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The big Brunch summer reading list

A round-up of all the hot new books. From bestsellers to literary fiction, thrillers and books on mythology, here's everything you were looking forward to this summer.

brunch Updated: Jun 06, 2014 17:29 IST
Compiled by Saudamini Jain

A round-up of all the hot new books. From bestsellers to literary fiction, thrillers and books on mythology, here's everything you were looking forward to this summer.
A bestseller after almost 50 years

THE BOOK:Stoner by John Williams

THE GIST:William Stoner, the son of a farmer in Missouri, goes to university to study agronomy but switches to literature instead. This is the story of his life - an academic, a hero among his students, and a regular guy stuck in a bad marriage - in early 20th century America.

ONE-LINE REVIEW:The ups and downs in the ordinary life of an ordinary man are instantly relatable.

READ IT IF YOU LIKE:Books with an interesting back story. When it was published in 1965, it was reasonably praised. Nearly 50 years later, it is a bestseller. The New Yorker called it the "Greatest American novel you've never heard of."

CAUTION:Don't be misled by the title. It has nothing to do with marijuana.

BEST LINE:In his forty-third year William Stoner learned what others, much younger, had learned before him: that the person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another.

Saudamini Jain
The big literary fiction of the year

THE BOOK: The Lives Of Others by Neel Mukherjee

THE GIST: Set in 1960s Calcutta, it is the story of the Ghoshes, a large Bengali joint family - the duty, alliances, jealousies and even catfights. In a parallel narrative, it is also the diary of Supratik, the eldest grandson of the family who leaves their home to join the Naxal movement.

ONE-LINE REVIEW:This is an engaging book and there's something for every kind of reader - it's a family drama (and every character is interesting and sketched out in detail), an account of a Naxal, the life of a young mathematical genius and of Calcutta.

READ IT IF YOU LIKE: Big literary novels, which are also very emotionally charged. Highly recommended.

CAUTION: More like a post-reading warning: Do not liken this book to Jhumpa Lahiri's (pale in comparison) The Lowlands.

BEST LINE: Not all family bonds are equal. The lie so assiduously propagated by mothers - 'How can you ask who is my favourite? They are all my children, I love all of them equally. Are you partial to one finger of your hand over another?' - is disbelieved by everyone, yet it is quite astonishing what pervasive currency it has in the outward show of lives. Everyone is hectically denying the existence of favourites, of special affections and allegiances within a large group of siblings, or between parents and children, while, just under the surface, the empty drama of equality is torque to its very opposite by the forces of conflicting emotions and affinities.

Saudamini Jain

#LOL #Inspiring #NowReading

THE BOOK: Things A Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of a Creative Mind by Biz Stone

THE GIST: A not-so-ordinary rags to riches story of Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, a real-life tale of creativity, wit and looking at the world 'through a lens of infinite possibility'.

ONE-LINE REVIEW:A simply written, incredibly funny and inspiring book with anecdotes from Stone's eventful life, which show that creativity never runs out and opportunities can be manufactured.

READ IF YOU LIKE:Autobiographical accounts of entrepreneurship or books that make you laugh.

CAUTION:The narrative tends to get a little repetitive in the middle.

BEST LINE: Adopting a career because it's lucrative, or because your parents want you to… it's like someone else punched the GPS coordinates into your phone. You're locked onto your course but you don't even know where you're going.

Satarupa Paul

The thriller that was almost good

THE BOOK:Transgressions by Vaiju Naravane

THE GIST: Kranti - an Indian-born fashion designer in Paris stages her own death, leaving behind diaries and notebooks, which contain terrible secrets about her family. As her lover, Robert-Pierre struggles to make sense of her death, her sister, Shanti, comes to Paris to contest Kranti's will, which left everything to Pierre. What are these secrets that drove a successful woman to take her own life? And how will her family deal with the fresh blow?

ONE-LINE REVIEW: There is only one thing worse than a boring book: a book that's almost boring, especially when it is supposed to move faster than light!

READ IT IF YOU LIKE:Family scandals, underdog stories, intrigues and Sidney Sheldon.

CAUTION:The opposite of a feel-good novel. DO NOT pick up this book if you are looking for a light read. Some chapters of the book sparkle, but some of them are as dull as ditch water.

