Fall Reads

Nothing like being curled up on a winter evening with a warm cup of coffee and good reading. While there are many books to pick from, here's a list of the latest offerings across publication houses.

By IANSLIFE

Gods and Ends by Lindsay Pereira

Gods and Ends by Lindsay Pereira is in the JCB Prize for literature 2021 shortlist. An intriguing debut with Lindsay’s biting sense of humour and quirky voice. Part of the attraction lies in its unconventional form and structure. Philomena Sequeira knows what she wants by the time she turns fourteen. Her father wants something else. Life is unyielding for the tenants of the rundown Obrigado Mansion in Orlem, a Roman Catholic parish in suburban Mumbai. They grapple with love, loss and sin, surrounded by abused wives and repressed widows, alcoholic husbands and dubious evangelists, angry teenagers and ambivalent priests, all struggling to make sense of circumstances they have no control over.

Gods and Ends takes up multiple threads of individual stories to create a larger picture of darkness beneath a seemingly placid surface. It is about intersecting lives struggling to accept change as homes turn into prisons. This is a book about invisible people in a city of millions, and the claustrophobia they rarely manage to escape from.

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pride, Prejudice And Punditry: The Essential Shashi Tharoor

There are ten sections in the book, each devoted to a particular topic. ‘In the Company of Giants’ looks at some of the most important figures of modern Indian history; ‘Into the Maelstrom of Indian Politics’ contains work on the Indian political scene; ‘Our Unruly World’ covers international relations and diplomacy; ‘The Hindu Way’ examines various aspects of the faith; ‘Musings of a Cricket Tragic’ includes some of his finest writing on the sport; ‘You Cannot Be Serious!’ is a light-hearted take on sundry matters; ‘Fragments of an Autobiography’ has poignant essays about his parents and an evocative look at his Kerala heritage; ‘The Spoken Word’ is a selection of his most famous speeches; ‘The Writerly Life’ comprises ruminations on writing and writers; and ‘Selected Fiction and Poetry’ showcases his masterpieces of fiction and poetry.

This book will give those new to the author’s work a panoramic view of the range and depth of his writing. Long-time fans will find fresh material to delight them as also ageless pieces that continue to enchant. Dazzling, inventive, and exuberant, Pride, Prejudice, and Punditry present readers with the essential work of a literary genius.

Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Pivots For Career Success: Unleashing People Power By R. Gopalakrishnan And R. Srinivasan

People relations are the agate mortar on which the pestle of management excellence is ground. There is a liquid part and a solid part in converting metal into gold in alchemy. In management, the solid is the body of explicit knowledge and techniques taught in programs and institutes, while the liquid is about excelling in human relationships.

R. Gopalakrishnan and R. Srinivasan, blood brothers some six years apart, have real experience of what it takes to clamber up the slippery grease poles of corporate careers, having risen in their companies to the CXO suite. Together, this experience represents a cauldron of valuable lessons of experience. In the process, they have developed a distinctive view of business careers and leadership.

In Pivots for Career Success, Gopal and Srini bring together a subaltern view of the subject as also a high-level view from the hot, dusty environment of markets and factories to the dizzying heights of well-carpeted board rooms. They have written separately and independently based on their distinctive experiences but argued and shared thoughts frequently over lively conversations.

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Bound by Love by Nityanand Charan Das

Love is the most mystical feeling. “It makes us laugh, it makes us cry. It showers with nectar, the heart that is dry.” And this feeling finds its culmination in the loving yet esoteric bond between the Supreme Lord and His devotees.

‘Bound by Love’ explores that bond and takes us through a plethora of emotions. There is love, adventure, drama, suspense, a test of faith, surrender and much more! Above all, it makes us realise the enchanting sweetness of the Supreme, in a world where most people are only enamoured by or aware of His greatness. There are inspiring, true stories of hope, both contemporary and ancient, which more than being just entertaining, will provide solace to our suffering hearts, especially in these troubled times. No matter who we are, at every moment, we are being tested even if we are on a divine path. Sometimes we pass and sometimes we fail, losing ourselves in the process. Grace coupled with effort, humility as against false ego, enthusiasm along faith and patience is what we all need to survive to sail through and survive.

Publisher: Birch Books

Furrows in a Field by Sugata Srinivasaraju

Veteran journalist Sugata Srinivasaraju’s Furrows in a Field explores with critical insight and sympathy the exceptional life of H.D. Deve Gowda in regional and national politics. It examines his federal commitment; his deep knowledge of irrigation, agriculture and constitutional law; his secular steadfastness, and unassuming interventions in matters of national importance.

