You are here: Home » Beyond Business » Books
Business Standard

Picks of September

Nilanjana S Roy  |  New Delhi 

Eleven promising titles of the month to come, among them Salman Rushdie’s account of his years in exile and J K Rowling’s first post-Potter novel

JOSEPH ANTON
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Random House India

In the years after Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced his Valentine’s Day fatwa, declaring that Salman Rushdie deserved death for writing the Satanic Verses, the author went into hiding. Asked to choose an alias by his security team, he picked Joseph Anton, honouring the writers Conrad and Chekhov. This long-awaited memoir is about the fatwa years, but it is also about writing as an act of survival, defiance and faith.

THE CASUAL VACANCY
Author: JK Rowling
Publisher: Little, Brown
There is life after Hogwarts, and it may be found in the parish council of Pagford, an English town whose calm exterior masks seething change, or so the blurb for Rowling’s first novel for adults says. If a hard-fought village election doesn’t sound as impressive as a war between the forces of darkness and the teen wizard who represents the forces of good, never fear. Rowling’s massive readership will carry the day.

AEROGRAMMES
Author: Tania James
Publisher: Random House
With her debut novel, Atlas of Unknowns, Tania James made quite an impact as a sparkling writer with an unusual sense of perspective. The short stories in Aerogrammes feature a compelling set of characters — Indian wrestlers in Edwardian London, a ghost, a chimpanzee, a collection of lost but determinedly questing souls. At her best, James writes with empathy and wit; at her worst, she overwrites, but manages to remain unpretentious.

THE SELECTOR OF SOULS
Editor: Shauna Singh Baldwin
Publisher: Knopf
The author of Tiger’s Claw and What The Body Remembers, Baldwin has an affinity for broad, sweeping canvases. Her latest novel is set in a village in the mid-ranges of the Himalayas. Through the lives of a Hindu midwife and Sister Anu, a woman who found salvation from a bad marriage in the Church, she attempts to explore the battles modern Indian women fight in the face of limited choices.

NOT ONLY THE THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED
Author: Mridula Koshy
Publisher: HarperCollins India
Shifting between small-town Kerala to the American Midwest, Mridula Koshy’s second book and first novel explores two very different worlds through the story of a mother and her son. Annakutty hands over her four-year-old boy to German tourists who will take him to the US. Three decades later, mother and son will struggle to understand the absences in their lives, even though it may be too late for a reunion. Koshy’s first book, the short story collection If It Is Sweet, won the 2009 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize.

THE DAYLIGHT GATE
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Hammer
Though Winterson and Hillary Mantel have very different styles, they have a similar approach to the historical novel and a gift for making the distant past feel surprisingly contemporary. In The Daylight Gate, Winterson returns to the witch trials of medieval England, but her characters are timeless. The swirling politics of the Church, the band of pauper women who are denounced and sentenced as witches, and the fear that drives their persecutors are as sharply etched as the grime and darkness of the era. And she manages to pull off a rare feat — the plausible introduction of William Shakespeare in a cameo role.

RESTLESS EMPIRE
Author: Odd Arne Westad
Publisher: Random House India
Westad, professor at the LSE and China expert, has written on the origins of the Chinese Civil War previously. Restless Empire is far more thorough than the usual run of China books, as Westad explores 250 years of Chinese history from the 1750s onwards. From China’s ambitions in East Asia and in Africa to the new brand of nationalism being steadily forged over the last few decades, his perspective promises to be invaluable.

DEBT: THE FIRST 5,000 YEARS
Author: David Graeber
Publisher: Melville House (Viking India)
Graeber’s credentials as an economic anthropologist and the sprawling canvas guarantee that Debt will be one of the most discussed of the year. In his attempt to debunk the barter system — “the founding myth of modern economics” — he zigzags from Mesopotamia and Vedic scriptures to the present day. His examination of how “the language of morality became the language of debt” is of particular interest. Argumentative and controversial, Debt promises to make us think in different ways about money and human behaviour.

INDIA GROWS AT NIGHT: A LIBERAL CASE FOR A STRONG STATE
Author: Gurcharan Das
Publisher: Penguin
India’s middle class is convinced that a weak and corrupt government is impeding the country’s march to riches and glory. Gurcharan Das engages with the issue, which he’d partly tackled earlier in his bestellers India Unbound and The Elephant Paradigm, and offers a solution — a strong state that takes decisive action, lays down the rule of law and is accountable. Platitudes, perhaps, but Das also has a plan of action including what ordinary citizens can do to improve things.

THE FISHING-FLEET: HUSBAND HUNTING IN THE RAJ
Author: Anne De Courcy
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicholson
De Courcy’s excursion into the marital rituals of the British Raj is an unexpected pleasure. Through letters, forgotten memoirs and diaries, she builds up a complex portrait of the girls who “came out” hoping to catch a husband from the ranks of Companywallahs and Anglo-Indian colonels. The fate of the “returned empties” is touched upon, but in her sympathetic portraits of the women who caught their husbands, De Courcey makes you wonder whether a memsahib’s life was always worth the effort.

THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY
Author: Rachel Joyce
Publisher: Random House
In retirement, Harold Fry receives a letter from an old, dying friend — and abandons his home and wife in order to walk 600 miles across the countryside to meet Queenie Hennessy. What might have been, in less skilled hands, an over-sentimental gimmick, is instead one of this year’s most touching and surprising novels. “Harold’s ridiculous journey is a cause for celebration,” wrote the Washington Post’s Ron Charles in a rare outburst of praise. He’s right; read it.


(“Picks of...” provides a selection of to look out for in the coming month and appears on the last week of each month)

First Published: Sat, August 25 2012. 00:09 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU