Books for the New Year

Irrfan Khan: The man, the dreamer, the star by Aseem Chhabra; Rupa

There is an unavoidable air of mysterious familiarity ensconced around actor Irrfan Khan that makes one want to know his story. For someone the world has known only through the characters he has chosen to play, each quirkier than the other, a well-researched book on the man’s life will definitely make it to the bestsellers list this year. Tracing his life from Rajasthan to the homes of Roohdaar, Maqbool, Saajaan, Rana and other inimitable characters he has played, Aseem Chhabra’s book aims to narrate the story of the man who became a world phenomenon.

After having written about the likes of Shashi Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, we expect a well-researched piece from the table of the journalist and director of New York Indian Film Festival.

The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel; Fourth Estate

Writing a historical trilogy where the first two novels both manage to win the Man Booker Prize award in their respective years of publication, only implies that the world will sit up and notice when the final instalment hits the stands. The Wolf Hall trilogy etches out the life of Thomas Cromwell and his rise in the courts of Henry VII. This fictionalised historical account takes into consideration all characters who contributed to the life of the king. The book documents the last four years of Cromwell’s life and promises to be an exhilarating ride through history.

The Book of Ichigo Ichie: The Art of Making the Most of Every Moment, the Japanese Way by Francesc Miralles & Hector Garcia; Hachette India

Ichigo Ichie is a Japanese phrase that stresses upon the need for enjoying every moment because that particular moment will never return. Often used as a form of greeting as well, this phrase and its subsequent concept has been elaborated into a book by the authors of the famed Ikigai. A part of the tenets of Zen Buddhism, this concept claims that the path to discovering the self and life’s purpose is only through Ichigo Ichie. For the conflict-ridden world that we presently occupy, any form of advice is welcome and we are hoping this book shall prove to be one substantial source.

Gazing Eastwards: Glimpses of China’s Pasts by Romila Thapar; Aleph

Very little has been written about the superpower that has made its way into day-to-day conversations – political or otherwise. Witnessing massive cultural shifts in the country for a period of over three months is India’s leading historian, Romila Thapar. With her curious researcher’s eyes, she took copious notes and made frequent observations that we shall now get in the form of this book. Thapar is not a voice of knowledge here and instead, is a curious young academic who also wants to discover and unfold truths hitherto unknown to the Indian subcontinent. The winner of Kluge Prize of the US Library of Congress, the highest lifetime achievement award for subjects not covered by the Nobel Prize, we can only hope for an insightful book from Thapar.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell; Fourth Estate

If piquing someone’s interest was a job, this book would get it. After Emma Donoghue’s macabre novel Room, we have another book which makes you uncomfortable right on the onset. Vanessa was a 15-year-old girl when she had a torrid affair with her English teacher, Jacob. Now she is 32, and Jacob has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student. Compelled to rethink her past and understand all over again what she only knew as love, Vanessa makes for a protagonist whose heart and memories stand to save or destroy someone’s life. A debut novel by an MFA graduate from Kansas, Kate Elizabeth Russell could either give us a stupendous hit or a complete disaster.

If It Bleeds by Stephen King; Hachette India

Stephen King has repeatedly returned to the novella format and given us some of his masterpieces like Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption or The Body. After the success of The Outsider – an anthology of short stories by the author – King is back with another anthology If It Bleeds. We may not know much about what to expect from the maestro’s table, but we can confirm the reappearance of an old favourite character – Holly Gibney, with her detective powers in tow.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins; Hachette India

This book has managed to create waves even before its publication and stands a chance to be the most talked-about book of the year, having become a Twitter campaign with users attempting to get Donald Trump to read it. This is the first book of its kind to narrate the tale of an immigrant’s attempt to illegally cross the US-Mexican border. Protagonist Lydia Quixano Perez belongs to a middle-class family, running a bookstore with her journalist husband and a son she adores. When one stray story by her husband causes them to become the centre of everyone’s attention, she is compelled to run for her life with her son and hope for company. Brutal and honest, this book could change a lot of perspectives and prejudices that govern decision and policy-making in today’s times.

