Monday, December 21, 2015

BOOKS READ IN 2015



1) The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich - William L Shirer. One of the books that every person needs to read....to understand how a nation can be capable of savagery and genocide, to learn how the cancer of intolerance can bring out the beast among normal, everyday people, to learn of the dangers of faith in the false prophets, demagogues and rabble rousers. I think this is a book that needs to be read in every school, so young people understand how terrible evil can arise from the most banal of roots, how a little personal prejudice can light a fire that burns millions.

2) Moby Dick or The Whale - Herman Melville. The Great American Novel did have a certain power and poetry, especially when Moby Dick finally appears, but the long descriptions of whales and whaling are unbearable. 

3) Banksy You Are An Acceptable Level Of Threat. Art as protest, art as the voice of the people. 

4) Sea of Poppies - Amitav Ghosh. Entertaining but not compelling enough for me to feel I need to read more of him. 

5) Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut. Some of the most genius writing I have read in a long time. One of the rare books where you need to reread lines and paragraphs because of the sheer beauty of the writing 

6) Batman R.I.P. - Grant Morrison and Toni S. Daniel

7) Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War - Robert M. Gates. I prefers more honest memoirs, not books that seek to show how special the writer is 

8) Runaway - Alice Munro. Takes off after an underwhelming first story to tell one masterful, understated story after another. There is a simplicity in the words and structure, so much that is left unsaid and unspoken....but leading to a depth of feeling, an honesty, an understanding of human nature that makes this almost a descendant of Hemingway. 

9) Samarkand - Amin Maalouf. I still don't understand why this is Vishnu Vasudev's favourite book :)

10) A Life in Metal - Dave Mustaine. Love the music. Hate the whining!!

11) The Lonely Tiger - Hugh Allen. Right up there with Corbett. Maybe the most underrated Indian jungle book ever. True stories that compare in quality to Man Eaters of Kumaon, it's amazing how this book isn't more famous 

12) The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro. I don't get the mixed reviews. No modern writer meditates on love and its meaning, on ageing and mortality, like Kazuo Ishiguro. It's not Remains of the Day...but like that book, and like Never Let Me Go, it's the kind of book that when you finish, you need to stop, take a deep breath, quell that ache in your heart, blink away the moistness in your eyes and just stop and think and feel and not do a thing. 

13) Red Notice: How I Became Putin's No.1 Enemy - Bill Browder. A true story more gripping than most thrillers, it's shocking how a bunch of thugs rule Russia 25 years after the Berlin Wall fell

14) Dispatches - Michael Herr. I was 16 when I read Johnny Got His Gun which is still one of the 3 greatest books I have ever read, a book that transformed my understanding of and attitude towards war. So it's saying a lot that this work of non fiction comes close. If anyone has ever written a greater work of non fiction on the nature of war and how it impacts a man who is asked to be a soldier for his country, I haven't heard of it. This is the altar where all chroniclers of warfare need to worship and aspire to. Brutal, hallucinatory, honest, heartbreaking. 


15) The Prophet - Khalil Gibran. I can't think of a more overrated book I have read in a long long time. This is the book that people swear by??? It explains a lot...like how Paulo Coelho became so popular selling pseudo-philosophical, completely superficial bullshit. It's the kind of book that makes a reader feel intelligent because it has no nuance, revels in generalities, and creates the illusion of depth while carrying no more originality and insight than a postcard of a sunset. 

16) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz. Maybe my favourite book of the year. This story of a fat, nerdy, Dominican boy seeking love is so many things rolled into one. An immigration tale. A coming of age story. A sweeping cross generational family epic. But it's suffused with a warmth and wit that makes it a book that's impossible to not love. One where you have a tear rolling down your face and a smile at the same time. And in a voice that is of our time and age and uniquely original. 

17) Pep Confidential - Martin Perarnau. Pep Guardiola is a genius, no one in football even comes close. 

