Looking back at 2015 and looking ahead to 2016, it has been an extremely rich time in the world of books. In India, publishing houses went through a lot of churning with senior publishing personnel doing their routine musical chairs, moving from one house to another; the resurgence in the English-language poetry scene continued unabated; literary little presses asserted their presence with quality new books; and a new publishing house, Juggernaut, was set up by Chiki Sarkar. All in all, a very vibrant time.
Amitav Ghosh’s last book of his Ibis trilogy, Flood of Fire, which completed the ambitiously prodigious sequence of well-researched big novels, kept him in the pole position as one of the world’s most intelligent writers. A sub-genre that showed growing maturity was that of erotic literary writing. Also children, travel, sports writing and reportage genres produced some very good books. Here are my Sunday Guardian picks for the ‘Best Books of the Year’ 2015-16:
Vikram Seth: Summer Requiem (Aleph); Meena Alexander, Atmospheric Embroidery (Hachette); Kazim Ali: All One’s Blues: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins); Karthika Nair: Until the Lions (HarperCollins); Sandeep Parmar: Eidolon (Shearsman); Kirun Kapur: Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist (Elixir); Ellen Kombiyil: Histories of the Future Perfect (Great Indian Poetry Collective); Ravi Shankar: What Else Could It Be: Ekphrasis & Collaborations (Carolina Wren); Mona Arshi: Small Hands (Liverpool University Press); Anupama Raju: Nine (Speaking Tiger); Mukta Sambrani: Broomrider’s Book of the Dead (Poetrywala); K Srilata: Bookmarking the Oasis (Poetrywala); Sampurna Chattarji: Space Gulliver: Chronicles of an Alien (HarperCollins).
Amitav Ghosh: Flood of Fire (Hamish Hamilton: Penguin); Salman Rushdie, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Days Nights (Viking Penguin); Kunal Basu, Kalkatta (HarperCollins); Anuradha Roy: Sleeping on Jupiter (Hachette); Sudhir Kakar: The Devil Take Love (Hamish Hamilton: Penguin); Sandip Roy, Don’t Let Him Know (Bloomsbury), Shovon Chowdhury: Murder with Bengali Characteristics (Aleph); Kaushik Barua: No Direction Rome (Fourth Estate); Mahesh Rao, One Point Two Billion (Fourth Estate); Rosalyn D’Mello, A Handbook for my Lover (HarperCollins); R Raj Rao: Lady Lolita’s Lover (HarperCollins); Pepita Seth: The Edge of Another World (Speaking Tiger); Rita Joshi: The Simla Paintings and Other Stories (Heritage); Aashish Kaul: The Queen’s Play (Roundfire Books); Handsa Sowvendra Shekhar: The Adivasi Will Not Dance: Stories (Speaking Tiger); Ratika Kapur: The Private Life of Mrs Sharma (Bloomsbury).
Barkha Dutt: The Unquiet Land (Aleph); Siddharth Mukherjee: The Laws of Medicine (Simon & Schuster/A Ted Book); Devapriya Roy & Saurav Jha: The Heat & Dust Project: The Broke Couple’s Guide to Bharat (HarperCollins); Linda Hess: Bodies of Song: Kabir Oral Traditions and Performative Worlds in North India (Permanent Black); Avirook Sen: Aarushi (Penguin); Amartya Sen: The Country of First Boys (OUP/tlm); Vidhu Verma (ed.): Unequal Worlds (OUP); Tulsi Badrinath: Madras, Chennai and the Self: Conversations with City (Pan Macmillan); Jonathan Gil Harris: The First Firangis: Remarkable Stories of Heroes, Healers, Charlatans, Courtesans & other Foreigners who became Indian (Aleph); Jai Arjun Singh: The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Viking Penguin); Ritu Menon: Out of Line: A Literary and Political Biography of Nayantara Sahgal (Fourth Estate); Sachidananda Mohanty, Periodical Press and Colonial Modernity: Odisha, 1866-1936 (OUP).
