- Me & My Shelf
Author Roshan Ali's All-Time Favourite Books
Roshan Ali is a writer and novelist. His debut novel Ib’s Endless Search for Satisfaction was shortlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature, The Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and the Mathrubhumi Book of the Year. His work has appeared in The Indian Express, The Huffington Post India and The Hindu. He lives in Bengaluru
The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, Penguin Modern Classics, Rs 599
Arendt’s tack-sharp eye, scathing inferences and timeless wisdom make you wonder every time an authoritarian figure, garlanded and smiling, emerges on the national scene: What would she say to this? And you feel a pang of regret that the little Jewish lady isn’t alive to eviscerate their vacuous notions and disembowel their fatuous bigotry.
A House for Mr Biswas by V. S. Naipaul, Picador Classic, Rs 550
This novel gives a complete picture of a man’s existence—from an unfortunate birth to an unfortunate death—and contains a breathtaking spectrum of human experience and behaviour. Naipaul’s extraordinary skills lend the characters such a presence that by the end you feel like you know Mr Mohun Biswas as a close friend.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Penguin Books, Rs 399
Nabokov’s prose shimmers on the page as if the letters were typeset in gold. Lolita marries this transcendental, numinous language with a moral depravity that is shocking even now— the contrast bringing both qualities into relief. It’s the type of book aspiring and insecure writers should avoid.
Ulysses by James Joyce, Wordsworth Classics, Rs 195
This book is the greatest expression of the English language—at times, exceptionally absorbing; other times, it’s notoriously difficult to follow. But its opacity and esotericism never let you forget the freakish genius of Joyce.
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, Black Swan, Rs 399
This book sparked the most significant intellectual awakening in my life by impressing upon me the sheer power of reason and the evils of religion. This book made me what I am today.
Money by Martin Amis, Vintage, Rs 499
A disturbing, coruscating, almost haunting portrayal of modern excess, celebrity culture and Hollywood—in other words, the USA. Amis is possibly the greatest living writer.
India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha, Picador India, Rs 799
The best way I can describe this book is to say that it is relevant at all times, but even more so now when history is being distorted and facts erased to suit the Hindutva narrative of India.
Arguably by Christopher Hitchens, Atlantic Books, Rs 699
Hitchens’ astonishing erudition and articulation make this an endless bounty of information and opinions. Topics range from literary essays on Dickens and Hannah Arendt to brutal demolitions of specious monarchs like Prince Charles. One essay is dedicated to register the writer’s annoyance of waiters who interrupt meal conversations.
Dubliners by James Joyce, Collins Classics, Rs 225
All complaints about Joyce being a difficult writer are resolved when you read his short stories. ‘The Dead’ is the greatest short story I have ever read. The others are extraordinary portraits of life in Dublin, microscopic in technique but universal in vision.
The Book I Loved Most ...
The Adventures of Augie March By Saul Bellow, Penguin Modern Classics, Rs 850
This book made my book. It is a comic masterpiece, an existential opera—a discovery of a country by an immigrant. The voice is so authentic and raw that you feel like Augie is narrating the story to you personally. A life-changing book.