You are booked: Author recommends what books to binge on while in self-exile

May 31, 2020 2:30 AM

An author recommends what books to binge on while in self-exile.

Colourful tales set in Turkey and West Africa, books providing insights to social entrepreneurs, a comedy about the American workplace are just some of the books you can binge-read during this time

By Pankaj Dubey

While listening to superstar Shah Rukh Khan in one of his interviews, I remember him recalling his loving father and his statement: “Jo kuchh nahi karte hain, wo kamaal karte hain”, meaning “those who don’t do anything, do wonders”. I strongly feel that life is also about not doing anything at some point of time. It’s also about taking it easy sometimes.

The Italians have a concept of piddling around, known as “la Dolce far niente”, which means “the sweetness of doing nothing”. Similarly, there is another Japanese term ‘Niksen’ that means doing nothing or, more specifically, “doing something without a purpose”. All these practices help fight stress. In India, we have grown up with the legacy of meditation and yoga, though most of us have been postponing the acts of recharging ourselves.

Well, I can just advise you to get into some binge reading during the absence of any action outside our homes. So here, I recommend you a range of five books to read across mixed genres.

To start with, it’s about two fearless women authors I want everyone to read during the lockdown period. I have started with The Bastard of Istanbul by Turkey’s most acclaimed and outspoken author Elif Shafak. Shafak confronts her country’s violent past in a vivid and colourful tale set in both Turkey and the United States.

The next read I would like to recommend is Swing Time by British writer Zadie Smith. The story takes place in London, New York and West Africa, and focuses on two girls who can tap dance. The writings of both these illustrious novelists have a distinct aroma of cultural milieu.

Besides, I also have a book that provides valuable insights and covers concerns specific to social entrepreneurs. It’s called Changing the World Without Losing Your Mind by Alex Counts. Social entrepreneurs may want to save the planet, but they have a peculiar Achilles’ heel. They neglect themselves. Counts argues that a dreamer without a personal life balance can never truly achieve his or her bigger missions. He recommends that service-driven leaders be just as caring of their own needs as they are of others.

Life is not just about achieving that and accomplishing this. Life is also not about trapping yourself in your self-created syllabus and chasing every hurdle all the time.

Life is all about celebrating ‘sweet nothings’. Life is also about cherishing life and we must always keep the significance of a good sense of humour in our heart and mind.

So I must recommend a book that can be humorously yours at least during the self-quarantined times.

My recommendation of such a book is Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, an American author. The book is a comedy about the American workplace, told in the first-person plural. It takes place in a fictitious Chicago ad agency that is experiencing a downturn at the end of the ’90s Internet boom. One of the dazzling conceits of Then We Came to the End is that it’s written in the voice of “we”, with the “we” being the employees of a company suffering from an ongoing economic downturn. This novel is instantly engaging, thanks to the deft hand of Ferris. It reads as both funny and philosophical, but mostly funny.

Conclusively, being a disciple of romance as a way of life, how can I not recommend any book from this section? I would love everyone to read and re-read Love in the time of Cholera by Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Some critics choose to consider this novel as an emotional story about the enduring power of true love. Others criticise this opinion as being too simple. García Márquez himself said in an interview, “You have to be careful not to fall into my trap”. I strongly recommend this one.

Pankaj Dubey is a Penguin novelist and a social entrepreneur. He is also the spokesperson of #iStandWithhumanity, an initiative for the wage earners and people in need impacted by the pandemic. His latest title is Trending In Love. Follow him on @carryonpd


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