Picks of October

Last Updated: Sat, Sep 29, 2012 14:21 hrs

Silent house

Author: Orhan Pamuk
Publisher: Penguin
Pamuk’s second novel has as many devotees in Turkey as My Name Is Red or Snow, but this is the first translation of Silent House into English. The widow Fatma, ill and bedridden, lives in a mansion in the fishing village of Cennethisar. She is looked after by Recep, a dwarf, her husband’s illegitimate son. The amiable companionship between the dwarf and the widow is interrupted by the arrival of Fatma’s grandchildren. Family gatherings, in Pamuk’s work, are usually events of as much disruptive meaning as wars or political upheaval, and this one foreshadows the military coup of 1980.

This is How You Lose Her
Author: Junot Diaz
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Yunior, who ambled into our lives with Diaz’s first collection of stories, Drown, and popped up again in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is back in these nine stories of tomcat lust and the terrible consequences of saying “I love you”. His persuasive voice fuels these tales of a messed-up childhood and tangled loves: “I’m not a bad guy. I know how that sounds — defensive, unscrupulous — but it’s true. I’m like everybody else: weak, full of mistakes, but basically good. Magdalena disagrees though. She considers me a typical Dominican man: a sucio, an asshole.”

Accidental India
Author: Shankkar Aiyyar
Publisher: Aleph
Through seven key events, journalist Shankkar Aiyyar asks why change is so often stimulated only by crisis or fear in India. Beyond the initial trigger, these seven events had lasting implications for the Indian economy, and major impacts on the lives of the average Indian. From the Green Revolution to the mid-day meal scheme, the nationalisation of banks to the software revolution and the passing of the RTI Act, Accidental India offers an alternate lens on modern India.

The signal and the noise
Editor: Nate Silver
Publisher: Penguin Press
In 2009, Nate Silver — star blogger for The New York Times, statistician and writer — began travelling in search of prediction experts. In the sea of data that surrounds people today, Silver’s question was deceptively simple: what makes predictions succeed or fail? His investigations take him from Pearl Harbour to the last game of chess between Kasparov and Deep Blue. From weather forecasters to poker or stock-market experts, security and terrorism mavens to political pundits in the US, Silver met a wide range of prediction experts in 13 different fields. His conclusions make for fascinating reading, and tell us a great deal about what we find trustworthy and why. The best experts? Aside from knowing their field, they tend to pay attention, be hardworking and humble — so now you know what to look for.

The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden
Author: Mark Bowden
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Mark Bowden was already well-known for his intelligent war reporting when he wrote Black Hawk Down, the bestselling and definitive account of the battle of Mogadishu in Somalia, 1999. His book on Osama Bin Laden’s killing is expected to take readers into war rooms, and into the strategies of the teams that came together for the operation. But just as Black Hawk Down was subtitled “A Story of Modern War”, Bowden’s interests are larger than the telling of a good war story, touching on questions of intelligence and data-gathering in the modern age, and the evolution of military methods over the last few years. This promises to be another war classic.

Islam and the Arab Awakening
Author: Tariq Ramadan
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Were the uprisings of the Arab Spring spontaneous or orchestrated? What are the underpinnings of political Islam today, in a time when secularism is, as Ramadan notes, a “dirty word” for many young thinkers and leaders? In this small but passionate book, Ramadan makes the case for going beyond the uprisings to an actual revolution in the Islamic world, asking for an intense exchange of ideas to begin in the wake of last year’s protests. Even when experts and scholars disagree with Ramadan, the debate that he provokes remains productive, perhaps even essential.

Indira Gandhi: Tryst With Power
Author: Nayantara Sahgal
Publisher: Penguin
Nayantara Sahgal’s novels chronicle a changing India, and the speed at which the ideals that took the country into Independence shifted, giving way to an obsession with power and money. Her examination of Indira Gandhi, written in 1982 and updated, remains a classic evaluation of the late prime minister’s political style. (Sahgal and Indira Gandhi were both shaped by the freedom struggle, and both shared memories of “prison and chocolate cake”; but in Indira Gandhi’s Emergency years, Sahgal suffered for her outspoken and implacable criticism of the prime minister’s actions.) If anything, Tryst With Power is even more relevant today than it was in the 1980s.

Who Let the Dork Out
Author: Sidin Vadukut
Publisher: Penguin
In a sea of mediocre bestsellers, Sidin Vadukut stands out as one of the funniest and most incisive of popular Indian writers in English today. Dork and God Save The Dork were crossover hits: Vadukut’s initial fan base of engineering and business students expanded rapidly to include any reader with a taste for parody and pitch-perfect comic dialogue. Robin “Einstein” Varghese is back, wreaking havoc with the Ministry for Urban Regeneration and Public Sculpture. As The Allied Victory Games threaten to take over the city, fear of the dork spreads among India’s politicians.

Marshalling The Past
Author: Nayanjot Lahiri
Publisher: Permanent Black
In 1947, the history of India had to be partitioned along with the rest of the country. How this was done is one of the many fascinating sidelights from this collection of essays by Nayanjot Lahiri, which cover Harappa, Mohenjodaro, analyse the lives and contributions of the archaeologist John Marshall and the historian D D Kosambi and roam from ancient India to Delhi post-1857. Lahiri’s Forgotten Cities was an academically rigorous but fluent and accessible study of the Indus Civilisation. In these essays, she brings back some of the pleasures of examining the past.

Boats on Land
Author: Janice Pariat
Publisher: Random House
Some of the 15 stories in this impressive first collection have the faint watermark of autobiography, “the hum of life in my hometown Shillong”, Pariat says in an interview online. But, she adds, “a storyteller must be a careful listener”. At almost her best, Pariat pulls off intelligent, effortlessly moving stories that are reminiscent of early Alice Munro; at her best, her quiet, particular voice is mesmerising and entirely individual. The title story, Boats On Land, is indicative of the rest — this is rich, evocative, satisfying storytelling.

(“Picks of...” provides a selection of books to look out for in the coming month and appears on the last week of each month)

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