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World Book Day 2021: Wondering what books to read? Indian authors share their current reading lists

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World Book Day 2021, History of World Book DayWorld Book Day 2021, History of World Book DayAt a time when you would assume that the pandemic has made life more challenging and difficult, it’s not always a saga of gloom on the creative and literary front, where Indian authors have overcome multiple challenges to keep writing and publishing books even amidst last year’s nation wide lockdown.

Significance of World Book Day: Lots of books, so little time to read! A typical complaint of most readers is that there is so little time to read. However, during the pandemic, the dilemma shifted to ‘What do I read next?’ as more people including those who do not usually read started buying books. At a time when you would assume that the pandemic has made life more challenging and difficult, it’s not always a saga of gloom on the creative and literary front, where Indian authors have overcome multiple challenges to keep writing and publishing books even amidst last year’s nation wide lockdown. As Rebecca Dickson’s quote goes, “Uncork something! Say yes to your voice.”

Financial Express Online reached out to few writers to understand what books they are currently reading and which book titles they would recommend. Inevitably, the significance of World Book Day this year also came up.

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Significance of World Book Day 2021
According to Sutapa Basu, bestselling author of Padmavati: The Queen Tells Her Own Story, “World Book Day is more significant this year because 2021 is turning out to be more tragic and stressful for Indian than the last year of the pandemic. With the emergence of the new mutant strains of COVID-10, every Indian household has been touched by the terrible spectre of the emergence of the virus. At a time like this, books are definitely a source of solace. They alleviate loneliness, give us hope and let us escape a little from a situation over which we have no control. I think reading and writing are the most important and needed elements today. Books, whether you write or read them, bring stability to a world of anxieties and fears. They calm the chaos around us and inside us. Books make us reflect, introspect, inspire us to go on despite setbacks.”

Sharing her book recommendations, Sutapa Basu tells Financial Express Online, “I recommend ‘A Promised Land’ by Barack Obama, ‘What we Carry’ by Maya Shanbagh Lang and ‘The Splendour of Silence’ by Indu Sundersan.’

On the fiction front, Saiswaroopa Iyer, author of ‘Rukmini: Krishna’s Wife’ recommends ‘Kasheera’ by Sahana Vijayakumar, who is a mentee of the iconic writer SL Bhyrappa. “I am also reading Deepa Duraiswamy’s ‘Temple management in the Agamas’ and Rahul Roushan’s ‘Sanghi who never went to a Shakha’, she adds.

World Book Day 2021: Reflect on what you read, discuss books
In Anuradha Goyal’s perspective, reading is an acquired habit, so it is important to be in an environment where books are read and discussed. She recommends taking notes and writing reviews to help readers reflect on what they have read and retained while reading.

But that is not enough. At the end of the day, readers need to create that reading environment in their homes, neighborhoods, cities, and online forums.

“Discussing books with others helps you find the next books to read,” the author
of ‘Lotus in the Stone’ adds.

Importance of World Book Day: Books transport us to different worlds
Reading books can also help keep us sane in the grim situation that the world is facing today.

“With the power of words, they can take us to different cities and exotic locations with the blink of an eye. If that is not to our liking and we crave for adventures, then we can visit the forbidden villages, the mysterious fantasy lands, fly to the world of aliens or even have a cup of coffee with a Wizard. There is a book out there waiting for us to show the way. This World Book Day is a fantastic way to show our gratitude to these books and the authors who gave us these books,” Saranya Umakanthan, author of ‘One day, Life will change’
tells Financial Express Online.

She also recommends reading ‘Ikigai’ which reveals the secret to a long and happy life that the Japanese follow, Kevin Missal’s ‘Sinbad and the Trumpet of Israfil’ and Priyanka Chopra’s memoir ‘Unfinished’.

World Book Day 2021: Pick subjects of your interest, read titles by new writers
For Keerthi Yella, reading involves picking subjects of one’s real interests irrespective of the category of the book. She pitches for reading titles by new writers, best sellers or classics.

