Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best Of The Written Word from 2012

The world of books has always had a fantastical appeal for me. It is rich, wide, effervescent, dynamic, real, imaginative and so much more. Books are a panacea for troubled souls like me. They are constant companions – on journeys, in college and in bed too. For me, books are also a way to look back at a great year and relive fond periods by remembering the books I read then and how they affected and enriched my thought process. Here, I share with you the best picks of the written word from the year 2012, in two sections. The first of these two sections comprises of my pick of the critically acclaimed books from the past year, and the second section has my favourite five from the popular fiction category. If you missed out on any of these this year, worry not! Procure them still, for the written word does never lose its charm.

Critical Recommendations

Breakout Nations by Ruchir Sharma
In this record-making bestseller, Ruchir Sharma takes his readers on a tour of more than two dozen emerging market economies. Weighing in on economic and political factors, Mr. Sharma addresses the timeless question of what is it that makes some states succeed and others fall. In a very methodical narrative, this book tracks the basic data of these countries to suggest if these states are likely to sustain growth momentum or lose it gradually. It is an intensive book, thoroughly engaging for those with an interest in economics and geopolitics and one of the most read books of this year.
Publisher – Penguin
Price – Rs. 599

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
Though criticised for lack of a coherent plot from more than one corner, this book is still high on my list of recommendations. This book not only managed to catch ample amount of international attention, but also realistically took its readers to the darkened alleyways of the drug-culture of Bombay, in a whirlwind commentary of abuse, sex, violence, love and death. There are many who were outright disgusted by the book, others left with mixed feelings. However, there is a great section of literary critics who paint this part cacophony, part symphony – Narcopolis – in glorious words. Not a must buy book, but a must notice book for all.
Publisher – Faber and Faber
Price – Rs. 499

           Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
Besides his deft writing, another thing which has given a definitive spurt to Rushdie’s image (and perhaps credibility) as a writer is his infamous tryst with a fatwa. Of all his works, The Satanic Verses is perhaps the most popular – not because people have read it, but because of the controversy which hijacked the literary merit of the book. In Joseph Anton, a biographical account, Rushdie shares his version of the story. And this attempt at telling an honest story is more gripping than most thrillers you would come across.
Publisher – Jonathan Cape
Price – Rs. 799

 Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Slumdog Millionaire opened the international audience to the dirt and squalor rampant in India. In her book, the Pulitzer Award winning author, Katherine Boo takes her readers on a microscopic expedition through the same decrepit world. This book centres on a slum called Annawadi, languishing somewhere in the underbelly of Mumbai and narrates the story of Abdul, who has a heart full of hopes and hands full of recyclable trash.
Publisher – Penguin India
Price – Rs. 499

             Return of A King by William Dalrymple
To be honest, I have not read this one. But Dalrymple is the kind of author whose works create buzz even before they hit the market. From the little I have read about the book, via tweets and reviews, this saga of the first Anglo-Afghan war is sure to keep you riveted. It also promises to provide you parallels in the contemporary world of an anachronistic event. Dalrymple has based this book on extensive research and facts gathered from all corners of the world. I am definitely going to lay my hands on this one as soon as I can!
Publisher – Bloomsbury
Price – Rs. 699

The next set of books is my favourite five from among those I received for review in my capacity as a book blogger. I must admit, the kind of talented writers being unearthed by publishing houses in India is incredible. The reading culture is on a high trajectory and so is the publishing industry. Yes, a lot of crap gets churned out in the process, but hey, I am here to pick out few of the better ones for you!

      The Taj Conspiracy by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar
Even before I thought of making this list of the best, I knew this book would be on it! Manreet, a writer of tremendous reckoning, created an indigenous, gender variant of Robert Langdon – named Mehrunisa Khosa – who sets out to unravel a mystery woven around the Taj Mahal. Mehrunisa is a renaissance expert, and is well versed with the legends, facts, and myths surrounding this great monument of love. Find a hint of Ludlum, and sprinkling of Dan Brown, but a thoroughly enjoyable and fresh script of death, deceit, mystery and thrill in this book by Manreet.
Publisher – Westland
Price – Rs. 250

Roll of Honour by Amandeep Sandhu
This is the second novel of author Amandeep Sandhu, and it takes a reader through the rough terrain of perhaps the most violent decade in India’s history since independence. Set against the backdrop of a decade which witnessed gory events including Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination and the consequent anti-Sikh riots, Sandhu narrates the story of Appu, a school prefect entering the senior most year of his military school, and his attempt to come face to face with his identity, his battle to preserve his friendships with friends from other religions amid venomous, vehement and provocative speeches made by his fellows influenced by the ideology of Khalistan. Vivid and hard hitting – the message of this book stays strong with me, months after reading it.
Publisher – Rupa Publications
Price – 275

           Marathon Baba by Girish Kohli
This is perhaps an unlikely entry on this list, but I cannot possibly ignore a book which began entertaining me from its first line and did not stop till the very end. Earmarking itself in the category of ‘kick-ass’ fiction, Marathon Baba, besides being a laugh riot, is an immensely witty and engaging book. What is it about? Well, it is about a man on the run, who has been warned that running is injurious to his health. Rest, I cannot possibly describe this awesome book by Kohli in any fitting words. This is the kind which has to simply be read and enjoyed!
Publisher – Fingerprint
Price – Rs. 150

Asura by Anand Neelkantan
This book is on my list of the best because of the skill, innovation and experimentation of the author, which lent a new hue to our ancient revered epic - Ramayana. Asura is the story of Ravana, his tails, travails, his failings, his ascent to power and his eventual defeat. This book should not be confused to be a mythological treatise – it is a light, intriguing read which fictionalises mythology to develop an easy narrative for entertaining a reader and making him empathise with the Ravana side of the story. I did think the concept of the book had more potential to be exploited. Having said that, this is definitely one of those books I will remember from this year.
Publisher – Leadstart
Price – Rs. 250

      Urban Shots Bright Lights (Edited by Paritosh Uttam)
This book is an anthology of short stories set against the urban landscape of India. It is one of the four books published under the “Urban Shots” series, giving a chance to several promising young writers to have their work published. The collection of stories in Bright Lights was the best of all the four, and I am bound to say it because one of the best short stories I have read in life – called Father of My Son – was its pick of the stories. The stories in this book cut across cultures, across feelings, faces, incidents, musings, recollections, realizations and much else. Few stories attempt to touch, few attempt to teach; but almost all attempt to give you a personalized glimpse into the life of a common, yet unique Indian inhabiting one little corner of the crazy cultural panorama that the Indian landscape is.
Publisher – Westland
Price – Rs. 199

As I always say, let’s make ours a book friendly world.
Have a great book-filled 2013!

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  1. You have no idea how much this post means to me :)
    It is truly humbling... even if its only a single short story,just being mentioned alongside giants and some really awesome books of this year... Thank you.
    Thank you sincerely.

    1. It is honestly among the better ones I read, and I know I am no authority. I just like to let the world know my favorites :)

  2. So little time so many books. Sigh! Sounds like a great list. Need to get to these. Bookmarking your post. Thanks.

    1. I like your display name :) I hope you are not disappointed by even a single book on this list.

  3. Randomly bumped into this interesting blog. Now, will follow it keenly. Thanks

    1. Welcome to Nascent Emissions! I will look forward to your feedback :)