By now, you should be about halfway into our massive #BrunchBookChallenge. Some of you have already reached, and passed that magic number (whoa!).
Several of you are making fantastic progress (despite exams, shifting homes and everyday distractions). And to all those who've just begun: Welcome!
So, what have you been reading? Something picked randomly off the bestseller list? That hyped-up award winner?
The new publishing phenomenon everyone's talking about? Part 3 of a trilogy you feel obliged to complete? The same-old classics you've been hearing about for decades?
There's so much more to great reading - undiscovered gems from a different era, surprisingly good reads from a genre you've never tried, stories from lesser-known writers just waiting to captivate you.
So we got book lovers from varied walks of life to recommend what you should read next - no self-help titles, no populist fiction, no well-known classics, no big new releases.
It didn't go quite as planned. Some people just couldn't commit to a single book; they bombarded us with three, sometimes four, picks.
Others called us back, days later, to gleefully change their choice to something better. One greedily wanted to know which books had been mentioned so she could start reading them. (We didn't tell her!) But everyone we spoke to spent time picking the unusual books they'd read, loved and remembered well.
Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal
I was going to recommend
Franny and Zooey
by JD Salinger but I think I'll go with something even more unusual -
by Gore Vidal.
It's the most inappropriate book - an irreverent, semi-pornographic journal about the fictitious Myra Breckinridge.
It was released in 1968 but is an incredible book to read today, in a world where Bruce Jenner has transformed publicly to Caitlyn, because it forces you to examine gender identities, how gender itself is a social construct and is interchangeable.
It was super controversial when it came out - but became a bestseller and was then turned into a movie that was panned by everyone including the author. Gore Vidal said it was a piece of s**t, basically, so the film is not at all what I recommend.
But the book is absolutely worth it. I read it about 15 years ago and I'm looking forward to re-reading it again in today's
world after so much has changed and so much has stayed
Given that we live in a post-Kardashian reality, it's important to understand the impact of someone's identity, frivolity, popularity and the psychology of society today. And Gore Vidal did it back in the '60s.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Narcissus And Goldmund by Hermann Hesse
Spending more than 250 days in a year on the road can allow for a lot of time to read. A lot of my work is in remote areas where there is poor or expensive mobile network service or there is not enough power to recharge one's gadgets.
I work on my own; there is no conversation partner. So, after any photo or film project, a book helps me wind down. I don't like to read on a flight. Planes are for the flicks I missed watching.
One of my all-time favourites is
Narcissus and Goldmund
by Hermann Hesse. The book was given to me in my somewhat lost years by my ex-partner.
It talks about the struggle of creativity versus the temptations of life (including the material comforts that always conflict with the larger journey).
It was an epiphany about my own process-orientation or a goal-driven end. As an artist, reading this book put me into
a space where I questioned a lot of what I did as I went forward.
: I also recommend
It's a Long Story: My Life
, by Willie Nelson. It is time we read about this American icon, an old-school liberal in music. I was never a big fan of country music but Willie's political stand is not about Left or Right, it is issue-based.
This is inspiring, considering that today music is more about packaging and less about writing. Sample the romance in the lyrics of Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain: In the twilight glow I see them/ Blue eyes cryin' in the rain/ When we kissed goodbye and parted/ I knew we'd never meet again…
These days, I am reading Jenny Nordberg's
The Underground Girls of Kabul
. It has given me the opportunity to reflect on issues relating to the girl child today. Apart from being interestingly written, it also reflects on gender issues in conflict areas and further marginalisation of the female of the species.
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
I came across Kahlil Gibran's
at an airport five years ago and I was surprised by how much it resonated with me.
The story touched on everything, from love, marriage, children, giving and eating to law, freedom, money and death.
Shortly after I read the book, someone close to me died
and the book gave me great comfort to think of them in
Today, we pretend death or major illnesses will never happen to us and we're surprised when it does. We try to avoid it with anti-ageing products, surgery and the pursuit of everlasting life.
We need to re-learn to accept all that life has to offer - the joy and the suffering. A message from the book is still
with me: 'You are far, far greater than you know - and
all is well'!
The Kenneth Anderson Omnibus
At the moment, I'm embarrassed to say that my reading habits have atrophied. I usually read just before bedtime.
And it has to be a hardcopy book and not something on a Kindle. I stare at screens all day, whether it's a laptop or a phone. So I don't want to do that while reading. I am a fan of flicking the pages and taking in the smell of a book.
I am not a big fan of depressing tales where everybody is suffering. I recommend the Kenneth Anderson
. Anderson was a British hunter who was born and lived in India, and wrote about his adventures in the jungles of
South India in the '50s and '60s.
On one hand, the book depicts the end of the Raj in India, on the other, its narrative and the clarity with which he describes the jungle is very poetic and engaging.
You sort of get a glimpse of the forest through his words
and descriptions. And especially for a wildlife enthusiast like me, who goes on a lot of safaris and photographs tigers.
It is incredibly charming.
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
This Indian-born surgeon and researcher in America writes about medicine, but they're unlike the usual health books.
They look at medicine's relation to morality, solutions and the reality of how they work, and the human element in the world of medicine, which is so interesting.
If you haven't read him before, I suggest you start with his first book,
, which is a series of essays about the limits and well, complications, in a surgeon's life.
But I've been reading his latest book,
, which looks at whether medicine is geared to cope with the final days of our life.
It's written so well - I love how he questions what we take as absolutes and adds a new perspective to that. He's easy to read, it's never technical. But his writing may be seen differently by readers who are quite old, for obvious reasons!
Genesis by Sebastião SalgadoIf you are at all interested in the visual image and any kind of photography, you've got to have this. Genesis is basically a document of the untouched, unphotographed parts of the planet.
DV, the autobiography of Diana Vreeland
Diana Vreeland was the fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar and editor-in-chief of Vogue, and her genius for style
inspired the fashion world for almost 50 years.
The book takes us around the globe through the conversations and stories of Vreeland in the company of royalty, actors, artists and designers.
This autobiography celebrates the life of one of fashion's most extraordinary characters.
BONUS: I thought Neel Mukherjee's The Lives of Others, was particularly good as well.
So, what are you going to read next? Tell us at email@example.com or tweet to @HTBrunch using the hashtag #BrunchBookChallenge. And, obviously, keep reading!
From HT Brunch, July 19
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