“While some classics are outdated for our time, and some best sellers are non-aligned with our personal interests. We don’t have to read them all, just because they are out there adorned with the tag of fame. There will be no fear of missing out, if we read what we like more than what others liked, ” suggests the author of ‘Ten Things Your Skinny Friends Don’ Tell You.’

In her words, “My eagerness to experience good humor keeps me ever excited about reading. I am selective about what I read and I split my time between fiction and non-fiction. If one wants to laugh unceasingly, I would recommend the short stories of O.Henry and the Jeeves series of P.G. Wodehouse. My recent favourite reads have been – The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Short stories by Leo Tolstoy, Animal Farm, Make Your Bed, Letters of Swami Vivekananda, and Oh, the places you will go. It is difficult to justify the last book in the hands of an adult. But, if we can get away watching cat videos, we can get away reading Dr.Seuss!”

Word-of-mouth publicity: Recommend books you enjoy reading
“There is nothing quite like word of mouth publicity. If you like a book you read, recommend it to others or post reviews, talk about it on your social media platform. If possible, let the author know you liked it as it would mean the world to him/her,” says Jeena R. Papaadi, author of Shadows of the Past and Other Stories.

When asked whether she would consider writing a book about the pandemic, Jeena observes, “The thought has often crossed my mind. A few stories based on what we are experiencing directly and indirectly; the small, seemingly insignificant things; the lessons learnt. Perhaps not only for our own generation, but to leave behind, for the future. Today we read literature from one hundred years ago to understand the pandemic of 1918. There will certainly be a lot of material about the current pandemic, but the future generations will be kinder to fiction.”

“Stories from a different era teach us a great deal about the culture, the attitude and behaviour of people during those times, more than dry documentation ever would. But this saga isn’t over yet. We are standing bewildered, helpless, watching the events unfold. There is much more in store; and one can only hope the coming days will bring us back to our feet. I have been working on a novel in which a family comes together for a few days and all kinds of skeletons fall out of the closet. Now I am pondering whether or not to change its setting to the Pandemic / lockdown months. Many things will change, of course. I have not made up my mind yet, ” Jeena explains.

World Book Day 2021: Notable global trends on role of books
The Panorama Project’s comprehensive market study on ‘Immersive Media & Books 2020’ gauges the roles of books in the context of consumer engagement spanning age groups and more. The study reveals that genre is the most important factor for book purchasing among readers (39 per cent) and a major chunk of the survey’s respondents (89 per cent) engage with books for reasons other than entertainment. The survey also states that word-of-mouth circulates rampantly but there is no dominant context. Even recommendations from friends totals to just 20 per cent in the survey.

Notably, the millenials are rated as the most avid readers as they engage with at least four books per month and book pirates (41 per cent) buy the same book in multiple formats.

“At a recent literature festival, I heard someone say that there are now more authors in India than there are readers. But I believe there is still space for all our books to exist and good stories will find readers,” adds Jeena.

Indeed, good stories will always find readers and it takes a creative and intelligent approach to writing to ensure that good stories are written. A famous quote by Carson McCuller springs to mind as it views writers as ‘conscious dreamers who “must imagine and imagination takes humility, love and great courage.” And he asks a poignant question, “How can you create a character without love and the struggle that goes with love?”

Sutapa Basu, author of several bestselling books, shares her insights for aspiring writers, “Keep aside time for reading while you write as it teaches you “Remember to write in the genre that you love reading and do not fall into the trap of writing in the genre that you believe sells well but one that you don’t enjoy reading. Never give the first draft to anybody to read.”

While Aditi Banerjee, author of The Curse of Gandhari, shares that there is more time to write now, there are some aspects to writing that has become harder as one is “trying to viscerally remember and recreate simple, every day experiences like going to restaurants or walking through a grocery store or just milling about in crowds.”

“Just as readers have found solace and refuge in books, writing has become an even more necessary practice for me – to let my imagination be free and to experience vicariously that which is restricted and constrained now,” she adds.

Sutapa Basu sums it up best when she says, “Writing is not a hobby. It is serious business. Take it up only if you are passionate about it. If you don’t take writing seriously, then nobody…no publisher, reviewer or reader will take it seriously either.”

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