If you have been promising yourself to give up the dopamine thirst of smartphone pings and become a better reader, there is plenty lined up in 2019 to help you stick to that resolution.
Amitav Ghosh has dropped anchor and returned to fiction, after sailing all across the world on the Ibis. Gun Island (Hamish Hamilton) is the story of a Brooklyn-based dealer of rare books who finds himself drawn to an ancient legend about the snake-goddess, Manasa Devi. Ghosh also returns to Sunderbans in this tale that promises to reprise his old and new interests — the distinctive lives of watery worlds and the relentless march of climate change.
Upamanyu Chatterjee, Cyrus Mistry and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni are among other Indian writers in English with books up for release. The Assassination of Indira Gandhi (Speaking Tiger) is Chatterjee’s first collection of short stories, written over three decades, from the 1980s to the present. Mistry tells the story of Pastor Pius Philipose, a charismatic priest in a small town in Kerala in his new novel, The Prospect of Miracles (Aleph). Divakaruni’s The Forest of Enchantments (Harper) is among a host of new attempts to tell the Ramayana in Sita’s voice.
HM Naqvi’s 2009 book Home Boy established him as one of the most exciting fictional voices from across the border. He returns with a much-awaited second novel, The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack (HarperCollins), about a defeated chronicler of “Currachee”, who finds a new reason to carry on.
One of the first big books of the year is Marlon James’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf (Penguin), the first instalment of a fantasy trilogy that is being billed as an African Game of Thrones — Neil Gaiman, among others, has drummed up the expectations with comparisons to Tolkien. The Jamaican writer won the ManBooker in 2014 for A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Four decades of Toni Morrison’s writing are distilled in a collection of essays, speeches and meditations — A Mouth Full of Blood (Penguin). This is an examination of questions of race, gender and American politics by a feminist writer whose voice needs to be heard more than ever today.
The translation in English of Krishna Sobti’s newest novel, Gujarat Pakistan se Gujarat Hindustan, is one of the highlights of the year. The novel looks back at the tumultuous time after Partition through the journey of a fierce woman. Daisy Rockwell translates this “majestic, feminist” Hindi novel — A Gujarat Here, A Gujarat There — for Penguin. Another important work to look forward to is the Urdu critic and writer Shamsur Rahman Faruqi’s translation of the ghazals of Mir Taqi Mir (Murty Classical Library of India and the Harvard University Press).
Suketu Mehta returns to what he does best — walking and writing on the cities of the world and the incredibly diverse people who make them great. In This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto (Viking) he deconstructs the West’s phobia of immigrants and details how refugees enrich a world in flux.
Is globalisation in crisis? Former RBI governor and economic thinker Raghuram Rajan’s Third Pillar (HarperCollins), which analyses the current backlash against globalisation, promises to have the answers. It looks at how the state, markets and communities interact, why the system breaks and how to fix it.
Gautam Bhatia’s The Transformative Constitution: A Radical Biography in Nine Acts (HarperCollins) looks at the contract enshrined in the Indian republic’s founding document, how far we have strayed from it and a possible route back to the promise.
The women leading the #MeToo charge across the world are the subalterns, whether it is Tania Burke in the US or Raya Sarkar in India. In an upcoming book for Westland, Sarkar, a Dalit scholar, lays out a manifesto for a new disruptive feminism.
Pankaj Mishra’s last book attempted to explain the toxicity of contemporary politics by drawing up a history of violence. But its insights about the crisis of masculinity needed another book — How Not to be a Man (Juggernaut).
Among the big explainer books to look forward to is India in the Geopolitics of Asia (Penguin) by former foreign secretary and National Security Adviser, Shivshankar Menon, which is being billed as a comprehensive account of the evolution of Indian foreign policy, from Independence to the present. Another former foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, writes what promises to be an insider’s account of the early years of the Tibet-India-China relationship —Tell it on the Mountain: India and China 1949-1962.
There is a rash of biographies and memoirs to look forward to — from Rooted (Penguin) an account of Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot’s political journey to a memoir by Deepti Naval (Aleph) and the regulation recollection by a former finance ministry doyen (Montek Remembers, Rupa).
But full of promise is Samanth Subramanian’s biography of scientist and polymath JBS Haldane, who practised a radical politics, conducted groundbreaking scientific research, and had deep ties with India. If Subramanian’s last two works, Following Fish and This Divided Island, are anything to go by, The Last Man Who Knew Everything (Simon and Schuster) might take the reader on an interesting journey.