BEST LINE:She sees an astonishing burst of colour; a clanging, clashing cacophony of a hundred voices and faces - some known, most unknown. From the labyrinth depths to which she has sunk, Kranti's will to live surges up - clawing and fighting. Curled up like a foetus, she closes her eyes.

Jyotsna Raman
Dirty recommendation

THE BOOK:More Men On My Mind by Radha Thomas

THE GIST:Travel agent by day, jazz singer by night, the protagonist hurls herself at men from many countries, as she tries to find her way to marital and sexual bliss. None of them last longer than a few months. An episode of STD, a pervert arranged-marriage type and a psychopath later, unplanned pregnancy is the worst that could befall her. Or is it?

ONE-LINE REVIEW: A great late night read, More Men is sure to squeeze a few laughs of the most disapproving reader with its tragicomic description of the dozen-or-so men, all from the point of view of a woman unhesitant to miss her drug-dealer boyfriend for the toe-curling multi-orgasms he gave her.

READ IT IF YOU LIKE:Sex and the City

CAUTION:The NRI tone grates at times with its constant exotification of mundane Indian things.

BEST LINE:Was it too much to ask for a sexy man? A funny man. A man without strange kinks and weird habits. A man with an average-sized appendage and a voice that didn't squeak. I was also hoping that this man wouldn't have a wife and kids tucked away, waiting to make a noisy appearance after the 'I do', when it was too late to say 'Why me?'

Dhruba Jyoti Purkait
If you miss the elections already

THE BOOK:Unreal Elections by CS Krishna and Karthik Laxman

THE GIST: The founders of the spoof site, The UnReal Times, create a parallel-world depiction of the Indian elections, where Amit Shah appears on Koffee with Karan, Mamata has a one-on-one with mayonnaise and the President is a masked vigilante, all culminating in the best-kept secret of all - that Rahul Gandhi has a plan for the country.

ONE-LINE REVIEW:Breezily written, the duo manage to extract laughs from even the most staid political leaders (think Pranab Mukherjee), but the sudden lurch towards seriousness at the end will remain with you after turning the last page.

READ IT IF YOU LIKE:A good laugh. And, of course, if you already miss the elections!

CAUTION:At almost 300 pages, the book feels a little like the 2014 elections - so long-drawn that you've lost interest.

BEST LINE:"You idiot, what do you call a person who plays the piano?" Mamata asked with a steely glint in her eyes.

"Pianist," Derek mumbled

"So what do you call someone who prepares mayo?"

"Mayoist..." Derek trembled.

Dhruba Jyoti Purkait
Warning: 4567th mythic fiction since meluha

THE BOOK:The Emperor's Riddles by Satyarth Nayak

THE GIST:A historian, Ram Mathur, is murdered on the ghats of the Ganga. His daughter, Sia, with the help of dad's esoteric writer friend, Om Patnaik, sets out on a quest to seek answers and hunt for her father's killer. Patnaik and Sia travel the country, solving riddle after riddle as they get closer to the truth (and uncovering an ancient royal secret). Meanwhile, in another space and time, the tale of an emperor runs parallel to this murder mystery.

ONE-LINE REVIEW:The book reads more like a Dan Brown novel (laden with cryptography and religious motifs) with a dollop of Indian mythology fused with a murder mystery.

READ IT IF YOU LIKE:Riddles, interesting nuggets of information (like how the UN treaty of 1967 empowers it to turn visiting aliens sterile to prevent 'contamination of man'), lesser-known historically significant places in India, and other cool mythological references.

CAUTION:The book is better off as a celebration of our great Indian civilisation and its scientific genius. But it fails to hook you as a thriller. Don't pick it off the shelf if you are tired of mythological fiction or are looking to read a great murder mystery.

BEST LINE: You undertake new journeys but seek the same truth.

worst line: An ancient enigma so powerful even Gods would kill for it!!! (For the sheer number of times it is repeated and the three exclamation points after it.)

Apekshita Varshney
After all, saas bhi kabhi bahu thi...

