Books list from 2016

Anush’s list is up. Most of the cud-chewing was done in a previous post. Won’t do anything more here. Not much of a to-read list. I have only one book apart from the one am currently reading. A trip to Blossom’s is due.

I read more non-fiction than in previous years(15), and more on the Kindle(9). It’s much easier carrying the Kindle around, and it saves a fair bit for books that I don’t really intend to own as physical copies. Some, like “H is for Hawk”, I’ve got the print version after reading on Kindle.

Anyway, here’s the list:

  1. ಸರಸಮ್ಮನ ಸಮಾಧಿ (Sarasammana Samadhi) – Dr. Shivarama Karantha: Written in the 1930s, still relevant. Had watched a play based on the book, which helped.
  2. Pandavas in Exile (Mahabharatha -2): The second volume in Amar Chitra Katha’s collection of 42 comics. Need to finish the third. The war is a big draw, surprised I haven’t gotten to it yet.
  3. Titus Alone (Gormenghast – 3) – Mervyn Peake: Finished the last part of the trilogy. Too bad it’s over. Need to find other works of Peake. Far too few exist.
  4. White Teeth – Zadie Smith. Thought it’d be a serious take on immigrants and their life. Was surprised to find something outrageously funny. Need to pick up her NW sometime.
  5. Leaf Storm and Other Stories – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gregory Rabassa (Translator) – A gift from Ashwin. Superb set of short stories. The best was indeed the first one.
  6. ‡Pygmalion – George Bernard Shaw. Listened to it through Audio book. The last one before I left the cab and moved to the Metro. An iconic play and performed really well by the Audio book narrator too.
  7. The Housekeeper and the Professor  – Yoko Ogawa, Stephen Snyder (Translator). A tale of a professor with short term memory loss and his housekeeper and her son. Every visit by the housekeeper is new to the professor who’s memory lasts only an hour. But he likes children and numbers, even though he can’t remember the child the next visit. Was a good read with some interesting maths quirks thrown in.
  8. When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi. One of the best reads this year. Enough has been said about this book, and my review is pretty detailed too.
  9. Ghachar Ghochar – Vivek Shanbhag, Srinath Perur(translator). A fun work which takes you back to a simpler time in Bangalore.
  10. The Noise of Time – Julian Barnes. Almost historical fiction, talking about the life of Shostakovich, a composer who lived in Stalin’s USSR, survived it and lived through Stalin’s successors’ eras too. Gives a good picture of life in the Soviet, and the way the West perceived them, and the perception of the West from behind the curtain.
  11. The Book of Other People – Zadie Smith and others. A collection of stories, where each story is written by a different author. As expected, they are pretty up and down. Wasn’t too impressed.
  12. The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan. The Man Booker winner from 2014. Set in Burma during the War and then in Australia before and after the war. Excellent writing, paints a hard picture of war atrocities and also what the Doc has to deal with after the war.
  13. Labyrinths: Selected stories and other writings – Jorge Luis Borges, Donald A. Yates(Translator), James E. Irby(Translator). My first attempt at Borges. Not easy to read, but fascinating the way he weaves stories. So precise and measured.
  14. Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made – Gaia Vince. The author travels to different parts of the world to note how people are dealing with the changing climate. Scary as well as showing some optimism.
  15. The Miracle at Speedy Motors – Alexander McCall Smith. 9th in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Was good to be back reading this.
  16. Genesis (Memory of Fire – 1) – Eduardo Galeano, Cedric Belfrage (Translator). The first part in the Memory of Fire trilogy. Documents the lives of the first Indians in the Americas, and then the coming of the Europeans. It isn’t pretty, and it is going to get worse with the rest of the books.
  17. Titu Mir – Mahasweta Devi, Rimi B. Chatterjee (Translator). Picked this up at Blossom’s. Talks about the life of one revolutionary and his fight for farmers against Zamindars and the British.
  18. *Equal Rites (Discworld -3) – Terry Pratchett. I reset my reading of the Discworld to start from the first. The third is the first of the witches series, where a girl turns up at the wizarding university. As always, absolute fun!
  19. The Cunning Man – Robertson Davies. Toronto going from a small town to a big city, and people living there, and their lives. Doesn’t really go anywhere, more like looking at those times through the lives of a few characters. There is a murder mystery in the background, but that’s never his main goal.
  20. Folktales from India – A.K. Ramanujan. An excellent collection of folk tales from different parts of the country. Chances are you’d have heard a few of them growing up from your parents or grandparents. Hope to read more of him.
  21. Kalki: Selected Stories – Kalki Krishnamurthy, Gowri Ramnarayan(Translator). Translated short stories. Most of them are dark. It’s hard to shake off the influence of RKN in Indian writing, but so much of Kalki/MT are different, and don’t fall into that milieu.
  22. ಅಬಚೂರಿನ ಪೋಸ್ಟಾಫೀಸು (Abachurina Post office) – KP Poornachandra Tejaswi. Excellent set of shorts. One of his best, easily. Link to my blog piece on this.
  23. *†Life’s Matrix: A biography of water – Philip Ball. Got very bored as it was a lot of chemistry. Maybe my expectation was different.