Nirupama Dutt (tr.): Gulzar: Pluto Poems (HarperCollins); Poonam Saxena (tr.): Dharamvir Bharati: Chander & Sudha (Viking Penguin); Priya Sarukkai Chabria & Ravi Shankar (trs.), Andal: The Autobiography of a Goddess (Zubaan); Rakhshanda Jalil (tr.): Pigeons of the Domes: Stories on Communalism (Niyogi); Sajeev Kumarapuram (tr.): Benyamin: Yellow Lights of Death (Penguin); Musharraf Ali Farooqi (tr.), Afzal Ahmed Syed: Rococo and Other Worlds (Yoda); Gopalkrishna Gandhi (tr.): Tiruvalluvar: The Tirukkural (Aleph); Dilip Chitre, Sarabjeet Garcha & Mustansir Dalvi (trs.): Hemant Divate: Selected Poems 1900-2015 (Poetrywala); Jerry Pinto (trans.), Daya Pawar: Baluta (Speaking Tiger); J. Devika (tr.), K.R. Meera: Aa Maratheyum Marannu Marannu Njan: And Slowly Forgetting That Tree (OUP); Gita Subramanian (tr.) Imayam: Pethavan: The Begetter (OUP).
Adil Jussawalla: I Dreamt A Horse Fell From the Sky: Poems, Fiction and Non-Fiction 1962-2015 (Hachette); Siddhartha Gigoo & Varad Sharma (eds.): A Long Dream of Home: The Persecution, Exodus and Exile of Kashmiri Pandits (Bloomsbury); Rahul Singh & Niloufer Bilimoria, Khushwant Singh 100 Years: Fresh Springs of Himalayan Thought (KLF/HarperCollins); World English Poetry (Bengal Publication); Gossamer: An Anthology of Contemporary World Poetry (Kindle Print Editions / Ink Publications); Annie Zaidi: Unbound: 2000 Years of Indian Women’s Writing (Aleph); Usha Akella: The Rosary of Latitudes: Poetry & Prose (Transcendent Zero Press); Radha Chakravarty (ed.): Shades of Difference: Selected Writings of Rabindranath Tagore (Social Science Press); Malashri Lal (ed.): Tagore and the Feminine: A Journey in Translations (Sage).
Looking Ahead: 2016
2016 augurs very well, there is so much to look forward to and look ahead. Some fine books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, anthologies and criticism, I am eager to read are — Ramachandra Guha: Democrats and Dissenters (Penguin); Jhumpa Lahiri: In Other Words (Penguin); Ranbir Singh Sidhu: Deep Singh Blue (HarperCollins); Kanishk Tharoor: Swimmer Among the Stars: Stories (Aleph); Chandrahas Chaudhury: Clouds (HarperCollins); Pratap Bhanu Mehta: The Burden of Tolerance (Aleph); Shashi Tharoor: The Evils of Empire: The Truth About the British in India (Aleph); Alice Perrin, East of Suez: Stories of Love, Betrayal & Hauntings from the Raj (Speaking Tiger); Ruskin Bond: Friends in Wild Places: Birds, Beasts and Other Companions (Speaking Tiger); Vidhu Aggarwal, The Trouble with Humpadori (The Great Indian Poetry Collective); Ruchira Gupta (ed.), The River of Flesh and Other Stories: The Prostituted Woman in Indian Short Fiction (Speaking Tree); Arunava Sinha (ed.&trans.): The Greatest Modern Bengali Stories Ever Told (Aleph); Tabish Khair: The New Xenophobia (OUP); Amit Chaudhuri (ed.), Literary Activism: A Collection of Perspectives (OUP); M J Akbar (ed.), Indelible India: A Golden Treasury of Indian Journalism (Aleph); And finally, if I may, my own book of debut fiction comes out this month titled, EroText (Vintage: Penguin Random House) — a new adventure begins!
Sudeep Sen’s recent books include: Fractals: New & Selected Poems | =Translations 1980-2015; The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (editor); and debut fiction, EroText (Vintage: Penguin Random House).