stories itself. Is it possible for young Haroun to foil his plans, with the help of the Guppees, and help his father, the Shah of Blah?
The Last Jet-Engine Laugh (Ruchir Joshi, Flamingo, Rs. 500)
Set in 2030 India, seen through the eyes of the photographer Paresh and his fighter-pilot daughter Para, and going back to an Ahmedabad love story in the middle of the freedom movement, this novel was the rambunctious precursor to Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis and Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. A reminder that novels can be big, irreverent, playful creatures.
Man-Eaters of Kumaon (Jim Corbett, Rupa, Rs. 140)
It wasn't his man-eating tigers, but Corbett who made you feel the vulnerability of the hunted, stalked by those fearsome predators. His jungle books made me fall for India's forests and the many lives, human and animal, that those intricate landscapes hold.
The Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum, Penguin, Rs. 225)
Thanks to Dorothy, I assumed that all women are supposed to travel, to follow the yellow brick road all the way to Emerald City, preferably in the company of a bunch of misfits and eccentrics.
Leaf Storm (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Penguin, Rs. 967)
His first novella is an underrated classic. Leaf Storm introduced Macondo, "its bedrooms full of lizards and its silent people devastated by memory" and by the depredations of the United Fruit Company. Three members of one family--father, daughter, grandson--are drawn into the pressing question of how to conduct the burial of Doctor, the most hated man in the village.
Lust, Caution (Eileen Chang, Penguin, Rs. 800)
Zhang Ailing or Eileen Chang, either way: her sensuous, restrained style belied the power and the cruelty she could pack into a small space, as she does in Lust, Caution. A young woman, Wong Chia Chi becomes the mistress of the powerful Mr Yee, an enigmatic figure high up in the government of Japan-occupied Shanghai. Their affair flares into unexpected passion, with politically charged betrayal lurking around the corner.
Upstream: Selected Essays (Mary Oliver, Penguin, Rs. 699)
Mary Oliver writes soaring poetry with a wild edge to it. These essays are vivid with life, urging us to spend time in the world's otherness, to explore its beauty and mystery. She is never sentimental--nature is neither soft nor particularly kind.
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