It is that time of the year when LitFests and Book Fairs begin to crowd out our time. It is also that time when the Indian winter creeps in, slowly, insidiously but surely. Instead of flitting from one event to another, all one wants to do perhaps is to tuck in under the blanket with a few books and a hot cup of coffee.
Some new books, some old favourites. It is the perfect time to take a quick look at Indian fiction this year, and as a fiction writer, I am loath to say, I haven’t written anything new even though what I wrote last year isn’t in the headlines.
The men fiction writers, of course, have done extremely well, all headlines, not necessarily because the books are good; many publishers are bankrupt today because of their payouts to the big names and first print orders choking their godowns. Let’s take a look at what new we have from the men.
Amish Tripathi’s fiction, Princess of Ayodhya, still tops the Nielsen Chart, two years almost after it was unveiled. Chetan Bhagat’s 2016 One Indian Girl wasn’t that hotsell, Half Girlfriend is still being shown as a chart topper, can be bought at less than Rs 100. Ashwin Sanghi’s Sialkot Saga is a better read under the blanket than this year’s James Patterson collaboration, Private Delhi. After his first love story book in the series, Ravinder Singh’s 2016 This Love that Feels Right doesn’t really feel right for the blanket binge. Durjoy Datta’s Of Course I Love You…Till I Find Someone is better than The Boy who Loved. Vikram Chandra’s Geek Sublime is not what one is looking to read in fiction exactly. Ravi Subramanian’s In the Name of God is the only interesting thriller of the year, though it hasn’t generated many rave reviews.
Let’s look at the women. Advaita Kala’s Almost Single can be read a second time. The second book is still in the offing. The first can still raise a laugh. Bhagat, of course, has his match in Judy Balan of Two Fates: The Story of My Divorce fame, still very readable. How to Stop Your Grownup From Making Bad Decisions is a book in the Nina the Philosopher series published by Harper Collins, India and Harper Collins, USA in Feb 2016 and Harper Collins UK in June 2016. Tweenache in the Time of Hashtags, book 2 in the Nina the Philosopher series is her latest. Her ripoff Half Boyfriend-a parody of Bhagat’s Half Girlfriend. Nikita Singh sells, on the average, 20,000 copies and has come up with her 10th book, Every Time It Rains. It is a good teenage read. Anuja Chauhan’s Baaz this year is the best read so far. Twinkle Khanna’s Legend of Lakshmi Prasad is breezy, catch up if you haven’t read it.
Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is overrated, you wouldn’t take it to bed, like one wouldn’t sleep with Tharoor’s Era of Darkness. One is fiction, one non fiction. While we in India watch the film, Victoria and Abdul, with Judy Dench on the cover the book strides between fiction and non-fiction. Anuradha Roy promises All The Lives We Never Live in a few months. And EL James, a Darker: 50 Shades of Grey. Until then, I’d rather read old faithful Agatha Christie Mallowan’s Come, Tell Me How You Live. It is delightful old wine.