Tejaswini Apte-Rahm's Favourite Reads of All Time

Tejaswini Apte-Rahm is the author of the award-winning debut novel The Secret of More—a rags-to-riches story set against the booming textile industry and the newly-emerging silent-film era of colonial Bombay—and the short-story collection These Circuses That Sweep Through the Landscape.

Tejaswini Apte-Rahm Published Jun 25, 2024 17:02:42 IST
Tejaswini Apte-Rahm's Favourite Reads of All Time Photo: Michelle Neeling



Goodbye Mr Chips By James Hilton, Hodder Paperbacks, 

This slim novella tells the life story of an English boarding school teacher over several decades, including the world wars. Hilton brings to life the grand sweep of history, and the vanishing of eras, without budging from the location of a countryside school.


Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte, Fingerprint! Publishing, 

My comfort read. I go back to it again and again, especially when I am low or agitated. Jane is the quintessential underdog, the heroine who refuses to accept the class and gender roles expected of her, and triumphs through sheer force of personality.


84 Charing Cross Road By Helene Hanff, Virago, 

A charming epistolary novel set in the post-WWII years. A writer in New York writes to an antiquarian bookseller in London to order books by mail. It’s a real treat to see his stiff formality melting in the face of her friendliness, while his reticence is clearly something that charms her.


Piranesi By Susanna Clarke, Bloomsbury Publishing, 

I have never come across a stranger novel, or one that pulled me in so rapidly. It is set in a weird landscape of a sea trapped in a building of incredible architecture—endless halls and bizarre statues—with seabirds flying in and out. A lone man lives there writing down what he discovers about the place, and slowly begins to question who he is, and why he is there.


How Not to Write a Novel By Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman, Harper Perennial, 

One of those rare books that makes me laugh out loud. It goes through classic mistakes made by writers, dealing with plot, character and style. Hilarious commentary accompanies every possible example of bad writing and cliché that most attentive readers (and indeed film-lovers) would have come across at some point.


The Woman in the Dunes By Kobo Abe, Vintage Books,

A nightmarish descent into a maze of actions and reactions that only yield further entrapment. An amateur naturalist visits a remote seaside village in Japan and falls down one of its vast sand dunes. Held captive by a young woman who lives there, he must spend his days shovelling sand in the hope of eventually climbing out. It’s a bizarre, yet eerily realistic, story.


The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals By Dorothy Wordsworth, Oxford University Press, 

Reading these diaries is to fall into the unhurried rhythm of 19th-century life in the English countryside where Dorothy lives with her famous brother. Her daily life is full of the nature around her. The minutiae of a moment are what catch her eye—William and his friend leave for Yorkshire with “cold pork in their pockets”. And: she “carried a basket for mosses” on her walk. 


Completely Unexpected Tales By Roald Dahl, (Penguin)

Dahl’s stories inspired me to start writing seriously. His character sketches are ruthless, getting to the dark heart of a person in a few lines. His mastery of suspense is unrivalled. The thing that attracts me hugely to Dahl’s work is that he is so obviously enjoying himself. You can almost hear him chuckling as he takes his characters on a ride into darkness.


The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum: Dry Store Room No.1 By Richard Fortey, HarperPerennial, 

A peek behind the scenes of the venerable London museum, written with moving passion by a palaeontologist who spent his life there working on trilobites. He presents a feast of a tour through millions of years of pre-history, juxtaposed with the scandals and eccentricities of the humans who studied it.


The Malory Towers series By Enid Blyton, Hodder Children’s Books, 

I grew up loving all of Enid Blyton’s novels, but liked her boarding school stories the best—especially Malory Towers. The fun and friendship of girls living together, the beautiful coastal setting, the midnight feasts of tinned pineapple and sardines, the common room gossip—it was all a world away from my childhood in 1970s Bombay.

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