While I was in Ubud recently, I decided that next year will be my Year of Reading India. I plan for 2016 to be the beginning of a new type of reading approach for me. Why India? Because I have a bunch of books written by Indian authors already, including a few of Salman Rushdie’s oeuvre, none of which I’ve managed to finish (apart from his memoir, which I enjoyed a lot). I feel it’s time to get serious about reading, and get myself off the ‘knee-jerk’ reading I’ve done the last few years, where there’s a new release, everyone is going on about it, and I buy it. Even books that I know I won’t like, and that don’t appeal to me. So, stopping that. I figure I’ve been a great support to local bookshops, and now it’s time to be more mindful. Also, because I want to quieten on social media and I think this will help, having a project, having structure. Also, because I want to explore some literature that is removed from what’s happening here, in Australia. Also, because I want to get out of Australia in my reading, because my writing is focused there/here at the moment. I will need a ‘holiday’.
These are the books I have on my shelf already:
Shame, Salman Rushdie
Midnight’s Children, Salman Rusdhie
Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo
The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry
Such a Long Journey, Rohinton Mistry
A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Kim, Rudyard Kipling
Passage to India, EM Forster
A Son of the Circus, John Irving
That’s 14 to start with. I read and loved Family Matters years ago, but will re read. So my rule to myself is that I can only buy books next year* that are set in, about or by Indian authors.
Here are some others I’m considering:
A House for Mr Biswas,** VS Naipaul
The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling
The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai
Siddharta, Herman Hesse
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Moor’s Last Sigh, Salman Rushdie
Burmese Days,*** George Orwell
Heat and Dust, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
The Razor’s Edge, Somerset Maugham
A Search in Secret India, Paul Brunton
something to do with Mother Theresa
If anyone has suggestions, please tell me what they are? Either books to add to my list, or books not to bother with. I am flying a little blind.
I’ll be starting 1 January. My cut-off for what I’m reading now (The Dangerous Bride, Lee Kofman; The People in the Trees, Hanya Yanagihara, and other bits and pieces is 31 December. Really enjoying both, btw. If I finish those and can squeeze anything else in, it will be from the following: The Life, Malcolm Knox or returning to Rachel Cusk’s Outline which I started earlier this year.)
I won’t be ONLY reading India next year, though. I’ll need to read for my writing, so those books aren’t counted and won’t be logged I don’t think. And if I really can’t manage the entire year, I’ll consider it a learning lesson and turn to my already-bought books to read.
I won’t buy anything new, for this is my solemn vow.
Also, Kate at books are my favourite and best is doing something similar, by only reading her TBR stacks, and limiting new purchases to 6 books for the year. Here is her post about it.
Is anybody else trying something different with their reading year for 2016? I’d love to hear about it. We could start a club.
* I will be buying ONE local novel and that will be WATERSHED by my friend, Jane Abbott. It’s due out in the middle of the year I think.
** I’m being a little loose here as this isn’t set in India, but is about a protagonist born to Indian parents, elsewhere (the Caribbean, I think). I’m pretty sure this is considered an Indian novel? Anyway, I’m doing it.
*** I’m being a little loose with this, including British colonial literature here, of the era. Burma: close enough for my purposes. So in that spirit, if anyone has any terrific recommendations for Pakistani literature, please share.
15 thoughts on “Reading plans for 2016 – the Year of Reading India”
I vowed to buy no new books until I’d read twenty from my shelves and that resolution went absolutely nowhere! Actually, I found that I’d read quite a few of the books on your Indian list, but that was before I started blogging and I don’t know if that counts. I really like both Rushdie and Mistry. A Fine Balance and Midnight’s Children are two of my favourite books full stop.
I’ve just edited my post to say that of that list, I’ve read Family Matters before, and loved it. Yes, well, I’ll see how I go! And I think of course it counts that you read them before you started blogging.
I’ve read quite a few that are on your TBR list, and I think you’re going to have a great time.
Re Colonial Lit: I think it’s important to read it, because it shows you what current post-colonial authors are referencing and where the sensitivities might lie. So I would definitely add to that The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell, which won the Booker and (apart from being a really good read) really is an eye-opener, in the way that Burmese Days is i.e. written by an author with some awareness rather than Kipling who is good to read because he has no awareness at all and gives you that side of the picture too.
For other suggestions you can’t go past the list at Vishy the Knight https://vishytheknight.wordpress.com/category/book-recommendations/indian-literature/ – he has been guiding my reading for a while now, and I’ve really liked the books he helped me find. If you want to find my reviews, use the category box to find Author Origin/Asian Lit, and then you can see separate categories for Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.
PS Nope, I have no plans to do anything different, same old idiosyncratic haphazard impulsive choices as before!
Thanks Lisa for your recommendations. I will add to my list and when I come back early 2016, will post my finalised list (that I will attempt). And I don’t think you should mess with your formula, you are onto a winning thing! Thanks for your support this year, too.
