Sejal Mehta's Top 10 Reads
Through her work with Marine Life of Mumbai, a citizen-led initiative raising awareness about the city’s coastal biodiversity, journalist and editor Sejal Mehta has been making science accessible for lay audiences. She does much the same with her new book, Superpowers on the Shore.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, Vayu Education of India
Bryson reminds us how vital humour is in non-fiction in this travelogue that takes us through the author’s insightful, educational and consistently hilarious journey along the Appalachian Trail. Sequences where he ponders the possibilities of being attacked by bears are laugh-out-loud funny, followed by moments of deep in- sight about an unfamiliar ecosystem that he ends up feeling a deep kinship with.
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbag, HarperCollins
Originally written in Kannada, and translated masterfully by Srinath Perur, this story expertly weaves together fam- ily life, the ebb and flow of wealth, class anxiety and social ambition. The title loosely translates to ‘tangled beyond repair,’ a nonsense phrase the narrator learns from his wife. It’s the little observations that held me captive—the slight shifts in relationships at home, the way their memories explore life with and without money. Absolutely beautiful.
The Extreme Life of The Sea by Anthony R. and Stephen Palumbi, Princeton University Press
A glorious example of science communication about creatures of the deep, the authors take us on a deep dive with beautiful sentences: “The dark unnerves us. Whether it’s in the space below the stairs or beyond the campfire’s edge, people are nervous about surprises that lurk unseen. The deepest reaches of the sea are really akin to life on another planet [...] Crushing pressures, deep cold and eternal darkness rule the world’s basement.”
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, Hodder Paperbacks
While King is known for his horror stories, there are parts of this book—part life navigation and part writing masterclass—that I return to when I find myself stuck, or un- able to find my words. These lines and the paragraph that precedes it always hits home: “Come to it (writing) any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”
Coraline by Neil Gaiman, HarperAleey I am naturally drawn to thrillers, horror, fantasy and Coraline is a delicious story of a young girl who moves into a house that has, among many things, a door that doesn’t open to anything. Until it does—to a flat, just like hers, with a mother and father who appear like hers, but aren’t. Glorious, classic Gaiman, who is a master storyteller.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, Europa Editions
As she follows the complex, intense and real friendship between Elena and Lila, Ferrante discusses the things we do not usually say about our friendships, about our lives. I often return to it even for the way she describes her characters, not all at once, but slowly, over time, so we keep filing new pieces of a person every few pages, like a jigsaw.
Rosy is My Relative by Gerald Durrell, Pan Macmillan
While Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals is more popular, this little diamond has added nostalgia value. Adrian Rookwhistle, a man aching for adventure in his frighteningly dull life, gets more than he bargained for when a distant relative dies and leaves him a unique inheritance: an elephant.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, HarperCollins
I love how each story in this collection brings home a truth, particularly A Temporary Matter, about a married couple, where the mundane becomes just the opposite. Lovely tales of love, loss and life.
Bird Business by Rohan Chakarvarty, Bombay Natural History Society
Science communication with humour— that’s what I look to Rohan for. In the wild- life realm, birds don’t usually make it to the top of my list and yet Rohan’s brilliant style, mixed with credible science makes this an absorbing read.
Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie, HarperCollins
I’d read anything by Christie, but this particular mystery is one that you can’t put down. A sports pavilion in a girl’s school becomes the scene of crime, with the usual Poirot staples thrown in.