Every New Year brings with it a robust list of exciting new books waiting to be read, enjoyed, analysed, loved or hated. Even if you haven’t got around to finishing your reading list for 2017, it shouldn’t stop you from getting excited about the many good ones 2018 has in store. Here are 10 titles that we’re looking forward to in the New Year.
Why I am a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor (Aleph, January)
Most of us may not reflect on the faith we are born into, observing rituals and festivals out of habit rather than any deep understanding of their philosophy and history. But in a post-truth world where religious ideologies and identities are being twisted to incite violence and suit vested interests, it helps to know facts, or at least try to search for them. In this ambitious undertaking, author and intellectual Shashi Tharoor writes about one of the world’s oldest religions, Hinduism, and the thinkers and schools of thought that have contributed to its philosophies. More importantly, he explains how it is different from an ideology it is often mistaken to be – Hindutva.
Poonachi: The Story of a Black Goat (Westland, January) and two sequels to One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan (Penguin Random House, November)
Perumal Murugan seems to be getting back at his detractors in the best possible way – by being prolific. If 2017 saw him release a poetry collection and a book of short stories, he returns to full-length fiction in 2018 with Poonachi and two sequels to One Part Woman. Poonachi, Murugan’s first novel since the Madras High Court upheld his right to write and dismissed the petition to ban One Part Woman, is, as says the title, the story of a goat and also – according to the book blurb – “a commentary on the human condition and the vulnerabilities of the artistic life”.
The One Part Woman double-sequel looks at the two ways Kali and Ponna’s story could go after the chariot festival. In one version, together they try to navigate an uncertain future, while in the second, Ponna returns home only to find that Kali has killed himself.
Na Bairi Na Koi Begana by Surendra Mohan Pathak (Westland, January)
In this first instalment of a three-volume autobiography, Hindi crime fiction writer Surendra Mohan Pathak, 77, writes of his childhood in pre-Partition Lahore and then in Delhi’s refugee camps. Also part of the narrative is his account of his college days in Jalandhar and how he discovered pulp fiction that led him to his true calling. An eventful life recounted by the grand-daddy of Hindi thrillers is not something to be missed.
The first part of writer Surendra Mohan Pathak’s three-volume autobiography will be published simultaneously in Hindi and English.
The Death of a Paharia: Stories by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar (Speaking Tiger, March)
In his earlier works, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar has written about the Santhal culture and the harsh realities that are a part of the everyday for the tribal people of Jharkhand. His debut book, The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey (2014), set in a Santhal village, won the 2015 Sahitya Akademi Yuva Purashkar. His second, an unsettling collection of 10 short stories, The Adivasi will not Dance (2015), focused on the exploitation and poverty tribals of the mineral-rich region live with. The book is also the most recent literary survivor of belated ‘hurt sentiments’ and a needless controversy. The people of Jharkhand are once again the subject of Shekhar’s next collection of stories, The Death of a Paharia.
Macbeth by Jo Nesbo (Penguin Random House, April)
When a globally-acclaimed crime fiction writer takes on the task of retelling one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, it is, clearly, something to watch out for. Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, who has explored the dark side of human nature and ideas of morality and evil in his bestselling thrillers, takes Shakespeare’s ambitious and ill-fated general to the 1970s as Inspector Macbeth who is chasing drug lords. The book is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project in which bestselling novelists retell the Bard of Avon’s plays in modern settings. We can’t wait to see what Nesbo does with Macbeth.
Barracoon: The Story of the Last Slave by Zora Neale Hurston (HarperCollins, May)
In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Alabama to meet Cudjo Lewis, 95, the last-known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade. Like millions of other Africans, Cudjo had been captured and smuggled to America where he was forced to work as a slave till the end of the Civil War in 1865. Barracoon is a never-published-before account of Cudjo’s life as told by Hurston, author of the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, and is based on her interviews with him.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari (Penguin Random House, August)
Israeli professor Yuval Noah Harari’s excellent book Sapiens (2015) was an international bestseller and is probably the only book to be publicly recommended by Bill Gates, Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg. While his second, Homo Deus (2017), looked to the future and made it to the Time magazine’s list of top ten non-fiction books of 2017, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century will be about the here and now. In the book, Harari will look at contemporary issues, such as immigration, terrorism, fake news as well as ideas like resilience and humility. A voice of reason amid the chaos and madness that has been 2017? We’re all ears.
Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif (Bloomsbury, October)
Five years after his book on Baloch dissidents, The Baloch Who Is Not Missing And Others Who Are, British-Pakistani author Mohammed Hanif is back with a work of fiction. Described by the publisher as a book “about war, family and the tensions between America and the Muslim world”, Red Birds follows Major Ellie, an American pilot who crash lands in a desert, and a teenage Muslim boy Momo, trying to live by his wits in a nearby refugee camp.
Raavan: Orphan of Aryavarta by Amish (Westland, October-November)
A book in a bestselling series by an insanely popular writer is like a celebrity baby. You know it is going to be famous even before it is born. The third book in Amish Tripathi’s Ramachandra series tells the backstory of the mighty king of Lanka. We’ve loved Amish’s imaginative retellings in the past and it’ll be interesting to see how he interprets one of the most famous villains of ancient Indian literature. Like the first two books — Scion of Ikshvaku (2015) and Sita: Warrior of Mithila (2017) — Raavan will end with the abduction of Sita and books four and five will take the story forward.
Pajamas are Forgiving, Twinkle Khanna (Juggernaut, to-be-announced)
Whether it is menstrual hygiene, feminism or poking fun at the Bhai of Bollywood, Twinkle Khanna is never the one to shy away from difficult issues or back down from her stand. Her writing is humorous and intelligent and social satire is her strength. Her first novel Pajamas are Forgiving is the story of “a woman who is stuck in an ayurvedic retreat with her ex-husband and his younger second wife”. If the book blurb is anything to go by, it promises to be just as entertaining as Mrs FunnyBones.
Twinkle Khanna poses for a photograph during the launch of her debut book Mrs Funnybones in 2015. (AFP Photo)
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