Sunday, December 9, 2012

Not My Books Of The Year

My column for the Sunday Guardian.



Any part of any trilogy in any shade.

Books on India that claim to sum up the country’s present state and future prospects by padding out accounts of limited interactions with its people.

Ungrammatical novels of finding first love in management institutes. Or in TV studios. Or in small-town India. Or in any-town India.

Diet and fitness secrets of Bollywood by the trainers to the stars, with heavily retouched cover photographs.

Ghostwritten celebrity memoirs in prose that's anything but haunting.

Novels without magic for grown-ups, by writers known for writing novels with magic for children.

Memoirs that claim to offer ringside views of political coteries and ruling dynasties, but which read instead like a gossipy settling of old scores.

Novels of wily old politicians with skeletons in closets spending socialite evenings and starry nights plotting to retain power.

Retellings of the Iliad from the point of view of one who was in love with Achilles and contain one too many passages gushing over his chiseled body.

Zombie mash-ups featuring Austen characters. Any other novels featuring Austen characters. Unless they’re actually written by Austen.

Anything entitled How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You. (It exists. Look it up.)

Inspiring sagas of white men setting up schools in Afghanistan.

Follow-ups by authors hoping that a film version by Ang Lee is sufficient to revive their careers.

Dramas of domestic discord delving into the deepest depths of daughters-in-law.

Books by those who promise to keep you abreast of the stock market, ahead of the curve and pushing the envelope while outside the box. Sometimes all at the same time.

Short story collections billed as ‘sensitive’ and ‘ethereal’ which start with the protagonist moodily staring out of a window and end with him making a weak cup of tea.

Thrillers featuring James Bond not written by Ian Fleming.

Mafia novels featuring the Corleone family not written by Mario Puzo.

The novel tipped as ‘the next big thing’ and ‘charting a bold new direction’, which turns out to be written in a high Modernist style that’s all but incomprehensible.

Long-delayed second novels by those with promising debuts, making you wonder whether writers’ block isn’t a good thing, after all.

Novels of dreary realism in the best tradition of creative writing programmes, wherein all boxes are ticked except that of keeping the reader engaged.

The Secret Letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. (“A moving and fascinating journey from the Bosphorus in Turkey to a remote fishing community in India to the catacombs of Paris”.)


The one described as using “the easy conversational tones of contemporary youth, in their teens and twenties.” Or the one that follows “a very simple style of writing, one that’s easy-to-understand without compromising the story’s tone”.

Detailed analyses of Steve Jobs’s leadership style, presentation style, innovation style or interior decoration style.

Leadership secrets gleaned from the lives and work of those such as General Patton, Achilles or Attila the Hun.

Books that treat China as a gigantic money-making machine for the rest of the world’s companies.

Anything with an exclamation mark in the title…or an ellipsis.

The discovered-in-a-drawer and posthumously-published scribblings of beatniks.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

How can you say no part of any trilogy?? Do you really meant to exclude Hilary Mantel?

Agree with everything else though.

Sanjay Sipahimalani said...

You're right about Mantel, of course...the reference was to E.L. James.

Anonymous said...

I did realise that :)

Kushal Gulab said...

This is brilliant. May I share please?

Sanjay Sipahimalani said...

Thanks. Of course you can.

Anonymous said...

Short story collections billed as ‘sensitive’ and ‘ethereal’ which start with the protagonist moodily staring out of a window and end with him making a weak cup of tea.

Come on, now; spill the beans.

gargimehra said...

Fabulous list! Why the dig at JKR? Is The Casual Vacancy really that bad? Also, with this long list, it looks like there are very few books in your ‘Books of the year’?

Sanjay Sipahimalani said...

Anon: Heh. More a composite than anything else.

GM: Trying to put together a favorites list...with any luck I may even finish it by the end of the year.