- Me & My Shelf
Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi's All-Time Favourite Reads
Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi’s debut novel, The Last Song of Dusk (2004), won the Betty Trask Award. A former contributor to The New York Times, Shanghvi’s most recent book is The Rabbit & The Squirrel. A memoir, Loss, is forthcoming this summer
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Bloomsbury Publishing, Rs 499
“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.” Michael Ondaatje’s serai of broken souls seeking rescue, correction, redemption, solace, this book has the presence of an opera.
Beloved by Toni Morrison, RHUK, Rs 499
Toni Morrison legitimizes an invisible and challenging thing: the friendship between a living person and a ghost in this book which recreates the private cosmology of a band of former slaves united by love or horror or liberation.
Light Years by James Salter, Penguin Modern Classics, Rs 499
James Salter is a paragon of elegance. This is the story of Viri and Nedra, and their marriage afflicted by inertia. It is also about how we suffer regardless of our lot—in big beautiful houses, at dinner tables with friends, around lovers. Salter proves middle-class life is another kind of enslavement—what’s tragic is that it is voluntary.
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, Faber & Faber, Rs 499
Banana Yoshimoto draws from the whirlpool of modern Japanese life—where emotion fails reason, with an abiding weight that the world we inhabit is a thing of glittering deceits.
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, Scribner, Rs 410
A blue sky, a river, gorse and adder enter stories of American life that is brutal, isolated and without love—except when you read Brokeback Mountain. Then it’s love all the way, the kind that can knock you down.
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, Picador, Rs 450
This mirrored a time when I grew up in India, where the arrival of money had left so many people I knew—like in this glorious debut—as glamorous vessels of drugs, greed and sexual misdirection. Its bareness and vacuity is as moving as a room made empty when someone has died, their clothes and prayer beads set aside, the window open.
English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee, Faber & Faber, Rs 399
This book draws from the dark sludge of boredom that is perhaps the essential nature of life. The protagonist, posted in government jobs that might make someone suicidal from sheer drabness, hangs on to his life with wit, observation and nostalgia, slipping into a masturbatory rhetoric of college life, as though his youth might endure if its language were repeated.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, Picador Modern Classics, Rs 750
I return to The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides to see why four beautiful sisters might kill themselves over a year. A novel of perfect sentences that might have thrilled Capote, it taught me how detail brings fiction alive.
The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara by Frank O’Hara, University of California Press, Rs 1,767
Frank O’Hara’s poetry paid homage to abstract expressionism, yet they were masterful documents of how to speak directly to the reader. Each sentence is a singular work of art, meticulously arranged and conceived, as when we read:
I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days.
Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, Puffin Classics, Rs 299
What is truly simple will endure, and what is powerfully sad resonates with us all—Andersen’s enchanting tales. In stories as varied as The Little Mermaid or The Snow Queen the grief has so much voltage it illuminates the pages as if it were lightning in the night sky.