  24. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable – Amitav Ghosh. Ghosh in fine form here, talking about how we’ve all gone into Ostrich mode when it comes to Climate Change. We know there’s a problem, but hardly anything is happening on controlling emissions. Yes, we have flattened out “growth” but we’re still pretty high.
  25. *†Baluta – Daya Pawar, Jerry Pinto(translator). Memoirs of Daya Pawar, a mirror into our society and what it means to grow up a Dalit in India.
  26. Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit – P.G. Wodehouse. Typical PGW light read. Good fun.
  27. *†The Antidote: Happiness for People who can’t Stand Positive Thinking – Oliver Burkeman. Haven’t read a more timely book. Takes on the ‘positive thinking’ and ‘happiness’ industry with all its motivational talk. Talks about the things that really help like stoicism, detachment, stuff that can get you through bad phases and keep you grounded when you achieve success. A must read.
  28. *The Small Backs of Children – Lidia Yuknavitch. For artists, by an artist. Typical American over-the-top writing. Avoid at all costs.
  29. The Vegetarian – Han Kang, Deborah Smith(Translator). Has received enough awards. One of the best books I read last year. Not much for me to say more, but sure makes you claustrophobic with that writing.
  30. *†A Book of Light: When a Loved One has a Different Mind – Jerry Pinto. An anthology of real life stories from different people who have someone in the family dealing with some form of mental illness.
  31. Running in the Family – Michael Ondaatje. Mandatory Ondaatje for the year. More of a set of fictionalized memoirs of his family in Sri Lanka. Makes for some fun reading, but not a literary masterpiece, if that’s what you’re looking for from Ondaatje. Somewhat along the lines of The Cat’s Table, but not as good.
  32. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built – Alexander McCall Smith. And the 10th in the series knocked off. Hope to catch up with this writing faster now.
  33. The Elephant Vanishes – Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (Translator), Alfred Birnbaum (Translator). The only Murakami for the year. A set of shorts instead of the usual novels. Interesting and quirky collection. But exactly what you expect with Murakami.
  34. †Nothing to be Frightened of – Julian Barnes. This time it is Julian Barnes looking back on his family and the deaths, and his fear of death, and writing about it. Did not hold my interest completely though. There was a lot of western philosophy thrown in which I don’t completely agree with.
  35. †The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere – Pico Iyer. An extremely short book of 75 pages published based on his TED talks. Talks about meditation, stillness, silences. A good read.
  36. *†Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America – Robert Whitaker. That’s the full title and it is self-explanatory. Gist is that psychiatry is an imperfect science and people don’t even know what results they are expecting when they prescribe meds. Hard to define that when we don’t even know what is a ‘normal’ mind. People have different levels of excitement and emotions, or even energy. How much would you want to regulate? His take on prescribing anti-psychotics for smaller issues is spot on, too.
  37. Funeral Games(Alexander the Great – 3) – Mary Renault. The last in the Alexander trilogy. Starts with the death of Alexander and looks at the disintegration of his empire over the next 50 years.
  38. The Gene: An Intimate History – Siddhartha Mukherjee. Another Magnum Opus from Mukherjee, but then does he even write any other type? Ties in well with ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’ above. An excellent and comprehensive work. And goes easy on his heavy writing too.
  39. *The Lunatic in My Head – Anjum Hasan. Enough has been written in one review and one blog post. One of my favourites from this year.
  40. The Man Within My Head – Pico Iyer. Pico Iyer talking of his travels, of his father, of himself, and then mostly of Graham Greene and his writings. Given that the topics aren’t something that draw you in, it’s a surprisingly good read.
  41. Neti, Neti: Not this, Not this – Anjum Hasan. Well, followed Lunatic in my head with another Anjum Hasan book. I loved both the books and how they play off each other.Have written in detail in the post on those two I guess.
  42. A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India – Josy Joseph. An excellent work discussing the wheelings-dealings that go into anything that happens in India.
  43. *†Chaos: Making a New Science – James Gleick. Looks at how chaos theory got formed, how non-linearity came into science at a time when scientists were interested only in what is linear and can be predicted. Mostly history of science than science itself.
  44. Nocturnes: Five stories of Music and Nightfall – Kazuo Ishiguro. Five shorts with Music as the theme. Not exactly the work he’d want to be remembered by.
  45. Sleeping on Jupiter – Anuradha Roy. Was longlisted for the Man Booker last year. Has a Kiran Desai-ish feel to it. Different characters lost in Jarmuli, a fictional temple town somewhere in Orissa. One of them is a girl who was in an Ashram in that region, sexually assaulted repeatedly by the Swamiji there, come back to check on a lost friend. It isn’t easy reading, and there are no pretty endings here.

Phew! There. I finished the list.


* – Read on Kindle.
† – Non-fiction.
‡ – Audio book.

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