The Incomparable Festival by Mir Yar Ali Khan ‘Jan Sahib’

The Incomparable Festival (Musaddas Tahniyat-e-Jashn-e-Benazir) by Mir Yar Ali (whose pen name was Jan Sahib) is a little known but sumptuous masterpiece of Indo-Islamic literary culture, presented here for the first time in English translation. The long poem, written in rhyming sestet stanzas, is about the royal festival popularly called jashn-e-benazir (the incomparable festival), inaugurated in 1866 by the Nawab Kalb-e-Ali Khan (r. 1865-87) with the aim of promoting art, culture and trade in his kingdom at Rampur in northern India. The task of commemorating the sights and wonders of the festival was given to the hugely popular writer of rekhti verse, the tart and playful sub-genre of the ghazal, reflecting popular women’s speech, of which Jan Sahib is one of the last practitioners.

Structured as an ode to the nawab, the poem is a world album depicting various classes on the cusp of social upheaval. They include the elite, distinguished artists and commoners, brought together at the festivities, blurring the distinction between poetry, history and biography, and between poetic convention and social description. The book is a veritable archive of the legendary khayal singers, percussionists, and instrumentalists, courtesans, boy-dancers, poets, storytellers (dastango) and reciters of elegies (marsiyago). But, above all, the poem gives voice to the ‘lowest’ denizens of the marketplace by bringing to light their culinary tastes, artisanal products, religious rituals and beliefs, and savoury idioms, thereby focusing on identities of caste and gender in early modern society.

This Penguin Classics edition will be of interest not just to the Urdu and Hindi literary historian, but to specialists and readers interested in the histories of music, dance, and the performative arts, as well as scholars of gender and sexuality in South Asia. Lovers of Urdu poetry will find in it a forgotten masterpiece.

Publisher: Penguin Random House

3 & The Emerald Stone of Irene by Vinod Raman

A legend for many, a bedtime story for a child; but the Occult Stone that Empress Irene gifted Harun-al-Rashid during his conquest of Byzantium in 782 AD, the stone with the light of fortune, referred in history as Noor-e-Abbasid, lies deep-buried at an ancient, unearthed desert city Al-Rafika.

With every common man pushing Al-Rafika as one of the stories from the Scheherazade’s Arabian Nights, the legend reaches a flashpoint, when 3 high profile assassinations sweep the world. The only common link between the killings was a glittering golden arrow found near them. The Order of the Nine Angles, a dangerous neo-Nazi Satanic Organization, has set itself in the quest of the stone, to accomplish its greatest dream – The New World Order.

As the dark horses of terror start riding across the world, an adventurer, a historian and a spy come together to unearth a deadly macabre of events. Battling the Berbers of Tunisia, to the cryptic and perilous Caucasus Mountains, through the necropolis of Turkey, to the mystics of the Tigra, and then finally to Al-Rafika, the ‘3’ follow the deadly trait unravelling the marvels of the glorious Islamic Caliphate, to stop the dark lord, Nergal, and his mission of a Global Ragnarok.

Vipassana by Shonali Sabherwal

Do you wish to sharpen your awareness? Train your mind to observe your thoughts and emotions. Bestselling author Shonali Sabherwal’s latest book is for anyone looking to start meditating. With a detailed guide and a focus on Vipassna, it shows you how to control the highs and lows in life and take charge of your happiness. It teaches you how to occupy a state of equanimity and be present in the moment through an ancient technique used by the Buddha for enlightenment. Lift yourself up on this journey from misery to happiness, from defilement to purity, from bondage to liberation and from ignorance to enlightenment. Turn your life around through Vipassana.

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Second Meals by Celebrity Chef Davinder Kumar

All the recipes in this book have been written in a manner that makes it easy to follow. Each recipe has been tried out personally to ensure that it is accurate and perfect. To make preparation simple/easy, the ingredients in this book have been listed in the order in which they are to be used. All weights are net, not gross. If the recipe says 100 gms chicken it implies the weights of the ingredients after clearing and deboning. Similarly, any vegetable that is required should be weighed after clearing, washing and cutting.

Each recipe yields one portion and is sufficient to be served as a main course or single dish besides accompaniments, i.e. salad, chutney. A full portion can be easily shared by more persons depending upon the menu.

Each preparation has its own distinctive taste, not only because of the different textures of the meat but also because of the varying fragrances of different combinations of spices in the marination. The quantities are mentioned in gross, tablespoon, teaspoon, and cups.

