Editor’s note: How’s that 2023 reading challenge going fam? It’s the beginning of the month and as promised, Anushree Kaushal is back with her popular reading habit list comprising some books that are on her mind and a few literary reads. Enjoy!
Happy February, folks. I was in Japan at the beginning of this year, and even though it’s been almost a month since I’ve been back, I can’t stop thinking about the place: its pervasive efficiency, its politeness, its food, its reverence for its literature. While I sadly cannot up and move to Japan myself, I sure as hell can read about other people who have made the country their home—temporarily or permanently—and live vicariously through them.
The always astute Pico Iyer has lived in the country for decades now, and I find myself dipping in and out of ‘The Lady and the Monk’ and ‘Autumn Light.’ I’ve also been reading snippets from ‘Orienting: An Indian in Japan’ by the journalist Pallavi Iyer, in which she recounts her experience of moving to Japan and finding herself face-to-face with its best and not-as-much.
I’d love to know if there are any books that transport you to another place that you love. In the meantime, some books that I have my eye on and other literary links for your weekend.
Books on my radar
The Bandit Queens: by Parini Shroff. What a fantastic plot this has. Geeta’s good-for-nothing husband disappeared years ago, and while she had nothing to do with it, people just assume that she did. This new reputation has its perks, i.e., she is able to live a relatively untroubled life as a widow, but it also has certain cons, for soon, other women in her village come asking her to help them get rid of their own no-good husbands. A hard yes from me. (January 2023)
The Writing Retreat: by Julia Bartz. A budding writer goes for a month-long writing retreat hosted by a famous horror writer at her estate. But when another attendee goes missing during a snowstorm, it becomes clear that not everything is as okay as it seems. I am all in for isolation mysteries set in the snow. (February 2023)
Victory City: by Salman Rushdie. In fourteenth-century southern India, a young girl grief-stricken by war becomes a vessel for the goddess Parvati and creates the city of Bisnaga—the victory city. Over the next 250 years, her own life becomes deeply intertwined with the fate of Bisnaga, and as years pass and things change, so does she. NB: This book also works for the 2023 Splainer Reading Challenge prompt #17: “A deep dive into a city.” (February 2023)
I recently finished reading ‘A Career in Books’ by Kate Gavino, a heart-warming graphic novel about three young Asian-American women beginning their careers in publishing. It reminded me of the doe-eyed sincerity with which I had begun my own career in publishing, and how, years later, my love for books remains untainted and above all else. (Published 2022)
Currently, I am reading ‘A Suitable Boy’ by Vikram Seth, finally correcting a years-long blunder. It’s entertaining as all heck and, despite my better instincts, is really making me want to attend weddings. It is also around 1400 pages, so please send your best wishes. (Published 1993)
I will be picking up ‘The Agathas’ by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson alongside. A girl has gone missing in Alice and Iris’s small town, vanished into thin air with no sign of ever coming back. But Alice is armed with the complete works of Agatha Christie, and if there’s one person who can help a couple of girls solve a mystery in a town full of secrets, it’s the Queen of Crime herself.
Molly Templeton always hits it out of the park with her personal essays. In her latest on Tor.com, she writes about creating reading rituals for yourself. “Let’s find the things that help us settle, that let us shut out the rest of the world for the time, however brief, that we’re reading.”
Prompt #18 of the 2023 Splainer Reading Challenge was to read “a book that uses various media.” If you’re looking for some guaranteed great books in this category, Book Riot has a nice list of horror and thriller novels that use mixed media to tell their story.
There are very few books in this world that I love and cherish as much as the Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud, and I was ecstatic to find that the Netflix adaptation—which I inhaled in two sittings—was excellent too. Please watch for teenage relationships that feel normal and real and devoid of forced high octane drama, in addition to the ghost-fighting in an alternate London that is dark, foggy and filled with graveyards.
I am in awe of the artist Isobelle Ouzman, whom I discovered recently on Twitter. She uses old and discarded novels, journals and notebooks to create a mix of illustrated and carved sculptures that she calls Altered Books. In her own words, “[m]y Altered Book pieces often feature plants, animals, and a play between day and night. The theme of my work centres around the art of storytelling and the narratives we hold, as well as the idea of escapism through nature.” You have only to see one of her gorgeous pieces to completely fall in love with her craft.
Lastly, here is a recent favourite meme of mine on European detectives in fiction. Oh, the accuracy!