18) Looking Away: Inequality, Prejudice and Indifference in New India - Harsh Mander. I bought 8 copies and gave them away as gifts because there is no more important book an Indian can read this year. To see India for what it is, behind the Acche Din slogans and the the Economic Times and Bollywood tabloids, this is India in all its tragedy and its hope. In the simplest possible way Harsh Mander reaffirms the idea of India... The challenges it faces and why it's worth fighting for 

19) Life After Life - Kate Atkinson. I struggled to get into the narrative style of resetting the story every few pages initially, but once I did I loved this sweeping, soaring historical epic on how small moments lead to so many different paths...from a life of nothingness to impacting the course of history 

20) Birth School Metallica Death: The Inside Story of Metallica (1981-1991) - Paul Brannigan Ian Winwood. Some Kinda Monster is still the definite Metallica book

21) The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History - Elizabeth Kolbert. The science book of the year shows how our planet is changing in ways we don't even realise and brings out the urgent need to stop man from destroying our planet 

22) The Ipcress File - Len Deighton. James Bond meets John LeCarre in this spy classic

23) Aarushi - Avirook Sen. Completely horrifying and unsettling... It's shameful that the Talwars languish in jail, and it makes you realise that our country's investigative bodies cannot be trusted...innocence means nothing in this country. 

24) The Great Indian Novel - Shashi Tharoor. Great idea but lacking soul... Almost like the writer was demonstrating his intellectual gifts rather than focusing on the emotional heart that lies at the core of all great stories 

25) By-Line: Selected Journalism - Ernest Hemingway. Maybe a bit too much fishing. But God is God. And Hemingway is God. He is the beginning and end of all you need to know about writing. 

26) The Honourable Schoolboy - John Le Carre. The weakest of the Karla novels. Skilfully written but where's the classic Le Carre fist to the gut impact?

27) The Discreet Hero - Mario Vargas Llosa: Llosa does simple in this book, and does it brilliantly. Very few writers have this range.

28) Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket's Underworld - Ed Hawkins. Too much filler, too much copping out, too many half baked insinuations. Would have been better as an article in Caravan.

29) Odysseus Abroad - Amit Chaudhuri. A Bengali tribute to Joyce...young man wakes up, meets his uncle, has a meal, says bye...and that's the book! But the writing is as poetic as ever and the languid prose shimmers with elegance.

30) Hear the Wind Sing/Pinball - Haruki Murakami: It amazes me that the guy who wrote something close to magic realism in the Wind Up Bird Chronicle could also write this Japanese mix of Catcher in the Rye meets a Hemingway novella as his first book. Outstanding! 

31) Zero Year. I need to figure how to follow the narratives. I get the back stories but as the storm approaches Gotham how do the narratives merge?

32) The Narrow Road to the Deep North - Richard Flanagan. I hate convenient, contrived coincidences. This novel has 3. All 3 almost put me off the book. But the rest of the book was so outstanding that I couldn't stop. To look at the brutality of war from the perspective of all sides, the duality that lies in most of us, the capacity for cruelty and goodness, the quest for understanding and the attempt to forget. Beautiful and poignant. 

33) Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe. I can see why this book is so influential but it can only be appreciated (for me) when contextualising it for its time and place in literature. If I were to read it from the perspective of today's literature then it doesn't move me that much 

34) The Great Divide - Joseph Stiglitz. As readable and illuminating as ever but I came out feeling that my understanding and appreciation of it is incomplete without having first read Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty First Century 

35) A Brief History of Seven Killings - Marlon James. After a long, long time I read a Booker winner that just blew me away. The blend of fact and fiction, the brutality, power and originality of the writing, the diversity and depth of each character and narrative voice, the sheer scope and ambition. Outstanding 

36) What If? : Serious Scientific Answers To Absurd Hypothetical Questions - Randall Munroe. Any book that uses Physics to scientifically calculate the force of a light sabre or different Jedi knights is worth a read. Making science fun!  

37) Dream With Your Eyes Open - Ronnie Screwala. Tips and advice from my role model in the entertainment world 

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