10 Gems From William Dalrymple's Book Collection
The much-beloved writer, well known for his travelogues, shares the top 10 books from his library.
A non-fiction writer, William Dalrymple is known for his travelogues—In Xanadu traces the path taken by Marco Polo, while City of Djinns documents his love affair with Delhi—and historical narratives, like White Mughals, which attacks the shaky theory of the 'clash of civilizations'. His recent work with Anita Anand, Kohinoor (Juggernaut), tells the intriguing tale of the infamous diamond.
In Patagonia (Bruce Chatwin, Penguin Classics, Rs 861)
"One of the most brilliantly written books of recent times, in wonderfully cool, precise, perfect prose", Chatwin's account of his adventures in Patagonia, in 1974, revolutionized travel writing. Divided into 97 untitled sections, they piece together to form a complete narrative.
The Fall of Constantinople 1453 (Sir Steven Runciman, Canto, Rs 3,165)
An account of the defeat of the Eastern Romans at the hands of the Ottomans, this is Dalrymple's "favourite history book and the model for The Last Mughal—brilliantly capturing a moment in time, and featuring major historical research in many languages."
Breakfast at Tiffany's (Truman Capote, Penguin Essentials, Rs 350)
Set in the 1940s, this is the story of socialite Holly Golightly and her glamorous life in New York City—Dalrymple describes it as "an almost perfect novella, as glittering as its subject".
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (John Berendt, Vintage Books, Rs 499)
Based on the murder of a male prostitute in the 1980s, Dalrymple says it is "half detective story and half travel book".
A Time of Gifts (Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, NYRB Classics, Rs 800)
One of the "most beautifully written travel books of our times", this is a travelogue by the British author, a memoir of his journey from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople on foot in the 1930s.
War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy, Modern Library, Rs 700)
Dalrymple describes this classic best: "Greatest novel ever written ... it is an extraordinary peek into or the recreation of our society—encyclopedic and evolving. No other has succeeded in conveying both the micro and the macro of daily lives with such brilliance."
The Road (Cormac McCarthy, Picador, Rs 370)
"A book that terrified me and made me howl with grief with its confusing chapters, which were deeply moving," this is the Pulitzer-winning story of a father-son journey across a post-apocalyptic America.
The Road to Oxiana (Robert Byron, Penguin Classics, Rs 499)
First published in 1937, it is regarded as the first example of great travel writing. An account of the writer's journey to Central Asia in 1933-34, with beautiful descriptions of landscape and architecture, it "inspired me to become a travel writer".
The Wild Places (Robert Macfarlane, Granta, Rs 705)
"Robert Macfarlane has taken on the mantle from Robert Byron, [Sir Patrick] Leigh Fermor and the great British travel writers." An account of his travels in the British Isles, which is, as its name suggests, a search for wildness in modern Britain.
Possession: A Romance (A. S. Byatt, Vintage, Rs 499)
"My favourite Booker winner and the most brilliant fictionalization of the life of the biographer, and of obsession and possession," this bestselling novel explores the postmodern troubles of our current times through historical and meta fiction.