Anitya by Gayatri Jayaraman

They tell us to change is good for us, as a sort of magic pill. But how do we swallow it when it halts us in our tracks, disrupts our lives, and thwarts cherished plans? How do we begin to cope, let alone embrace, what seems like a destructive force? How do we build back with the ground shifting beneath our feet?

In Anitya – impermanence in Sanskrit – mind-body-spirit counsellor, vipassana and Vajrayana practitioner Gayatri Jayaraman shows us how to navigate the pain of change by practically applying the philosophy of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths – Dukkha (Suffering), Samudaya (the Cause), Nirodha (the Cessation), Magga (the Path), in our lives. Weaving together allegories, real-life experiences of people from different walks of life, Zen stories, Vedic and Buddhist philosophies, and guided meditative practices that involve both the mind and body, this book pushes us to challenge our entrenched resistance to change and helps us heal ourselves.

Whether you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, the failure of a romantic relationship, an unfulfilling career path, or uncertainty and doubt brought on by a seemingly insurmountable global pandemic, Anitya will be your guide to making change work for you.

Publisher: Hachette India

The Odd Book of Baby Names by Anees Salim

A thin ribbon of smoke rose from the edge, something stirred in me and I slapped the book against the railing until small specks of fire fell to the floor and died down. It was not just a book of baby names. It was an unusual memoir my father was leaving behind, memories condensed into names; memories of many kisses, lovemaking, panting and feeling spent.

Can life be like a jigsaw puzzle, pieces waiting to be conjoined? Like a game of hide-and-seek? Like playing statues? Can memories have colour? Can the sins of the father survive his descendants? In a family – is it a family if they don’t know it? – that does not rely on the weakness of memory runs a strange register of names. The Odd Book of Baby Names has been custom-made on palace stationery for the patriarch, an eccentric king, one of the last kings of India, who dutifully records in it the name of his every offspring. As he bitterly draws his final breaths, eight of his one hundred rumoured children trace the savage lies of their father and reckon with the burdens of their lineage.

Layered with multiple perspectives and cadences, each tale recounted in sharp, tantalizing vignettes, this is a rich tapestry of narratives and a kaleidoscopic journey into the dysfunctional heart of the Indian family. Written with the lightness of comedy and the seriousness of tragedy, the playfulness of an inventive riddle and the intellectual heft of a philosophical undertaking, this is Salim’s most ambitious novel yet.

Publisher: Penguin Random House

A Venetian at the Mughal Court by Marco Moneta

Venetian Nicoli Manucci’s story is distinct from those of other European travellers and adventurers who documented their stay in India. The young teenager, who arrived on Indian shores with little education and few connections, lived here till his death at the age of eighty-two. He was witness to some of the most dramatic events in the subcontinent’s history.

Living by his wits, he started his career as a chief artilleryman in Dara Shukoh’s fratricidal battle against Aurangzeb for the Mughal throne. Thereafter, Manucci joined Rajput general Jai Singh in his campaign to subdue the Maratha leader Shivaji.

However, Manucci had no stomach for a prolonged military career. With a great capacity for learning and immense good fortune, he made his way into the Mughal court, incredibly, as a court physician to Aurangzeb’s son Shah Alam. In service of the future Mughal emperor, Manucci was to head back to the Deccan once again to meet the challenge posed by Shivaji’s son Sambhaji. Manucci would spend the rest of his life within European settlements in Madras and Pondicherry. And his in-depth knowledge of the Mughal court would prove useful in negotiations between the Europeans and the Mughal authorities.

Marco Moneta tells the gripping story of a man who was witness to the intrigues and rivalries in Mughal and European territories, and who not just survived but rose to a position of influence and respect in a hostile and alien world.

Publisher: Penguin Random House

The Nutmeg’s Curse by Amitav Ghosh

Before the 18th century, every single nutmeg in the world originated around a group of small volcanic islands east of Java, known as the Banda Islands. As the nutmeg made its way across the known world, they became immensely valuable – in 16th century Europe, just a handful could buy a house. It was not long before European traders became conquerors, and the indigenous Bandanese communities – and the islands themselves – would pay a high price for access to this precious commodity. Yet the bloody fate of the Banda Islands forewarns of a threat to our present day.

Amitav Ghosh argues that the nutmeg’s violent trajectory from its native islands is revealing of a wider colonial mindset that justifies the exploitation of human life and the natural environment, and which dominates geopolitics to this day.

Written against the backdrop of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, and interweaving discussions on everything from climate change, the migrant crisis, and the animist spirituality of indigenous communities around the world, The Nutmeg’s Curse offers a sharp critique of Western society and reveals the profoundly remarkable ways in which human history is shaped by non-human forces.

Publisher: Penguin Random House

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