#20 to #24 (2016)

An omnibus of a post for the book’s that didn’t get an individual one back in 2016…

#20 – A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces – David Davidhar
Extra-ordinary Short Stories from the 19th Century to the Present

A fascinating anthology of stories from a wonderful collection of writers. One of my laments was the realisation that I’ve been brought up on tons of British ‘literature’ as a kid, American stuff growing up but the Indian exposure is limited – almost incidental. This book could be the ‘rediscovery of India’ for a lot of urban nouveau-riche middle class foks of this era. I didn’t understand every story, not each of them are easy to read and some are more relate-able than others but there is something to be picked up about our country from each, something which can’t really learnt through a history book. What is a must is to spend some time online after each story, to understand the background and for some of the more abstract ones, the meaning and the context as well. Only then would one appreciate something like Ismail Chugtai’s ‘The Quilt’.

Fully intend to read this again sometime, one story every night.

Entertainment Quotient : ★★★★
Education Quotient : ★★★★★
Readability : ★★★★

#21 – The Last Mughal – William Dalrymple
The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857

I’ve been a William Dalrymple fan-boy for a long time, ever since I heard him speak in Jaipur back in 2013. Read a lot of articles by him, heard him speak quite a few times as well but it was a matter of personal disappointment that I hadn’t gotten around to reading a full-length work. And after being behind the eight-ball in October, had almost given up on it for 2016 considering the size of his tomes. Bought The Last Mughal almost on an impulse and took it with me on a holiday. Lugging around a book as heavy as this on a back-pack across Vietnam is not something I regretted for one moment, and this is a testament to the writer. More history than historical fiction, heavy on facts with footnotes abound, this is nonetheless a stunning work which told me more about the 1857 War of Independence than anything I studied in school or any movie – whether involving Aamir Khan or not. Crucially, in an era where the narrative from both sides can be starkly different, retains objectivity most of the time. More importantly at a personal level, managed to spark off a renaissance of interest in this era and genre which will hopefully percolate into the coming years. This is not light reading by any means, but this is exactly how heavy reading can be made fulfilling & captivating. #Fan.

Entertainment Quotient : ★★★
Education Quotient : ★★★★★
Readability : ★★★★

#22 – The Creation of Wealth – RM Lala
The Tata’s from the 19th to the 21st Century

A book I’d been gifted in 2011, something I started reading more because I hoped some derivatives could be drawn from it into some work related projects. Perhaps the most disappointing of the books I read this year. Firstly, it’s more of a fact-finder than a book you could read, the narrative is missing. The structure the author chose didn’t work for me – going sector by sector – would a chronological approach been more appealing?  Secondly, the style of writing is very juvenile. If it was intended as a textbook or a children’s work – it may be perfect, but then the content also needs to be structured similarly. Thirdly, the tonality – almost, if not completely a hagiography. A more objective, critical assessment would certainly have been more convincing. Especially since I was reading it just as the house of cards was collapsing in real life with Cyrus Mistry and Ratan Tata trading barbs.

My biggest grouse is that the book just got boring after a point of time – something I’d attribute to all three reasons above. For the history of a group which has had such a pivotal and interesting story over the last 100 odd years, that’s truly unfortunate. A useful ready reckoner on the history of the Tata’s, something I’d gift to a high school kid who was doing a project on this, but hardly recommended for anything beyond.

Entertainment Quotient : ★★
Education Quotient : ★★★
Readability : ★★

#23 – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie

I’m going to borrow from a review on GoodReads on this. I went into this book with a bit of an attitude considering it’s been rating among the top 100 books you must read or on some such list. In other words, it means that this is the Dame’s best work – the one Christie you must read over all others. As a yuuuge Agatha Christie fan, who must have read at least 80% of her works, I wasn’t so sure. By some serendipity – I hadn’t actually read this one. (I wasn’t so sure that I hadn’t, you tend to forget the titles but recall the story once you start reading it). So I thoroughly enjoyed the build-up, the characters, the red herrings and wonderful ability Christie has to take us along the journey but still surprise us in the end. And since I’ve read Endless Night, I’d already decided that it surely wasn’t going to end in ‘thaat’ manner. A most delightful surprise.

Entertainment Quotient : ★★★★★
Education Quotient : ★★★
Readability : ★★★★★

#24 – And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

Nothing like reading an Agatha Christie classic on a winter afternoon to unwind and relax. This is the only book on this list I’d actually read before. It was a bit of a cheat-code up my arsenal, I’d bought it in the middle of the year but decided to read it only if the targets weren’t being met. It helped that I kind of knew the end but didn’t necessarily remember it very clearly. And so on the 31st of December, the perfect coup-de-grace to the year, a knockout punch of nostalgia and Christie-mystery.

Entertainment Quotient : ★★★★★
Education Quotient : ★★★
Readability : ★★★★★

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