Sohini Sen is a feature writer and business journalist for Business Standard, based in Bombay, India. She’s an avid reader and a dancer who says she suffers from hyper-activity. “I am always on the move—trying out something new every other day. I am perennially broke and extremely happy. I buy more books each month than I buy groceries. And I make it a point to shamelessly ask for good books as gifts from all my friends.” She blogs about a lot of things at northwindsjourney, but says she most enjoys writing about the books she’s bought, read or borrowed.
When I moved to my new house in May, I just had two bags of clothes and three cartons of books. I thought my flatmate would freak out, but I was so wrong. She has around 100 books on her bedside table. And then there are more books on the kitchen shelf. And some more on my bean bag, on my bed, on the glass shelves in my room. Basically, the house has a lot of books.
The few books I keep close to my bed are the ones I am fond of, or I am planning to read in the next few days. I read before I go to sleep, even if it is just one page every day. And I read while traveling on buses and trains to and from work. I am not a supporter of e-books or mobile reading, though I have to admit, I have completed some of my books on my computer at work.
Currently I am reading Perry Mason: The case of the Careless Kitten. It is my first book by E.S. Gardner and I need to finish it quickly so that I can return it to the library down the road and take Alexander McCall Smith’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I have never read any of his books, but my flatmate recommends them.
Last week, while roaming around in South Bombay, I came across a book sale and bought 14 books for a price of Rupees 400 (in dollar terms that is less than $8 for 14 books!!!). I bought a lot of good novels, including Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies. I have only read his The Hungry Tide, and loved it. But now I have all his written works with me.
There are a lot of books which have been turned into movies and plays. These include, in no particular order, Under the Tuscan Sun, Trainspotting (a gift from a friend who thinks I should lighten up a bit), Chocolat (a personal favourite), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Life of Pi, The Hours and The Borrowers. I remember watching “The Borrowers” when I was much younger and then waking up in the middle of the night to check if anyone had taken anything from my room. I would imagine turning a shoe into a car and going from my house to absolutely anywhere! Such brilliant things books and movies give you when you are young.
After my recent visit to Kashmir to see my best friend, I became very interested in their struggle for freedom. The only way to get an impartial view was to read about it. So I read Kashmir: Insurgency and After by Balraj Puri, Noon by Aatish Taseer, The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, among others. Should anyone want to visit Kashmir, I would suggest you read any of these books. Though they are works of fiction (except the first one), they all speak of the struggles and fight for justice that Kashmiri Muslims face every day.
I think my favourite genre is fiction which talks about social scenario. The classic To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was a gift from my colleague for my 21st birthday. It is my favourite book. Also, a lot of fiction by African authors, from Things Fall Apart (Brilliant book, isn’t it?), to The Color Purple (might also have to do with my inherent bent towards feminism after studying sociology) and Half of a Yellow Sun line my bookshelf.
There are prize winning entries: Narcopolis, Angela’s Ashes, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Kafka on the Shore, Lord of the Rings, and others, plus several classics: Three Men in a Boat, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Animal Farm, Heidi, The Picture of Dorian Gray . . . And there are new additions every week.
Heck! No wonder I am always broke and always busy!
What foreign authors are on your shelves?