Best Reads 2016: Mitra Phukan


Here is a brief list of books I enjoyed reading. They are all written by women! Well …it so happens …
As usual, I was fortunate to be able to read a variety of books through the year. I am an omnivorous reader, and as long as something is well written, and absorbing, I really get lost in the story, the article, or whatever is on offer. These books are in addition to the journals, magazines, newspaper articles, that are routine fare.

Not all the books I read touched a chord. Some were just plain disappointing, and we shall not mention those right here, because I know that one person’s poison can well be another’s meat. But among the books that stayed with me long after I finished them, foremost was “Jorasanko”, by Aruna Chakravarty. The book tells the story of the Tagore family who lived there, but it is in reality “about” so much more. It is layered, with fine vignettes about the different characters who enrich the fabric of the story.

I also enjoyed very much another book set in Calcutta (before it became Kolkata), that is Bunny Suraiya’s  “Calcutta Exile”. This is about the life of an Anglo Indian family during the heydays of Calcutta in the sixties and seventies.. The book, with its spot on descriptions of the city then and its delineation of character, resonated with me in many ways.

Another book was “Without Reservations : The Travels of an Independent Woman” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alice Steinbach. This book struck a chord because of a mature woman’s point of view about travel, and life, and people. It was a bonus that the book was a gift from a dear friend who had enjoyed it herself, and who guessed I would like it, too.

I also loved reading, recently, “Kanaklata”, by Dr Shiela Bora, the historian. This is a small book about the freedom fighter and martyr who gave up her life to British bullets while leading a procession to hoist the flag of independent India.  Dr Bora’s erudite insights on the freedom struggle as it was shaped in Assam, and also as it shaped the young martyr, are rivetingly told in clear prose.

And there is the book I am reading now, Sathya Saran’s “From Me to You”, a collection of her columns in DNA’s Sunday magazine section,  over the years. Her witty and wise observations of everyday life are always interesting, often moving.

I also read a lot of short stories, unattached to books, online. These too have been very satisfying reads for me, particularly of writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, a favourite of mine.

Hope to read many more good books in 2017 …of which I have many piles, ready and waiting, scattered all over the house! Happy Reading to all Thumbprint readers in the coming year, and may 2017 bring you much joy and satisfaction.

Mitra Phukan

Mitra Phukan

Mitra Phukan is a writer, translator, columnist and classical vocalist who lives and works in Guwahati, Assam. Her published literary works include four children's books, a biography, and a novel, "The Collector's Wife". Her most recent work is another novel, "A Monsoon of Music" published by Penguin-Zubaan in September 2011. Besides, her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. Her works have been translated into several languages. She is the Northeast correspondent of the Chennai-based journal of the performing arts, "Shruti" and a member of the North East Writers' Forum.