As this year wraps up, we look behind to list out the top 10 best books of this calender year. From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo to Jeet Tayil's Narcopolis and the autobiographical book Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie become the best reads of 2012.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century's great, unequal cities.
The book describes the present-day Annawadi slum of Mumbai, located near the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. It follows the interconnected lives of several residents, including a young trash picker, a female "slumlord," and a college student.
As the country starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising Muslim teenager, sees "a fortune beyond counting" in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away.
Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. Her daughter - Annawadi's "most-everything girl" - will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call "the full enjoy."
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
Narcopolis is Jeet Thayil's first novel, though he is previously a published poet. The novel draws on his own experiences as a drug addict, and what he calls "the lost 20 years of my life". It is a novel about opium and its effect, set in 1970s Old Bombay. The book sets out with the narrator arriving in Bombay, where he gets sucked into the opium underground. Gradually, the story expands to encompass all the people he encounters along the way.
The reader meets Dimple, the eunuch, Rashid, the opium house's owner, and Mr Lee, a former Chinese officer. All have their own stories to tell. The scene changes as we move towards the present day, and heroin is introduced to the environment.
Narcopolis was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. The jury wrote that they "admired his perfumed prose from the drug dens and backstreets of India's most concentrated conurbation". Narcopolis was shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature (2013).
Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto
In a one-bedroom-hall-kitchen in Mahim, Bombay, through the last decades of the twentieth century, lived four love-battered Mendeses: mother, father, son and daughter. Between Em, the mother, driven frequently to hospital after her failed suicide attempts, and The Big Hoom, the father, trying to hold things together as best he could, they tried to be a family.
It begins with Em in a psychiatric ward, recovering from a failed suicide attempt, but the Mendes family's story begins like a sweet romantic comedy of 1970s' Bollywood. Imelda and Augustine meet in an office. He courts her. They get married and have two children, a daughter named Susan and a son, the narrator of the novel. Then, after the birth of her son, Em discovers depression.
Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie
An autobiographical book by Salman Rushdie of his life under the fatwa.
The fatwa had been issued by the spiritual and political leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, in the midst of the Satanic Verses controversy which was accused of being "against Islam, the Prophet, and the Quran."
The book is announced as one of the 14 titles in the longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2012 on 18 September 2012.
Sons of Sita by Ashok Banker
Ten years have passed since Rama did the unthinkable and banished Sita. Now, she spends her days in quiet tapasya in the remote forest ashram of Maharishi Valmiki, even as her sons Luv and Kush grow ever more proficient at the arts of war. They seem unlikely to ever cross paths with their estranged father, yet destiny works in unexpected ways. Rama's growing ambitions and his war-mongering advisors motivate him to launch the Ashwamedha yojana.
The mightiest Ayodhyan army ever assembled follows the sacred stallion in a campaign of conquest that seems unstoppable until a pair of improbable obstacles arise.
Defying the military might of Ayodhya and the emperorship of Rama himself, two young striplings capture the Ashwamedha horse and challenge the great army. To Rama's chagrin the challengers turn out to be none other than his own estranged offspring: the sons of Sita.
Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia by S Hussain Zaidi
Dongri to Dubai is the story of the notorious gangsters like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Chhota Rajan, Abu Salem, but above all, it is the story of a young man who went astray despite having a father in the police force.
This story is primarily about how a boy from Dongri became a don in Dubai, and captures his bravado, cunningness,focus, ambition, and lust for power in a gripping narrative.
Dawood Ibrahim was initiated into crime as a pawn in the hands of the Mumbai police and went on to wipeout the competition and eventually became the Mumbai police's own nemesis.
Iron Curtain: The crushing of Eastern Europe by Anne Applebaum
As the four decades of the cold war fade into history and mythology, it is important to go on reminding people of the nature of communism in eastern Europe, and why West Germans and other Europeans were not, in fact, desperate to exchange the austere rigours of western capitalist democracy for the fleshpots and freedoms of communist rule.
Anne Applebaum does an excellent job of explaining this for the Stalinist and immediate post-Stalinist period in Poland, East Germany and Hungary.
Her book is a masterly synthesis in English of recent research by scholars in these countries, and of the range of memoirs by participants and survivors.
Applebaum's book has a political as well as a scholarly purpose, though on this occasion her political agenda does not detract significantly from her scholarship.
Durbar by Tavleen Singh
Tavleen Singh's latest book Durbar is about the times when Indira Gandhi and her sons was ruling India. The book opens with how Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated and then moving back in time, goes to the times when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister and Sanjay Gandhi kept creating one storm after the other.
The times of emergency, its outcomes, its negative effects on Congress and the people of India, the elections of 1977, the campaigning, the results, Morarji Desai, Chaudhary Charan Singh, equations with Pakistan, Nehru's socialist ideology, where things went wrong and how India is still facing its outcomes, Tavleen Singh has discussed it all with her own perspective.
She discusses her equation with Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and a lot of popular names from media. Tavleen has spread her wings in almost every possible direction. The book has got a lot to offer.
The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
The Casual Vacancy is a 2012 tragicomedy novel written by British author JK Rowling. It was Rowling's first publication since the Harry Potter series, her first apart from that series, and her first novel for adults.
Major themes in the novel are class, politics and social issues like that of drugs, prostitution and rape. This book focuses on the truths that exist between people in a community and, more importantly, the lies that tear them apart.
The novel is set in a suburban West Country town called Pagford and begins with the death of Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother. Subsequently, a seat on the council is vacant and a war breaks out before the election for his successor takes place. However, those running for a place soon find their darkest secrets revealed on the Parish Council online forum, ruining their campaign and leaving the election in turmoil.
Umbrella by Will Self
Radical in its conception, uncompromising in its style, Umbrella is Will Self's most extravagant and imaginative exercise in speculative fiction to date.
A socialist, a feminist and a munitions worker at the Woolwich Arsenal, Audrey fell victim to the encephalitis lethargica epidemic at the end of the First World War and, like one of the subjects in Oliver Sacks' Awakenings, has been in a coma ever since.
Realising that Audrey is just one of a number of post-encephalitic scattered throughout the asylum, maverick psychiatrist, Zack Busner becomes involved in an attempt to bring them back to life - with wholly unforeseen consequences.
Disclaimer: Listing in no particular order.