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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

On the reading list this week are two very different memoirs and a guide to a country that’s both foreign and familiar

books Updated: Sep 27, 2019 22:47 IST
HT Team
HT Team
Hindustan Times
This week’s picks feature two memoirs and a guide to a nation.
This week’s picks feature two memoirs and a guide to a nation. (HT Team)
         

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO JAPAN BY PICO IYER

224pp, Rs 499; Penguin
224pp, Rs 499; Penguin

From the acclaimed author of The Art of Stillness, Pico Iyer, ‘arguably the greatest living travel writer’ (Outside), comes a playful and surreptitiously profound guide to the deeply foreign and familiar Japan that he calls home.
Pico Iyer has been living around Kyoto for more than thirty-two years, but he admits at the outset of this book that he sometimes feels that he knows less now than when he arrived. In the constantly surprising pages that follow, he shows how an evening with Mery Streep, a walk through a ghostly deer park, even a call to the local Apple service centre, can open up his adopted home in fresh and invigorating ways. Why does anime make sense in an animist culture? How might Oscar Wilde reveal a culture too often associated with conformity? How can Japanese friends in a typical neighborhood turn every stereotype on its head? His provocations may infuriate you – may even infuriate himself – Iyer confesses in his opening slavo, but maybe it’s only by setting its love hotels next to its baseball stadiums, its wild fashions against its eighth century values, that Japan can be made new again for both the first time visitor and the jaded foreign resident.

SKETCHES: THE MEMOIR OF AN ARTIST BY KM VASUDEVAN NAMBOODIRI

179pp, Rs 599; Penguin
179pp, Rs 599; Penguin

The first-ever English translation of the living legend ‘Artist’ Namboodiri’s memoir, Sketches features his eloquent line drawings interspersed with vivid portrayals of the people and places – both ordinary and significant – that he grew up with Opening a window into the esoteric and forgotten world of twentieth century rural Kerala, Namboodiri described how certain family homes and community spaces were the centres of creativity, cultural exchange and mutual regard. With a springkling of light humour, he writes about a self proclaimed doctor who sought out patients, the most famous temple festival he could not witness, a neighbourhood elephant’s encounter with a deaf man, among other amusing vignettes. Though the chronicle of his time at art school, his job as an illustrator for a leading Malayalam magazine, his novel experience of making a film with an actor who didn’t want to be paid, Namboodiri offers an exclusive glimpse of the world of art and literature. Among other renowned names, KCS Paniker and Vaikom Muhammad Basheer make an appearance.

Vast in in sweep, endlessly engaging and infused with Namboodiri’s charming wit, Sketches is a visual and literary delight.

PERMANENT RECORD BY EDWARD SNOWDEN

39pp, Rs 699; PanMacmillan
39pp, Rs 699; PanMacmillan

In 2013, twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden shocked the world when he broke with the American intelligence establishment and revealed that the United States government was secretly pursuing the means to collect every single phone call, text message and email. The result would be an unprecedented system of mass surveillance with the ability to pry into the private lives of every person on earth. Six year slater, Snowden reveals for the very first time how he helped to build this system and why he was moved to expose it.
Spanning the bucolic Beltway suburbs of his childhood and the clandestine CIA AND NSA postings of his adulthood, Permanent Record is the extraordinary account of a bright young man who grew up online – a man who became a spy, a whistleblower, and , in exile, the Internet’s conscience. Written with wit, grace, passion, and unflinching candor, Permanent Record is a crucial memoir of our age and destined to be a classic

First Published: Sep 27, 2019 22:47 IST

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