Best Reads of 2016

This year has been good in terms of reading, though I couldn’t fulfill my target of 70 books. Nonetheless, combating reader’s block once in a while, I can safely assert that my reading mojo hasn’t gone anywhere. The lot had been a mixed one this year, quite a few mediocre books were moved from the bookshelf to obscure cartons that are sealed and stored. Others were neatly arranged in the already overwhelming array of books. Here are the ones that kept me hooked this year.

animal-farmAnimal Farm – It’s a pity that I hadn’t read this George Orwell classic so far. The book is iconic and doesn’t need a description. I began reading it after getting bored with a few sub-par books in Indian English. That made this classic all the more endearing. Written in very simple language, laced with rhymes and innuendos, Animal Farm makes for a very interesting read. If you can decipher the hidden meanings, metaphors, and references to the erstwhile politics in Europe – there’s nothing better!

jojoMe Before You – Rave reviews about Jojo Moyes’ writing and hype about this book being made into a movie were reasons that I wanted to read this one. Fortunately, my Secret Santa had gifted Me Before You last Christmas and it was on my TBR since then. It took a holiday and the reader’s block to get me start this beauty. Of the contemporary British women writers, Sophie Kinsella has been my favourite and Jojo Moyes came quite close with this book. I love the dry humour and ample sarcasm that the Brits expertly exude in their style or writing. It goes very well with me and I can entirely relate to the darkness. Me Before You makes you embark on an emotional journey that you wouldn’t want to end. Trust me, it isn’t a sob story.

grassThe Grass is Singing – I had bought this book (as the Secret Santa for my angel) based solely on the theme of Apartheid. It’s a subject that had occupied a part of my childhood, reading about it in the newspapers, watching the cricket team of South Africa and criticising them. I didn’t know about Doris Lessing then, but I’m glad that I discovered her writing. This book has had a profound impact on me; it had put me into a completely dark zone while I was reading. I couldn’t imagine that the verdant fields of Rhodesia and their vastness could create such a void and mess with the psyche of a perfectly normal woman. This book is a must read if you want to know about madness, fantasy and stark reality.

honestseasonThe Honest Season -I hadn’t read Kota Neelima prior to this one, but she managed to enter this list alright. A very complex plot, coupled with good writing and great journalistic measures makes an engaging novel. It is the correct mix of politics, romance, lobbying, ethics and rain. Yes, rain is one of the main protagonists of this novel and I loved the way Kota Neelima played with this element. It managed to bestow a wonderful lyrical quality to prose and that’s quite a rare trait to be found in contemporary Indian authors.

dragonThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson’s magnum opus is by far the best book (& series) I’ve read in the last few years. This is the best one in the Millennium series and a fine book by itself. I was quite aware that it belongs to translated literature and the best way to read is not to judge it based on the language. Lisbeth Salander impressed me immensely and I am still in awe of her. The story is obviously very intriguing and so is the hero Mikael Blomkvist. One of the best thrillers I’ve ever read. But it isn’t just a thriller, it’s a labyrinth of family ties and pervert psychological experiments.

Do let me know your best reads of 2016. 

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Book Review : The Honest Season

the honest seasonBlurb View: 

Sikander Bansi, an unlikely political heir in Delhi, secretly records politicians in Parliament as they haggle to become cabinet ministers, bag defense contracts, dodge criminal charges and collect corporate largesse. Among them is a rising leader of the People’s Party, Nalan Malik, whose success has come through unscrupulous means. When Sikander suddenly disappears, Mira Mouli, a newspaper journalist with an unusual gift of knowing people’s thoughts, receives the controversial Parliament tapes along with clues to find him. She is attracted to Sikander’s principles and is wary of Nalan’s deceit. But her powers of knowing tell her a different story, one that she can unravel only at the cost of her life. From the bestselling author of Shoes of the Dead, this is disturbing political fiction that reveals why Parliament functions behind gates closed to the public.

Review:

It gives me immense pleasure to let you know that I’ve read one of the finest books by an Indian writer in 2016. Yes, it’s a political fiction and I’m quite wary of politics in India. Yet it is the apprehension that egged me to pick up this book. A Twitter chat with the author prior to start reading the book confirmed that her novel is worth every minute. In this month of Assembly elections in four crucial Indian states, the book comes as a necessity. It aims at exposing what happens inside the ominous white Assembly buildings – the shady dealings, the breach of trust, the whispers that never escape those marble pillars into commonality.

The story begins with a glimpse of the protagonist Mira’s super powers. She can read thoughts while listening to a person and knows what they’re thinking. So she’s a know-journalist. The book is based on utilizing her powers, but never misusing them. Mira is involved into a dangerous game of hide and seek by politician Sikander Bansi that spills the secrets of the Parliament. She can’t escape without solving the clues and in the process only gets hurt. The author has made great efforts to build the character of Mira, word by word, and we are let into her dark and gloomy world. There are other politicians like Nalan Malik who is hard to gauge, Sikander Bansi in his various avatars, Mira’s boss and editor Bidur Munshi, her colleague Salat Vasudev, and the rain. I think it’s the rain that drives the story forward and gives it such a poetic aura.

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Book Review : Mandate – Will of the People

Blurb View:

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

This is the first easy-to-read book about recent Indian political history. Pegged on the general elections that shaped today’s India, Mandate: Will of the People tells the story of Indian politics in a gripping, page-turning style.

Vir Sanghvi, the well-known journalist and TV anchor, draws on his personal experiences and memories as well as scores of interviews to piece together an incisive and candid account of what went on behind the scenes. Peppered with little-known details and insider information, this book tells the stories behind the story and brings alive the men and women behind the headlines.

Mandate: Will of the People contains the real story of the declaration of the Emergency, the rise and fall of Sanjay Gandhi, the Punjab insurgencies, the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the bloody riots that followed her death. It tracks the emergence of Rajiv Gandhi and explains the Bofors scandal that contributed to his defeat.

Many of the questions that linger over Indian politics are answered here: how did Narasimha Rao become Prime Minister? Why did he liberalise the economy? What was the Ram Mandir agitation really about? Why didn’t Sonia Gandhi agree to be PM? And how did Manmohan Singh’s weakness clear the way for Narendra Modi.

Review:

Mandate: Will of the People tells an important story : how the world’s largest democracy came of age and how it has affected our lives.

Indian politics is perhaps the most interesting phenomenon in the world. With such a vast expanse of ideologies and scope for work, it provides a great topic for research. 67 years post independence, the Indian people are still unsure about their politicians and their motives. Each election has paved the way for something new in the country and changed the course of its people. Mandate captures bits and glimpses of these elections and their aftermath for our generation and the ones to come.

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