Will: An Education by Will Smith and Mark Mason; Penguin Random House

This book begins with an anecdote about Will Smith’s name that sets the tone for what is to follow in the rest of the book. His name and the faculty were both endowed to him by his father, who made his son build a physical wall, brick by brick, over the course of a year-and-a-half to make him understand life better. It is this never-give-up attitude with a smile on his face that made Will Smith one of the biggest names in the history of entertainment in the world. In this book, he teams up with award-winning author Mark Manson, to tell his life’s story, albeit with lessons strewn along its course for every reader to relate to and learn from.

Manto & I by Nandita Das; Aleph

Nandita Das gave us the film Manto starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, which premeired at the Cannes in 2018, before doing the rounds of festivals around the world and eventually ending up on Netflix. However, Das wasn’t done. She spent six years researching the man, poet, artist extraordinaire Saadat Hasan Manto and it was only fitting that we get a glimpse inside the mind of the director who created the film. Speaking extensively about every win and loss that came with the film, this book promises to be an insider’s look into the life of an artist, a rebel who stood up against everything that was wrong .

High Fire by Eoin Colfer; Hachette India

There is something about Colfer’s books that makes them addictive, even if they are only meant for young adults. From the creator of the epic Artemis Fowl series, we get High Fire, a tale of 15-year-old street-smart Squib Moreau who is struggling with three jobs and a burning lack of a future. Thrown into the mix is constable Regence Hooke who is trying hard to court Squib’s mother and a supernatural angle of a dragon. We can only hope for another long journey akin to that of Fowl where science and fantasy compelled us to sit up and take copious notes.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones; Harper Collins

Her An American Marriage caught the world by storm last year. If someone can unravel families and their secrets and hold it up to an audience for shock and scrutiny, it is Tayari Jones and she is ready with her next novel Silver Sparrow. Chaurisse and Dana are two friends tied together with their affection for each other and a deadly secret known only to one amongst the two – that the girls share a father. Bent on keeping one family a secret from the other, here unfolds a tale mired with secrets and explosions of emotions that we can expect to be a cathartic journey.

Home in the World by Amartya Sen; Penguin Random House

After gifting the world titles like The Argumentative Indian, The Idea of Justice and Development as Freedom, the Nobel prize-winning professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University finally turns to give us an insight into his illustrious life of academics and beyond, with his autobiography titled Home in the World.

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell; Hachette

The author of the famed Cloud Atlas returns after five long years with a story of “the most extraordinary British band that you have never heard of” – Utopia Avenue. Tracing their journey through Soho, Amsterdam, Rome and America in the late ’60s, there is a strong dose of riots and revolutions on the streets and love, drugs, sex, art and the ladder that takes one up and brings one down to and from stardom.

Low by Jeet Thayil; Penguin Random House

Jeet Thayil once again takes us into the underbelly of Bombay, holding the hands of a grief-stricken protagonist, Dominic Ullis. Recovering from the shock of his wife’s death, Ullis takes to the city and a scary drug, Meow Meow, where he meets strange people with stranger stories. Inebriated and not in possession of correct reasoning faculties, Ullis doesn’t know whom to trust and what to believe. The Man Booker prize nominated singer-songwriter who has himself fought drug addiction to emerge triumphant, after Narcopolis, gives us another look into a world rarely visited but much spoken about.

How to Avoid Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and The Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates; Penguin Random House

When one of the greatest thinkers and tech innovators of this generation studies a subject that is ailing mankind and proposes feasible solutions, the world has to take notice. The founder, CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates, studied climate change to arrive at conclusions that are the call of the hour right now. According to him, the right technological advancements with copious amounts of investments in research, when deployed at a mass scale, could help the world get over the largest impending disaster the world is yet to witness.


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