From Orhan Pamuk's Nights of Plague to Manu S Pillai’s The World of Raja Ravi Varma, 20 books to look forward to in 2021

Our weekly roundup of books that should be on your radar.

Aarushi Agrawal January 03, 2021 12:43:19 IST
From Orhan Pamuk's Nights of Plague to Manu S Pillai’s The World of Raja Ravi Varma, 20 books to look forward to in 2021

We love stories, and even in the age of Netflix-and-chill, there's nothing like a good book that promises a couple of hours of absorption — whether curled up in bed, in your favourite coffeehouse, or that long (and tiresome) commute to work. Every Sunday, we'll have a succinct pick of books, across diverse genres, that have been newly made available for your reading pleasure. Get them wherever you get your books — the friendly neighbourhood bookseller, e-retail website, chain store — and in whatever form you prefer.

This week, we bring you some of the books we are looking forward to in 2021.

For more of our weekly book recommendations, click here. Happy reading!

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– FICTION

Nights of Plague
By Orhan Pamuk
Penguin Random House India

Turkish novelist and Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk’s upcoming novel is historical fiction set in 1901 during the third plague pandemic. The novel, which he has been working on for four years, will also include his drawings and hand-drawn maps, being his attempt at illustrating the world he is creating.

Krishnayan
By Kaajal Oza Vaidya; translated by Subha Pande
Eka

Author and journalist Kaajal Oza Vaidya’s novel is among Gujarati literature’s biggest bestsellers. It starts when Krishna has been injured by Jara’s arrow, and offers glimpses into his last moments on earth. The most important women in his life — Radha, Rukmini, Satyabhama, and Draupadi, appear before him, and the narrative is interspersed with what they mean to him.

From Orhan Pamuks Nights of Plague to Manu S Pillais The World of Raja Ravi Varma 20 books to look forward to in 2021

Klara and the Sun
By Kazuo Ishiguro
Penguin Random House India

Japanese author and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel follows Klara, an Artificial Friend who, from her spot in the store, watches the behaviour of those who come in to browse and pass by on the street outside, hoping that a customer will choose her one day. It overarchingly tackles the question: ‘what does it mean to love?’

A Silent Place
By Vinod Kumar Shukla; translated by Satti Khanna
Eka

Translated by Satti Khanna from the Hindi, author Vinod Kuman Shukla’s novel Ek Chuppi Jagah tells the story of a group of young children who discover a forest where sound has ceased to exist, and when they call out to each other, no sound is heard.

Harlem Shuffle
By Colson Whitehead
Hachette

Pulitzer Prize winning author Colson Whitehead’s novel is set in the 1960s Harlem and focuses on Ray Carney, a furniture salesman who gets caught in a heist that’s gone wrong. Now he has a new clientele, including shady cops, local gangsters, pornographers, and others. As he navigates this double life, Ray starts to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem.

From Orhan Pamuks Nights of Plague to Manu S Pillais The World of Raja Ravi Varma 20 books to look forward to in 2021

Whereabouts
By Jhumpa Lahiri
Penguin Random House India

Author Jhumpa Lahiri’s upcoming work, written in Italian and translated into English, follows the life of a female protagonist. She frequents a pool and a train station that sometimes leads to her mother. Besides work colleagues, she has friends and ‘him’, a shadow that both consoles and unsettles her. But as a year passes, transformation awaits, and her perspective will change.

The Cage
By Amrita Pritam; translated by Rita Banerji
Hachette India

Among the earliest feminist writers of modern India, Amrita Pritam’s Pinjar, written in 1950, is translated from the Punjabi by Rita Banerji. It was among the first works to talk about the Partition and its aftermath through the eyes of a woman.

– SHORT STORY ANTHOLOGIES

First Person Singular: Stories
By Haruki Murakami; translated by Philip Gabriel
Penguin Random House India

Author Haruki Murakami’s collection of eight first-person short stories, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel, talk of youth, music, love of baseball, and more. In one, Charlie Parker’s ghost comes to life. In another story, a monkey and a traveller engage in deep conversation.

