"So many books, such little time" - Frank Zappa. We have all said this a million times, but now that we're staying at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic and winters just about setting in, it's finally time to catch up on our reading. Here are my top 20 book recommendations for you all. How many have you read already?
20 Great Books To Curl Up And Read While You Stay Home & Safe This Winter
The Lord of The Rings
You've probably already read them or pushed them for later because they were huge. Well, now would be the perfect time to dive into the amazing fantasy world created by J.R.R. Tolkien and get your imaginative and creative juices flowing.
Set in Bombay, Shantaram is Gregory David Roberts' first novel and is a super interesting tale of Bombay's underground world of beggars, gangsters, drug lords, actors, and exiled foreigners. It has romance, crime, drama, and suspense and the description of Bombay's street vibe is very accurate. Don't be bogged down by the size, it isn't a difficult read.
Is dystopia here? If you were to draw parallels with George Orwell's 1984, you would say yes. And the fact that he wrote it in 1949, is all the more terrifying. This one never gets old.
When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi attempts to answer the question "What makes a life worth living?" in this memoir, all the while facing his imminent end due to terminal cancer. Don't let the premise discourage you, for it is a book that ultimately helps you prioritise things in life and helps you go on.
It's Kind Of A Funny Story
This book is about depression and mental illnesses. But it isn't depressing, one-bit. Author Ned Vizzini draws from his own time in a mental institution to craft a tale of unexpected happiness and hope which we can find even at the lowest points in our life. I can't recommend this book enough.
A Fine Balance
Based during the Emergency, Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance is a real take on the cruelty, corruption, class, and caste barriers that plague Indian society and polity. Mistry balances the grim tale with the friendship and love that his four central characters find in each other.
A better crime and mafia novel does not exist. Mario Puzo's writing actually plays out in front of you and I surely had a hard time putting down this page-turner.
PS - It's better than the movies.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, is an emotional first-person narrative of an orphaned girl in Victorian Era England with romance forming the central theme of the novel. It presents strong criticism of Victorian society and is a classic that should be on everybody's read list.
Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison's Beloved is a heart-wrenching tale of American slavery that is as important now as it was years before. Real, scary, and beautiful, Beloved is poetry and suspense combined into one.
Open is tennis ace Andre Aggasi's autobiographical novel that provides an in-depth, behind the scenes account of his struggles, hardships, and achievements. From a rigorous childhood to a rebellious youth and ultimately a charitable after-retirement life, the story is a rollercoaster and you'll be surprised by how well it's been written. Recommended for tennis and non-tennis fans, alike.
The God Delusion
Atheist Richard Dawkins presents a convincing argument against the belief in god in this much-celebrated work, The God Delusion. In showing how religion fuels war and encourages bigotry, he makes some bold remarks that get you thinking about man's relationship with God and the universe.
The Sense Of An Ending
Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize, Julian Barnes' The Sense Of An Ending is a deftly crafted novel that grapples with memory and the tricks it plays on our life and mind. It is compact and yet, it'll take you to places inside your mind you never knew existed. You'll start looking at things very differently after this, I guarantee.
Call Me By Your Name
André Aciman's 2007 novel that charts the love story between an adolescent boy and a summer guest is a no-holds-barred depiction of romance that will sweep you off your feet. I would highly recommend picking this one up even for those who've already seen the movie.
Remnants Of A Separation
In Remnants Of A Separation, Aanchal Malhotra revisits the Partition of India through the objects and materials that people carried with them and sheds light on migrant struggles and their stories in undivided India. It is in equal parts a story of sacrifice, pain, and longing that seeks to establish the importance of materials for memory recollection.
The God Of Small Things
I finally got around to reading Arundhati Roy's Man Booker Prize-winning debut novel this year and yes - it does live up to its hype. The language and writing are unlike anything I've read before, the characters dance in front of you, and from love to politics to capitalism to family to caste, everything is critiqued with utmost wit and innocence. Ammu, Estha, Rahel, and Velutha aren't people you'll easily forget.
The Book Thief
Markus Zusak's highly-acclaimed novel is a whirlwind of human emotions set during The Holocaust. Narrated by Death, The Book Thief transports you to Nazi Germany and has characters that you'll deeply care for. You might even end up crying. Just saying.
This graphic novel chronicles Marjane Satrapi's (author) life in Tehran from the age of 6 to 14, a time that saw Iran go through the Islamic Revolution and a war with Iraq - events that changed Iran's history and the effects of which can still be seen. Persepolis is breathtaking and you'll remember the black and white comic strip images for a long time.
Untouchable Spring is a generational history of a family of Dalits, translated from G Kalyan Rao's original Telugu novel Antarani Vasantham. A Dalit himself, the author showcases the social, cultural, and artistic life of the most persecuted caste in India and is, undoubtedly, one of the most impactful and conscience building books I've ever read. The book uses the oral story-telling tradition (Dalits weren't allowed to write, sadly), so it might be hard to follow initially. But soldier on, I'd say. It's worth caring for.
Tiffin, by Sonal Ved, is for everyone interested in food (everybody, right?) and cooking. The cookbook features 500 authentic regional recipes from across India and it's a journey you wouldn't want to miss out on. Time to learn something new, people.
Beatles'66 gives a month by month account of the year that completely changed, arguably, the most influential music group in history, The Beatles. The personal details are fascinating, the writing is crisp, and I would recommend it to all Beatles' fans, music buffs, and even those interested in history.