India Uncut

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Book Tag

Help. I’ve been tagged. The Book Tag has finally reached India Uncut, and Yazad Jal is to blame. Anyway, there’s no escaping this, and I do get the (sadistic?) pleasure of passing this on at the end, so here goes:

Total Number of Books I Own: Somewhere in four figures, though I’m not sure if it’s closer to five or to three. Many of them lie stacked up in cartons in my study, waiting for a suitable bookshelf to be built. (Yes, dear, I’m going to call the carpenter today. Yes, I’m a bad pup.) Dozens lie scattered around me, on two study tables, a side table in the bedroom, on the window ledges in my bedroom and drawing room, and in a cabinet in the drawing room. Like many book lovers – in fact most that I have spoken to on the subject – I haven’t read at least half the books I own. But they’re there, and I’ll read them one day.

Last Book I Bought: “Redesigning Humans” by Gregory Stock and “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.

Last Book I Read: “The Renaissance” by Paul Johnson. It’s from the Modern Library Chronicles series, and I couldn’t recommend those books highly enough.

Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me: Oh ho ho, now where to start? Well, here’s a tentative list, but it may well be different next year. Or maybe not.

"Cosmicomics" by Italo Calvino. There is no other writer I enjoy more than this master, whose unpretentious, simply written, deeply moving magic realism is unlike any other writer's. “Cosmicomics” was the first Calvino book I read, about the beginnings of the universe, and it was both utterly surreal and completely believable. Qfwfq, who plays with hydrogen atoms as if they were marbles, remains one of my favourite characters in fiction. I actually like Calvino’s shorter fiction more than his longer stuff, and “Marcovaldo” and “Numbers in the Dark” are also highly recommended.

The Blank Slate” by Steven Pinker. The book that’ll make sense of the modern debates around nature and nurture, and politics and gender, and art and violence. Pinker is one of the great non-fiction writers of our times; here’s a nice profile of his, which originally appeared in Time magazine, by Robert Wright. I’d earlier evoked him here and here, and quoted from this book here.

The Collected Stories” by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway has far too many unimaginative imitators who write dull, dull fiction, but to judge him by his legion of cheap imitators is unjust. This is a collection full of great short stories, immaculately crafted, simple without being simplistic. This is a book I keep dipping into to learn from. The most important lesson of his work for a would-be fiction writer: show, don’t tell

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” by Milan Kundera. A ‘novel’ in seven parts, my favourite Kundera book. I shall say no more: read it.

Essays” by George Orwell. There’s no better book from which to learn how to write essays than this one. He makes it seem so darn easy, and it’s really so very hard. He’s both one of the great thinkers of the last century as well as the finest essayist, and reading this book was both humbling and edifying for me. I’d quoted from this book here.

Tag five people and have them do this on their blogs: Yazad tagged some of the people I would have tagged, but never mind, the blogosphere is rich with fine bloggers. So here are my victims:

Arun Simha
Chandrahas Choudhury
J Alfred Prufrock 2
Michael Higgins
Nilanjana Roy

Sigh, there are many others I’d have liked to tag, but the instructions say, only five. But if you, reading this, have a blog, please roll with Book Tag on your blog and let me know.

Update (June 3): I've listed some other Indian Book-Taggers here.
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