From Orhan Pamuks Nights of Plague to Manu S Pillais The World of Raja Ravi Varma 20 books to look forward to in 2021

Filthy Animals: Stories
By Brandon Taylor
Penguin Random House

A finalist of the 2020 Booker Prize, Brandon Taylor’s collection of linked stories focus on young adults in the American Midwest. A young man navigates a series of sexually charged encounters with two dancers in an open relationship, forcing him to weigh his vulnerabilities against his loneliness. In another, a young woman battles cancer.

– MEMOIRS and BIOGRAPHIES

Actually... I Met Them: A Memoir
By Gulzar
Penguin Random House India

Lyricist Gulzar Saab shares anecdotes about some of the people he’s worked with, including Satyajit Ray, RD Burman, Kishore Kumar, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Mahasweta Devi, and more. The book also includes chapters on contemporary artists and writers, offering a glimpse into his view of Indian art, culture, and cinema.

Unfinished: A Memoir
By Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Penguin Random House India

In this book, actress Priyanka Chopra Jones talks about her life story, with a childhood in India and being sent away to boarding school, her formative teen years in the US and the return to India when she won beauty pageants and launched her acting career. She also talks about her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, recounts losing her father to cancer, and discusses marrying Nick Jonas.

From Orhan Pamuks Nights of Plague to Manu S Pillais The World of Raja Ravi Varma 20 books to look forward to in 2021

Sach Kahun Toh
By Neena Gupta
Penguin Random House India

Actor Neena Gupta’s memoir detail her life, starting with her childhood days in Delhi’s Koral Bagh, her time at the National School of Drama, moving to Bombay in the 1980s and dealing with the struggles of finding work. She also details single parenthood and her return to Bollywood, discussing the many choices that have made up her life.

– NON-FICTION

The World of Raja Ravi Varma: Princes and Patrons
By Manu S Pillai
Juggernaut Books

Historian Manu Pillai takes readers inside the world of Raja Ravi Verma, one of India’s most iconic painters. In his portraits appear maharajas who stood up to the Raj and developed deeply Indian visions of modernity, and women who defied norms and colonial expectations.

Jana Gana Mana
By TM Krishna
Context

Musician TM Krishna examines the symbols of India’s nationhood, including the flag, the Constitution, and the national anthem. Through these, he looks at the idea of citizenship and belonging, while investigating and problematising the symbols themselves, answering questions like ‘Do symbols make a nation?’ and ‘What does it mean to be patriotic?’, among others.

[Title TBA]
By KK Shailaja
Juggernaut Books

Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the state being lauded as a benchmark for effective pandemic management. In this book, she details the Kerala model and explains the development model the state has for its citizens.

Water
By Mridula Ramesh
Hachette India

Writer Mridula Ramesh analyses the condition and availability of drinking water in India, pointing to the fact that though things seem bad, indications point toward worse. Climate change, internal politics, and geopolitical developments are all threatening to conjoin, and shaping the country’s water management. She also calls for a strong national water policy and innovation in managing the crisis.

The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing Our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature
By Peter Wohlleben; translated by Jane Billinghurst
Penguin Random House India

With a foreword by Pradip Krishen, author Peter Wollehben’s book describes the ancient bond between humans and nature. It explores the language of the forest and the consciousness of plants, detailing how one can see, feel, smell, hear and taste oneself in the woods, revealing a world where humans are a part of nature.

From Orhan Pamuks Nights of Plague to Manu S Pillais The World of Raja Ravi Varma 20 books to look forward to in 2021

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need
By Bill Gates
Penguin Random House India

Bill Gates offers a plan for how the world can get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions to avoid climate catastrophe. Having spent a decade understanding climate change, he details a clear description of the challenges we face, the ways in which technology is already helping reduce emissions, where breakthroughs are needed, and more. In his plan, he offers not just policy changes but also outlines the importance of individual action.

Languages of Truth: Essays 2003-2020
By Salman Rushdie
Penguin Random House India

Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie’s newly collected non-fiction brings together essays, criticism, speeches, and more, written between 2003 and 2020, that throw light on his relationship with writing.

From Orhan Pamuks Nights of Plague to Manu S Pillais The World of Raja Ravi Varma 20 books to look forward to in 2021

Let Me Tell You What I Mean
By Joan Didion
Penguin Random House

Author Joan Didion’s collection of 12 essays comprise writing primarily from the beginning of her career, written between 1968 and 2000, and delve into topics like politics, California, writing, news, and her own self-doubt.

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