(Published in the Business Standard year-end special issue on books, December 2009)
Fiction: It’s a great year for the novel of ideas, with writers from Ian McEwan to Gregory Roberts exploring new territory.
Roberts wisely allowed a long gap to elapse after the runaway success of Shantaram, but his new novel, The Mountain Shadow (Hachette) will still invite comparisons. Mountain of Shadows continues Lin’s story in a far more stylised way; a meeting with eight men will force him back into adventure and intrigue. Will this be as good—or if not, as bulky—as Shantaram? Ian McEwan is on familiar ground with Solar (Random House), where a scientist faces the wrath of the media for analysing the difference between male and female brains.
Dom DeLillo’s critics weren’t impressed with his 9/11 novel, Falling Man, but the advance buzz about Point Omega (Scribner) seems positive. DeLillo has a chance to take a more nuanced look at war and terrorism through the eyes of his protagonist, a secret war advisor. Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ promises—and has already delivered—controversy. David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet (Hachette) already has literary groupies genuflecting in advance, and with new collections of short stories by Hanif Kureishi and T C Boyle, the cup of the inkstained wretches of this world runneth over. After a long silence, Thomas Keneally offers a novel—The People’s Train, which features a Russian revolutionary exiled to Australia.
Upamanyu Chatterjee’s brand of dark satire is back in Way To Go (Penguin), while fans of “headline fiction” might like Narayan Wagle’s Palpasa Café (Random House)—a novel of Nepal that starts with the royal murders and continues through the current conflicts. Anita Nair (Lessons in Forgetting, HarperCollins), Namita Devidayal (The Mother, Random House), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (One Amazing Thing, Penguin) and Shobhaa De (Sethji, Penguin) all have new fiction out in 2010.
Keep an eye out for Omair Ahmed’s Jimmy The Terrorist (Penguin), and for these debut writers—Soumya Bhattacharya (If I Could Tell You, Tranquebar) and Tishani Doshi (The Pleasure Seekers, Penguin).And fans of historical fiction have Humayun’s travails, as the duo of writers known as Alex Rutherford offer the second volume in the Empire of the Moghul series—Brothers at War. On the literary front, Jeet Thayil and Dilip Simeon should also be out with riveting first novels, on addiction and revolution respectively.
Indian non-fiction: Shrabani Basu’s Victoria and Abdul (Rupa) is a fascinating account of the relationship between Queen Victoria and her Indian secretary, Abdul Karim—well worth reading. Somnath Chatterjee’s Memoirs of a Parliamentarian (HarperCollins) promises to be more candid than most politicians’ accounts of their lives and times. Fatima Bhutto’s Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter’s Memoir (Penguin) should be every bit as melodramatic as the title. David Rhodes might top the blood-and-action stakes with his memoir of being kidnapped by the Taliban, A Gift of God: The Story of a Kidnapping (Penguin).
APJ Abdul Kalam’s The Scientific Indian (Penguin) is a reader-friendly guide to issues like water harvesting and space exploration. It’ll probably be as popular, but perhaps not as riveting, as neurologist V Ramachandran’s end-of-2010 release, Adventures in Neuroscience (Random House).
Palash Krishna Mehrotra’s The Butterfly Generation (Rupa) is about the fault lines between the socialist India of the ‘80s and the consumerist India of the ‘90s—it promises to earn out Mehrotra’s record advance. Later in the year, Salil Tripathi’s Silent Spaces (Tranquebar) takes a literary journey across the globe, with writers from Marquez to Rushdie as his guides. And in autumn, Ramachandra Guha examines The Makers of Modern India (Penguin). Jug Suraiya brings the year to a close with his wry brand of humour in his memoir, Times of My Life (Tranquebar).
Business books: Michael Lewis’ The Big Short is probably one of the most anticipated books of 2010—the Liars’ Poker author does a consummate job of unravelling the current global financial crisis. On the subject of fallen magnates, Kingshuk Nag takes a look at The Double Life of Ramalinga Raju (HarperCollins).The Luxe Book (Hachette) by Suman Tarafdar and Taneesha Kulsreshtha offers a little relief, with a look at high-end brands.
Kevin and Jackie Freiberg’s Nano-vation (Penguin) is the authorised version of the Tata’s small car story, with an emphasis on the good news rather than the political upheaval in Nandigram. RC Bhargava offers The Maruti Story (HarperCollins), just as we bid farewell to the tiny 800. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Alam Srinivas explore The Ambanis and the Battle of India (Penguin) and how gas pipelines became the war zone between the two brothers. SP Hinduja’s What’s Your Problem? (HarperCollins), promises to diverge from the hagiographical approach to business family history, as he mixes family stories with his personal brand of philosophy. There will be a slew of China books on the market, as always, but the most promising is probably veteran business journalist Raghav Behl’s The Red Elephant: The Story of India and China (Penguin).