THE BOOK:The Mother-in-Law: The Other Woman in Your Marriage by Veena Venugopal

THE GIST: Case studies of 11 urban women and their relationships with their mothers-in-law. Chances are, you've heard similar stories at family get-togethers, but this never grows old! Mummyjis come in all forms - super chilled out, insecure, pushy, scheming...

ONE-LINE REVIEW:Part hilarious, part insightful, this is a great book about the MILs of our times.

READ IT IF YOU LIKE: Self-help and if you're generally interested in other people's lives.

CAUTION:The world is a better place if your MIL lives on Mars - this book will not go down well with you if you are a mother-in-law.

BEST LINE: If, like the Kamasutra, India can lay any claim to inventing any kind of mother-in-law-related literature, it wouldn't be a joke-book, it would be a torture manual. Not the pull-the-nails and twist-the-toes kind of torture (not always, at least) but the dripping-water kind of mental sadism. In the light of this, I have decided I am left with no choice but to turn activist. My campaign is to save you, the daughter-in-law. If you are one or if you intend to become one, you should know there is a lot you need to be saved from.

Saudamini Jain
A fake writer who writes about a real guy

Aditya Magal, better known online by his parody avatar Fake Jhunjhunwala, is out with his first book How To Become A Billionaire By Selling Nothing. It is a humorous take on a rich stock investor with a dragon-sized ego, who unknowingly invests in an eccentric entrepreneur's revolutionary new product: NOTHING. The central character of the book is inspired by the real-life investor on Mumbai's Dalal Street, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala. The book is filled with sarcasm, spoofs and sketches. We caught up with the young author (the man is more interesting than the book):

*You're an Internet celebrity, why this foray into print then? An online presence is fun. But with a book, the freedom to entertain readers is enlarged!

*Is the book a reflection of our society?

'Nothing' is a metaphor for all those things we struggle to obtain in life. The book is a sarcastic look at the things we will do and say to get what we want even if we have to sell emptiness: Nothing.

Are you also trying to educate people about stock markets?

The stock market is a natural part of the book as Mr Jhunjhunwala is synonymous with it. I am trying to tell people that the stock market isn't actually a boring place, but a dynamic one where lots of things happen very quickly.

*How different is the real Jhunjhunwala?

The one in my book is an exaggerated version. He thinks he is God and will tell you so in no uncertain terms (even if you don't want to listen)! The real Mr Jhunjhunwala doesn't like to overplay his wealth or personality (but doesn't try to hide from them as well).

*Has he read the book?

I've sent the book to Mr Jhunjhunwala and he has confirmed its receipt. The last time I spoke to him, he did say that he hasn't read the book as he has been busy. I hope he likes it!

M Ramakrishnan

Adelle Waldman's reading list

. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff: This is a memoir about a young woman's first job in New York, working for a prestigious literary agency, and it is as much about being young and unsure and making one's way in the professional world as it is about Salinger, the agency's most famous client. It is beautifully written and extremely intelligent. Highly recommended for anyone who cares about books - or who remembers being young.

2. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison: Everybody I know has been talking about how great this book is. I can't wait to read it. I've heard Leslie read several of the essays aloud, and they are very smart, sensitive and funny.

3. Short Century by David Burr Gerrard: This is one of the most original, intelligent and impressive novels I've read in a long time. It's biting black comedy about an American journalist who vociferously supported the Iraq War, for reasons too complicated to explain and with consequences that turn out to be disastrous. It's quick, smart, funny and a terrific read.

4. Arts & Entertainment by Chris Beha: This is a very fun novel by the author of What Happened to Sophie Wilder about an actor whose career has stalled. When he decides to sell a sex tape he and his now famous ex-girlfriend made, everything changes. It's a fun ride, and one roots eagerly for the hapless Eddie, hoping that in the end he will find - and keep - money, fame and love.

5. We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas: I can't wait to read this big, sweeping first novel about several generations of an Irish-American family. It doesn't come out until August, but people are already calling it a classic and a masterwork, a truly unforgettable and important novel.

as told to Abhilasha Gupta

Adelle Waldman is the author of the novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., which was named one of 2013's best books by The New Yorker, The New Republic, Slate, The Economist, NPR, The Guardian and many others. If you're 20-something, you must read her book!

From HT Brunch, June 8
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