44. Yes. Two more than the ultimate answer. Or as some old friends would remind me, my CET ranking – in medical. It was 37 the last year and ended up much higher than I thought it would, simply because, unlike the last two years, this one didn’t have a magnum opus that took weeks together to finish. While 2012 saw Parva and some biggies like Murakami’s ‘The Wind-up Bird Chronicle’ and 2011 saw David Copperfield, this one lacked any such biggies. In fact there were very few 400 pagers. The only one that could be called a biggie was ‘The Emperor of Maladies’. Also, the last half saw a record 25 books compared to the 19 in the first half – possibly due to more holidays spent at home. So there.
Either way, surprisingly this didn’t get in the way of much traveling. It was a satisfying year travel-wise. Also, books had to contend with monthly Caravan readings. As always, will set out with a lower target of 25-30 books for the year. Hope to do more slow reading, if not less reading.
And without much ado, here’s the list. I haven’t done much review writing on my blog this year, restricting them mainly to Goodreads. So links will point to reviews in Goodreads.
- ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ಜೀವ(Bettada Jeeva) – Shivarama Karanth. My first Karanth book and I loved it. Felt like a vacation in the Western Ghats.
- A twist in the tale: More Indian folktales. Compiled by Aditi De, who also compiled Multiple City. A collection of folktales from all over the country – Kerala to Kashmir to Nagaland. Read this over 2 months, one tale at a time. Good fun and much recommended!
- Cut like Wound – Anita Nair. This was Anush’s reco. Almost a noir take on a crime investigation with the smells and sounds of Bangalore playing in the background, culminating in Shivajinagar on St. Mary’s feast. Good one this.
- Service with a Smile – P.G. Wodehouse. My first PGW for the year. A Blandings Castle one, enjoyable as always. Wanted to do this as I had a couple of heavy ones coming up.
- The Emperor of All Maladies – Siddhartha Mukherjee. A superb read this. Had this on my mind for a while, but picked it from Indhukka‘s list last year. A must read I’d say. Non-fiction written beautifully. Took me close to a month to finish.
- We Learn Nothing – Tim Kreider. A collection of essays from one of my favourite columnists. As good as expected. Had to get this shipped through my cousin in the US.
- The Untouchable – John Banville. Picked this up based on Indhukka’s reco again. Takes a while to get into the story; there’s something about the way the British write which doesn’t bother explaining the setting etc. Once you do, it’s a good read. But not everyone’s cup of tea this. Needs some investment for at least a 100 pages to get through the rest.
- Serious Men – Manu Joseph. My first Manu Joseph one. Resisted the temptation to go for the more recent ‘The Illicit Happiness of other people’. A fun read this, nice and easy in fact, when compared to his second one.
- The Book Thief – Markus Zusak. Set around World War -II, goes straight for your tear ducts. Gifted writer for sure, but at the end of it all very formulaic – ensures you want to keep turning the pages, ensures you shed the appropriate amount of tears etc – doesn’t do much otherwise. If you liked ‘The Kite Runner’ this might work for you.
- Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River – Alice Albinia. A gift from Anush for my B’day. Surprised that this book had only around 350 ratings or so on Goodreads. An understated and underrated book, maybe just not publicized much, maybe not everyone’s cup of tea. But one of the best reads of the year. Can’t recommend enough.
- Childhood’s End – Arthur. C. Clarke. A good read as usual. Finished it in 2 days pretty much.
- Pundits from Pakistan: On tour with India, 2003-04 – Rahul Bhattacharya. A tour diary of India’s tour of Pakistan in 2003-04. A really fun and delightful read this.
- The Wildings – Nilanjana Roy. A story of cats around the streets of Nizamuddin in Delhi. Enough said? 🙂
- Em and the Big Hoom – Jerry Pinto. What do I say about this book! One of my favourite reads of the year and probably for a long time to come.
- Kim – Rudyard Kipling. Put on my list thanks to ‘The English Patient’. Read it nice and slowly. Delightful read. The language takes a while to get used to though.
- Anil’s Ghost – Michael Ondaatje. Picked it up from the library which had only 2 books by Ondaatje, this and ‘The English Patient’. As expected, lovely read. Would definitely recommend it.
- Batman: The Killing Joke – Alan Moore. Read it in one sitting. Tiny book this.
- Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami. Took me a while to get into Murakami again. His repeated stressing of what each person wore, referring to every car not as a car, but by the specific model, and stressing what each person ordered takes a while getting used to. But somehow worked for me in the end, though, didn’t enjoy it as much as ‘The Wind-up Bird Chronicle’ or ‘Norwegian Wood’.
- Thank You, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse. After a month of heavy reading, needed something light.Also, this was the end of June. So at the half-way mark, I stood at 19 books, well on the way to what I had accomplished last year. Also a good time to take a break and continue reading this post.
- ಜುಗಾರಿ ಕ್ರಾಸ್(Jugari Cross) – K.P. Purnachandra Tejaswi. A good and fun read this. A nice caper.
- Morality for Beautiful Girls – Alexander McCall-Smith. Third in the ‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series. Wanted a lighter read and had turned away from RKN after ‘The Financial Expert’.
- The Illicit Happiness of Other People – Manu Joseph. Got around to this finally. Dark and humorous and as my cousin put it – ‘He has a pretty negative view of humanity’. A really good read this, though.
