Fiction is defined as an inventive construction of an imaginative world. Fiction books are what most of us read and enjoy. They lead us into imaginary worlds and lives, where the imaginary blends into real. Fiction has loads of sub-genres from romance to thrillers to mysteries to historical to mythological. My favourite genre is historical and mythological fiction, though a good old romance always comes in handy when I need a little pick-me-up. To ask a reader, their one favourite book is unfair. We readers don’t have one but multiple favourite books. For the purpose of sanity and easy readability I decided to make a list of only ten of my favourite books( believe me my actual list is a lot longer!). These are the books which I have really enjoyed reading and do not hesitate in recommending, over and over again!
- Palace of Illusions (Chitra Banerjee). Chitra Banerjee is one of my favourite authors. She introduced me to the world of South Asian authors, the ones who write about our culture and thus are more relatable. This book is a beautiful re-telling of the epic Mahabharat from Draupadi’s point of view. There is a new trend in India to write our old Indian epics from a new perspective, some succeed in engaging the audience, while others flounder. This book, one of the forerunners of this trend, succeeds in keeping the audience engaged till the last page. It is also a not so subtle nod to feminism.
- Sea Of Poppies (Amitav Ghosh). Telling a tale of “girmitiyas” from the heartland of India who are to be transported to work on the sugar plantations of Mauritius, this is a masterpiece by Amitav Ghosh. Amitav Ghosh writes about multiple characters and skillfully weaves a tale with all the threads entwining and keeping you ensnared. The best way to learn history is through a story, and this story tells us about a forgotten part of our history and the Indian role in the Opium wars. This is the first book in the Ibis trilogy.
- Those Pricey Thakur Girls (Anuja Chauhan). There was a close competition between this book and the book “Baaz”, the most recent offering of Ms.Anuja, but this one won, for the simple reason that it brought back so many memories of growing up with my sisters in the age when life was very simple. Anuja Chauhan is desi Jane Austen/Georgette Heyer rolled into one. Her books have banter and quick witticism between the characters eliciting chuckles. This book reminds of you of the early days of Maggi, Salma Sultana’s rose in hair and it brought back so many memories of Kot piece.
- The Century Trilogy (Ken Follet). The trilogy consists of the books “Fall Of Giants”, “Winter of the World” and “Edge of Eternity”. The three books take you from the start of World War I till the demolition of the Berlin wall, following the fortunes of a family in Britain. Ken Follet books are known for their meticulous research and in-depth knowledge of the era he is writing about and these three are no different. These three books, tell us about the events which shaped and influenced the last century. However, do not be deterred by their size if you plan on reading them as paperbacks. Kindle is definitely recommended for these three.
- Immortals of Meluha (Amish). The breakout book by Amish, which catapulted him to fame and started a whole new wave of books on mythology. A book in which Lord Shiva, is an ordinary character. It is a highly imaginative book and weaves a new spin on the tales we have grown up with. It gripped not only me but the country as a whole with translations now available in most Indian languages as well.
- Black Sheep (Georgette Heyer). How can I write a list of my favourite books and not include Georgette Heyer, the Queen of Regency romances! Her books set in the Regency period has outspoken heroines and dashing heroes who overcome the odds to walk off happily into the sunset. The difference with her books are the chuckles that come now and again when you read her words. In this book, the author’s pen is particularly sharp, you know how the book is going to end but you want to keep reading since you are having so much fun reading it.
- A Man Called Ove (Frederick Backman). A book, which makes you laugh and cry at the same time. A heart moving tale of a cantankerous old man called Ove, a man who despite his nature endears to you, a man you might know. A reader might wonder how a book about the idiosyncrasies of an old man can be engrossing. The book, however, is deceptively simple yet poignant. Ove’s story touches your heart and captures it fully, staying with you long after you have finished your book.
- Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). This book talks about adjusting and making a living in a culture that is not yours. It is about leaving home, to escape, to try and make a good life for yourself but all the while trying to retain your sense of identity. It is about acceptance of yourself and your identity. It is a tale of immigration and the subsequent return to the roots, something which most of us immigrants will identify with.
- Jorasanko (Aruna Chakraborty) This family saga follows the illustrious Tagore family of Kolkatta from Dwarkanath Tagore till Rabindranath Tagore. Jorasanko is the name of the Tagore family’s house and this book is a fictional account of people, men and women, who were part of the Tagore family clan. These people while living their lives greatly influenced Indian history and culture. It does not claim to be a biographical account but most of the events depicted are true. It makes you realise that even though a person might belong to the most illustrious family of India, they are still humans, with human foibles.
- Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie)The novel that won Salman Rushdie the Booker prize and catapulted him into literary royalty. My experience with award-winning books has not been good, I usually find them dull and too high brow. There are however exceptions to the rule and this book is one of them. This book is filled with the colours and vibrancy of India. Saleem Sinai’s story, entwined with the destiny of India keeps the reader entertained and enthralled.
- IQ84 (Haruki Murakami)A brilliant novel by Murakami. It takes you in an alternate parallel universe but yet keeps you riveted throughout. The characters and the story are not conventional, it is almost metaphysical in its approach.
If you have gone through the list you would have realised I haven’t included classics like “Pride and Prejudice”, or “Jane Eyre” or “Wuthering Heights”. This is because they are classics, almost all of us have read and enjoyed them and they are on almost everyone’s favourite list.
Like all readers, I have a huge, To-be-read pile. Sometimes I do manage to make a dent though it happens very rarely. I think one of the best ways to spend time is to browse in a bookstore. I also love getting recommendations from my fellow readers and friends. I do hope that I get some recommendations from the readers who have read this post too! Please do comment and let me know if I have included any of your favourites in my list, or if there are some books you would like to introduce me too.