New Delhi: When leading authors like Aravind Adiga, Jeet Thayil and Amit Chaudhuri were not writing in 2012, they were reading a lot be it works of Naresh Fernandes, William Dalrymple or Anjali Joseph. Mumbai-based journalist Fernandes' book "Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay's Jazz Age" topped the reading list of both 2008 Booker Prize winner Adiga and this year's Booker-nominated writer Thayil.
Dalrymple himself liked reading Pankaj Mishra's "From the Ruins of Empire", Monisha Rajesh's "Around India in 80 Trains", Salman Rushdie's "Joseph Anton", Kate Boo's "Beyond the Beautiful Forever" and John Zubrzycki's "The Mysterious Mr Jacob".
According to Adiga, "Taj Mahal Foxtrot" is a "loving and scholarly tribute to India's pioneering jazz musicians, and the city that they lived and worked in". Two other books he liked were Mustansir Dalvi's new translation of the poetry of Iqbal "Taking Issue and Allah's Answer" and Gopalakrishna Pai's Kannada novel "Swapna Saraswata".
"Dalvi's translation introduces Iqbal to a new generation of Indian readers. Well written and superbly researched, 'Swapna Saraswata' is the story of how Goa's Saraswat community spread across south India after being forced to leave their homeland during Portuguese rule. It has gone into several reprints in Karnataka, and will be a hit across India if it finds a good translator," Adiga said.
Asked about his top reads during the year, Thayil's list went thus: "Taj Mahal Foxtrot", "Righteous Republic" by Ananya Vajpeyi, "Return of a King" by Dalrymple, "Dom Moraes: Selected Poems" (edited by Ranjit Hoskote), "The Wildings" by Nilanjana Roy, and "Drifting House" by Krys Lee.
Chaudhuri named Joseph's "Another Country", Palash Mehrotra's "The Butterfly Generation" and Anand Thakore's "Elephant Bathing" as his top reads. "'Another Country' is a brief, poetic novel about the attrition caused by, and the inadvertent but radiant surplus gained from, aimless drift. Its subtlety and skill, and the instinct for beauty that marked Joseph's first novel, confirm her unusual and immense talent.
'The Butterfly Generation' is a collection of musings on the young of the 'new India', and the writing is terse and written at considerable speed. But it would be a pity if readers didn't pause to notice Mehrotra's great humour and and insight, and his visionary of one who's aware of inhabiting a cusp in a country's history, and is caught between studying and merging with the effervescent, amoral landscape he described.
Thakore's second book of poems, 'Elephant Bathing', is hugely pleasurable for its formal accomplishment, its wry cosmopolitanism, and for the poised way it carries, and is animated by, the painful stamp of human personality," writer-academic Chaudhuri told.