- Brighton Rock – Graham Greene. Picked this from the library to tide over a boring long weekend. Set in Brighton and with a teenage don trying to assert himself. Funny, chaotic but dark like the previous one.
- Chemmeen – Thakazhi Sivasankaran Pillai. Picked this up on a whim from Blossom’s. Finished it in 2 days pretty much. Tiny book and a pretty simple translation.
- The End of the Affair – Graham Greene. The book from the library had this as well as ‘Brighton Rock’ in one edition. A superb read this. Heavy on emotions and loved the way Greene wrote.
- Funny Boy – Shyam Selvadurai. Put on my list from an essay by Amitav Ghosh. More of a growing up and coming out tale of a homosexual boy in Sri Lanka, that too in a Tamil family. Surprisingly good one this.
- Wolf totem – Jiang Rong. Got recommended by two others. Formulaic writing. But tells the story of a new place. Plus it has dogs and wolves. Enough said.
- The Lamp is Lit: Leaves from a Journal – Ruskin Bond. More of a journal about many of his journeys and people he met over the years. Quite a delightful read this.
- The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri. Eagerly awaited book. Pre-ordered it and got it delivered on the date of the release. Wasn’t a huge letdown. Wasn’t as good as ‘Unaccustomed Earth’. I’ve always loved the way she delves on relationships and the little threads that hold them together and the way they unravel when things go bad.
- Swami and Friends – R.K. Narayan. My return to Malgudi’s fold. And what a good book to do that.
- The Intimate Enemy: Loss and recovery of self under colonialism – Ashis Nandy. Decent read. Talks about how colonialism affected Indian thought.
- The Story – Michael Ondaatje. Again, put on my list from Amitav Ghosh’s essay. This is a small poem with illustrations. I wouldn’t count this as one book, but going by ISBNs it is. Had it shipped from the US through my aunt.
- Going Postal – Terry Pratchett. My Pratchett for the year. Predictable story, but as always delightful.
- The Door into Summer – Robert Heinlein. Read it in one day. Interesting one with time travel thrown in for fun. Gift(and a pretty late one at that) from my cousin.
- The Ocean at the End of the lane – Neil Gaiman. One of the best books this year easily. What a lovely book this was! Dark, elegiac, and with nostalgia thrown in.
- Open – Andre Agassi. His autobiography. Always been an Agassi fan, so loved this one a lot.
- Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro. Picked this up from Blossom’s on a whim. Not sure I could slot it into any genre.
- The Kalahari Typing School for Men – Alexander McCall-Smith. The 4th in the ‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series’. Not bored yet, hope to be reading more of this series this year.
- Ravan & Eddie – Kiran Nagarkar. Critically acclaimed book. But just didn’t work for me. Pretty humourous at times. But then he’s a satirist and you do get some laughs out. He’s a good writer though, and I hope to read ‘Cuckold’ this year.
- Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami. Whenever I’ll remember my Kaziranga trip, this book will be part of the memories. One of those works which didn’t work for many, but just did and perfectly too, for me.
- The Elephant Whisperer – Lawrence Anthony. This was an easy read, mostly about the experience of a guy running a game reserve in South Africa and the challenges he had to face, especially with a herd of elephants. Talk of forests and animals, and I fall for those hook, line and sinker.
- The Sound of the Mountain – Yasunari Kawabata. My first Kawabata, this one’s described as a meditation on old age. An elderly man and his wife, living with his son and daughter-in-law whom he’s very fond of. His daughter joins in with her kids after her marriage fails. His son is cheating on his daughter-in-law which he tries to fix. Meditative, slow and spaced out, while he goes through a phase of heightened senses experiencing everything around him as he’s faced with his own mortality. Beautiful one this.
- The eighth guest and other Muzzafar Jang stories – Madhullika Liddle. Wanted a lighter read and picked this up. Set of some 10 short stories, nicely done.
- The Outsider – Albert Camus. Also called ‘The Stranger’. My first Camus to see what’s the big deal. Really good stuff this.
So there, that’s the list. Also, here’s the goodreads link for that.
As mentioned, plan to do lesser books this year. Hope to read slower than lesser. Some that I have on mind and also started:
1. Titus Groan – Mervyn Peake. Already close to 80% in.
2. Also, hope to do the second in this trilogy – Gormenghast.
3. ಮೂಕಜ್ಜಿಯ ಕನಸುಗಳು(Mookajjiya KanasugaLu) – Shivarama Karanth. Started this, will take it up after finishing Titus Groan.
4. Alive and Clicking – T.S. Satyan. Continues to be on my list. Not able to find a copy.
5. The hundred names of darkness – Nilanjana Roy. Follow-up to ‘The Wildings’. Excerpts tell me this is going to be better than the first.
6. Cuckold – Kiran Nagarkar.
7. Remains of the day – Kazuo Ishiguro.
8. The Master of Go – Yasunari Kawabata. Got this from Indhukka. Hope to read it soon.
9. The colour of magic – Terry Pratchett.
10. The Great Gatsby – Scott Fitzgerald.
11. Divisadero – Michael Ondaatje.
12. The Black Book – Orhan Pamuk. Also got this from Indhukka. Hope to read this soon.