This reading plan sounds fascinating! I can’t wait to read some of your reviews. I’m also particularly interested in hearing what you have to say about Salman Rushdie, he is an author that fascinates me but, like you, I have never managed to finish any of his books!
At university I took a post colonial literature module and I remember reading Bapsi Sidhwa’s ‘Cracking India’ which was all about the partition of India in 1947. Although hard to read at times due to the violence depicted in it, some of the scenes have never left me and it was a really powerful story. I would also recommend Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’ if you haven’t read it already.
Thanks Yasmine for the recommendations, will put them on the list, stay tuned for 2016! (I’m starting to feel I’ve set myself up to fail, though, for some reason.) But onwards…
Sounds an admirable and rewarding challenge. Love the idea of a holiday in books. I can imagine as an Australian author the local scene could become a bit encompassing. I think the hardest thing will be to resist those books with the big hype and reviews – or if something is published by a favourite author? I admire your resolve!
In planning my 2016 reading I’ve only got so far as the start: I want to read the Ferrante series.
Thanks Julianne, yes I think it will be good to have some structure. And agree with you about the hype, and it will be hard to resist, but the problem will be the much-hyped overseas books to be honest, how to resist them. But I will make a list and look at them in 2017. You will enjoy Ferrante. I’ve read the first, and have the other three to read. But not sure now when I will do that. God what I have I done?
Oh meant to thank you too for your fantastic review and support. It’s a bit hard to keep track of people with different AKAs. But thanks, so grateful.
I think you should add Family Life by Akhil Sharma – even though it’s set predominantly in the US, I think it will still qualify. It was also the first book that my book group have all LOVED (and actually talked about for more than ten minutes) in years.
Thanks for the shout-out and now actually looking forward to tackling the TBR stack next year.
I’ll put that one on the list for sure, thank you. And that’s a fine reco, if all your book group loved it, that’s pretty staggering. I’m looking forward to watching you with your reading challenge too next year. And thanks for your support as well this year.
Even though I’m allowing myself six book purchases, fairly sure they’ll all be spent in April on the Stella Prize short-list. Think I also need to look at new release lists for 2016 to see if any favourite authors have something new on the way – would be terrible to miss out!
It is a great list. I am on a similar quest to read books set in India or by Indian authors but mine will probably be life-long. In the last year or so I have knocked off the three Mistry novels and The God of Small Things (and reviewed them on my blog) having read a bunch of Rushdie’s before starting my blog. The White Tiger, A Division of the Spoils and a book on Goa are on my 2016 list. My favourites of those I have read are Midnight’s Children, The Moor’s Last Sigh and A Fine Balance. Shantaram is great entertainment but not very literary. I can’t recommend much as most of the ones I have on my four overflowing shelves that are not on your list I have not yet read. But I note you don’t have any Jhumpa Lahiri or Amitav Ghosh who are worth checking out, or Paul Scott whose Raj Quartet is a must.
I also note you don’t have much non-fiction. I would definitely recommend Freedom at Midnight by Lapierre and Collins, although they fail to be critical of Mountbatten. So for balance there is also the underrated Indian Summer by von Tunzelmann.
Two words of caution. First, some of these Indian writers who are lauded and praised in the West are not so highly regarded in India. We like them in the West mostly for the quality of the writing and storytelling and the exoticism of the setting, but the realism is questionable. My parents just visited for Christmas and told me my reviews of Mistry’s novels are ‘typically Western’. When they read his work they find much that does not ring true for them.
Secondly, this difference between how people are regarded in the West vs in India is doubly true for Mother Teresa. In the West she is very highly regarded. In India, where she did much of her supposedly good work she is a much more controversial and divisive figure whose accomplishments are dubious. Her philosophy was that human suffering was a gift from God, therefore she opposed lifting people out of poverty and instead worked to perpetuate their poverty. If you must read a book on Mother Teresa, the one to read would have to be The Missionary Position by Christopher Hitchens.
Sorry for the loooong comment, but I like your blog and I am following now!
Thank you sooo much for this comment, JJ. And nice to meet you. Can I call you JJ? I can’t see what your name is. I really appreciate you taking the time to list these books for me. I like you, I suspect that my Reading India will extend beyond this year. I’ve read Mistry before, but wanted to concentrate on getting through some Rushdies this year, as well as others. Also, thank you for your very interesting comments on the Western nature of some of these writers/novels. That is really fascinating, but makes sense I guess if these novelists have sought a wider (read Western) audience. Also the comments about Mother Teresa, I only recently (three weeks ago or so?) read an article about those very criticisms of her, and made a note to myself to read more, which is why she’s on the list. So thanks for suggesting the Hitchens book. And never apologise for long comments, I love them! Thanks for following, I’m following you back now too. Have a great day!