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9 books to read this month

Plus, the reclusive Ruskin Bond talks about rediscovering one of his favourite crime fiction writers

By Neville Bhandara  August 9th, 2019


From a piercing new memoir by the writer of The Vagina Monologues to new offerings from Salman Rushdie and Colson Whitehead, prepare to sequester yourself to get through this list.


Brilliant Women: Stories Of Inspiring Women From Around The World, by Georgia Amson-Bradshaw (Hachette)
Full of the triumphs of 68 amazing women, from tennis legend Serena Williams to Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Malala Yousafzai, this will make for inspirational bedtime reading for your little ones. Accompanying each story is artwork by renowned Italian illustrator Rita Petruccioli.

The Carpet Weaver, by Nemat Sadat (Penguin)
This striking debut opens on the sixteenth birthday of the protagonist, Kanishka Nurzada, who knows he is different from his friends—he is what the Afghans call “kuni”, a derogatory term for gay men. As he begins to explore his sexuality, and shares his first kiss with his friend Maihan, he learns that things are never truly easy. Soon, war comes to Afghanistan, and his life is forever changed. From the barbarity of an internment camp, to a new-found life (and freedom) in the US, this unputdownable novel plumbs the depths of human love and despair.

The Apology, by Eve Ensler (Bloomsbury India)
From one of our foremost feminists comes a memoir that chronicles her journey with the sexual and physical abuse she faced at the hands of her father, a man now long dead. But Eve Ensler still longs for an apology, and having decided that she could wait no more, penned this masterful work. Written from her father’s point of view, in the words she’d always hoped to hear him say, this attempt at closure will anger and move you.

The Nickel boys, by Colson Whitehead (Hachette)
In this follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Underground Railroad (2016), Colson Whitehead dramatises yet another part of US history only the way he can: Florida during the dark days of segregation, and takes us into the lives of two boys who are sentenced to spend their days at a brutal reform school.

Quichotte, by Salman Rushdie (Penguin Hamish Hamilton)
One of the greatest storytellers of our time returns with his latest offering, inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece, Don Quixote. In this modernist reinterpretation, the protagonist, an aging travelling salesman who is obsessed with a TV star, sets out on a journey across the US to win her love in a story that is at once classic Rushdie at the height of his magical prowess, and a satire of modern culture.

The Occasional Virgin, by Hanan al-Shaykh (Bloomsbury India)
This book challenges the perception of the stereotypical Arab woman, courtesy its feisty protagonists Yvonne and Huda, who don’t shy away from talking about sex, Islam or identity politics. But when a chance encounter in London’s ritzy Mayfair brings their past rushing into the present, you can be sure something wicked is about to follow.

The Unlikely Adventures Of The Shergill Sisters, by Balli Kaur Jaswal (Harpercollins)
Three estranged sisters reunite at their mother’s deathbed to honour her last wish—a joint pilgrimage to the Golden Temple for her final rites. Along the way, they rediscover the importance of family and the sacred bonds of sisterhood.

The courtesan, The Mahatma And The Italian Brahmin, by Manu S. Pillai (Context)
A delightful retelling of lesser-known bits of India’s history, from the opening tale of an Italian nobleman who eschewed his roots and turned sanyasi, to a courtesan-turned-warrior-princess, the essays in this collection of non-fiction from the winner of the 2017 Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar are accompanied by the illustrations of Priya Kuriyan.

Partition voices: Untold British Stories, by Kavita Puri (Bloomsbury India)
Kavita Puri’s father kept his story of surviving Partition to himself for 70 years. When he did finally speak up, she was inspired to seek out other British South Asians whose lives were linked to this event. The result is this book, a poignant account of unbearable journeys and unimaginable loss, but also one that underscores the importance of empathy.


My Shelf: Ruskin Bond, author, Words From My Window (Penguin

“I am rediscovering the works of one of the greatest crime fiction writers of the last century, Patricia Highsmith, including Strangers On A Train and The Talented Mr Ripley.”