Is any year a good year for books? Despite doomsday predictions, the book is alive and kicking. Here’s a list of titles to look out for in 2017, from all God’s publishers, big and small.
The God of Small Things came out in my last year of college in 1997. Two decades later, as I sit perched on the cusp of middle-age, Arundhati Roy returns with her new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Has she changed; have we changed? We shall find out soon.
Among other novels from Penguin Random House India, there’s Nadeem Aslam’s The Golden Legend, set in contemporary Pakistan; Mohsin Hamid’s ExitWest,a love story set against the backdrop of the international refugee crisis; and Perumal Murugan’s Seasons of the Palm, the story of a young untouchable farmhand. In his novel, Friend of My Youth, a meditation on the passage of time, Amit Chaudhuri treads the fine line between fiction and non-fiction and emerges with a sensitive commemoration of Bombay and an unusual friendship.
For Nawazuddin Siddiqui fans, there’s Nawaznama, a memoir co-written with Rituparna Chatterjee, as also Karan Johar’s autobiography, An Unsuitable Boy, co-written with Poonam Saxena. Filmmaker Tanuja Chandra makes her debut with Bijnis Woman: Stories of Uttar Pradesh I Heard From my Parents, Mausis and Buas . But the debut with the biggest buzz has to be Shreevatsa Nevatia’s How to Travel Light, a wise, eloquent, apologetic, mocking, and frequently hilarious memoir about being bipolar in India.
From Aleph Book Company, comes Irwin Allan Sealy’s long poem Zelaldinus: A Masque; and Jeet Thayil’s long-awaited second novel, The Book of Chocolate Saints, about Newton Francis Xavier, blocked poet, serial seducer, reformed alcoholic, all-round wild man and India’s greatest living painter. According to rumours, it might be re-titled 66 at the last minute.
Also from Aleph: S. Theodore Bhaskaran’s The Book of Indian Dogs, a comprehensive account of India’s 25 major dog breeds; Tripti Lahiri’s Maid in India: Stories of Opportunity and Inequality Inside Our Homes; Amrita Narayanan’s anthology, The Parrots of Desire: 3000 Years of Indian Erotica; and Sanam Maher’s The Short Life and Tragic Death of Qandeel Baloch, the girl Pakistanis loved and loved to hate.
From Picador-Pan Macmillan, a thriller to watch out for: Aditya Sinha’s wicked and stylish The CEO Who Lost His Head, set in a Mumbai newspaper office. Picador will also be publishing Naipaul’s India Essays, collected for the first time, and Himanjali Sankar’s Mrs C Remembers, a tender novel about a woman with Alzheimer’s.
From Hachette: Tiger Wood’s explosive memoir, My Masters: My Game, My Life Since Augusta 1997; and historian Charles Allen’s Coromondel, about the Buddhist and Jain civilisations that flourished along India's eastern seaboard before Hinduism became the established religion. There’s a gem hidden in their children’s list: Vivek Menon’s The Secret Lives of Indian Mammals. 2017 will also see a new thriller by John Grisham and David Lagercrantz’s 5th book in the Millennium series, the sequel to Girl in the Spider’s Web.
Anuja Chauhan’s Baaz, a romance set against an IAF backdrop during the 1971 war, is Harper Collins’ big April release. Also from HC: Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored; A History of Indian Sport Through 100 Artefacts by Boria Majumdar; and Girls of the Mahabharata 1: The One Who Swam with the Fishes by Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan.
A publishing fairytale from Bloomsbury: Latecomers To A Golden Age, by Kushanava Choudhury, a Princeton and Yale graduate, who moved to Calcutta to the horror of his parents, who’d left it to move to the States. Set in contemporary Calcutta, this memoir of reverse migration was unearthed by Bloomsbury’s Editorial Director, Faiza Sultan Khan, from the bottom of the slush pile. Also: Diksha Basu’s The Windfall, a comedy of manners about a Delhi family that suddenly comes into money and moves from Mayur Palli to a mansion in Gurgaon, where hilarious upsmanship with the neighbour commences. The novel has been bought by Crown in the USA for an obscene sum of money.
From digital publishing pioneers, Juggernaut, we have Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger: A History of the Present, which goes back to the eighteenth and nineteenth century to explain the roots of the hatred, racism and violence widely seen today; Sagarika Ghose’s new biography of Indira Gandhi; and Meena Kandasami’s When I Hit You, Portrait of the Young Writer as a Wife, a harrowing novel of an abusive marriage.
From Speaking Tiger, there’s Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s A Memorial, which recounts the lives of a Santhal father and son bitterly divided by personal animosity and political differences; and the big one, Lone Fox Dancing, Ruskin Bond’s memoir, spanning a literary career of eight decades.
From Yoda comes an incisive little book by psychotherapist and football coach Nupur Dhingra Paiva on children and their inner worlds, Love and Rage: the Inner World of Children.
From Permanent Black, Vasudha Dalmia’s The Novel and the City in Modern North India, provides a panoramic view of the intellectual and cultural life of North India over a century. Her exploration of emerging Hindu middle classes, changing personal and professional ambitions, and new notions of married life provides a vivid sense of urban modernity.
And finally, my own book: Who Poisoned Jayalalitha? is out tomorrow.
Happy reading in 2017, gentle reader.