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Books

I was book-tagged by Anand - like - a few months back. The subject seems to had largely gone off the Blogospheric radar by the time I resurfaced – but I had most of the post written up and it seems too good to miss out on.

Total number of books I own: I have a few hundred books here in Connecticut. A lesser number that I have back home .... If it is a family thingy and I can take the liberty of adding my father’s and my grandfather’s stuff to the over all count, then it would likely be a few thousands. But our tastes in books are often quite different.

Last book I bought: When I originally wrote the draft of this post, it was 'Milosz’s ABC’ by Czeslaw Milosz that I had picked up from the remindered table of Colisium. (Colisium is my favourite place to browse on the way back from work - whenever I am working out of New York. Their remindered books tables always showcase an eclectic and eccentric collection. they have really cool photography or art books that I covet, but can't afford at the exorbitant original price)

But anyway, that was then. Unfortunately, I can't make such high falutin noises right now. The very last (new) book I bought is this . I finished this in 2 nights flat while the Milosz is still in a pristine condition on the shelves.

Last book I read
: "Big if" by Mark Costello (interesting interview with Mark Costello here)

Five books that mean a lot to me:

This is hard. I have taken some liberties with this question. Also, in retrospect, considering the fact that I travel so very little now, a surprisingly large percentage of my choices seem to be travelogues.

- Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines: I have very little ‘depth’ on any writer – specially ‘important writers’. Chatwin and Amitav Ghosh are two of the exceptions. At one point of time, I had read everything by or about Chatwin that I could lay my hands on. It is a bit of a struggle trying to decide which one of his books I like most - ‘What Am I doing here’(a posthumous anthology of odds and ends. Delightfully idiosyncratic) or ‘Songlines’ or ‘In Patagonia’. 'Songlines' is probably the book that comes to my mind immediately when I think of Chatwin. I used to run into all sorts of people in all sorts of places for whom that book was a defining experience. On a monnlit night in Kumaon Himalayas on trails all but washed out, walking exhausted behind a British accountant turned climbing guide, both of us thinking only of the next step on that muddly, rain soked trail – he immediately came to life when I mentioned 'Songlines'. ( He thought Chatwin was dishonest in his portrayal of both the anothropologists and the aborigines in Australia) ... in the Nevada desert, in the burning man festival flush with dotcom consulting money talking to a neo-hippy crowd ...

Chatwin was a bit of a fake and his narrative was somewhat made up. His life story lost some of the luster when I got to know more about him. To my Indian middle class mind, he seemed slightly cruel and callous in his personal life. But he wrote like a God. (And yes, I obviously love the chiseled prose of Hemingway too – specially his early short stories. But Chatwin is closer to my times)

-Anything by Amitav Ghosh. His first book - ‘The Circle of Reasons’ was not as enjoyable as the rest of his oeuvre. And I haven’t yet read ‘The glass Palace’ or the ‘Hungry Tide’. But he is probably the only living Indian author whose book I would pick up without even reading the blurbs – whether it is fiction or non-fiction.

- Tagore’s Sanchayita: It is an anthology of Tagore’s poems. It is a part of my childhood. I miss it.

- I am a little hardpressed on deciding the 4th book. This is more about a place than a book. If there is one place that I am in love with and that I miss from time to time, it is the foothills of Indian Himalayas. And three books that bring it alive for me:

Eric Shipton’s ‘That Untravelled Land’
Bill Aitken’s ‘The Nandadevi Affair’
Prabodh Sanyal’s “Mahaprashtaner Pathe” (I can't find it anywhere anymore)

-Peter Drucker’s ‘Adventures of a bystander'. I often think about it and for a memoir - it has had a surprising amount of impact on my thinking. I reread it last year and it still seemed fresh.

- The last guy on my list is someone that I haven't read for a very long time. Syeed Mujtaba Ali's ‘Deshe Bideshe’ (on his time in Afghanistan in the early thirties before he was kicked out alongwith all all other foreigners) and 'Shabnam' (a love story based in Afghanistan) are both incredibly well-written. I wish there were translations that I could hand to people who wax eloquent on the current crop of books on Afghanistan.

(Ok. I cheated. But so what?)

5 people I am booktagging:

Edward Hugh
Rueben Abraham
Prashant Kothari
Nitin Pai
Sathish

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