Best Reads 2016: Usha Raman


Confession: I don’t really keep a list of the books I read. I just read. I finish one book and pick up the next. Often, I have three books sitting on the table by my bed, a book in my bag, and another next to my chair in the living room. I read them concurrently, picking up the book my mood demands. Like everyone else, I would like to read more, spend less time on-line and more on-page, less time distracted by social media and more time immersed in the worlds created by words. Still, reading happens, and here are some of the books I consumed for pleasure in 2016 (in no special order).

  1. The Neapolitan Quartet, Elena Ferrante (four books) The first got me hooked, and I read the rest in quick succession. Richly textured, though one does get lost in the wandering details, the books offer an intimate portrait of life in working class Naples of the 1950s and 60s.
  2. Time Travel, James Gleick. A fascinating journey through the idea of time travel, from H G Wells to the present.
  3. Public Library, Ali Smith. A genre-defying book of short stories and essays that sing an ode to this disappearing institution.
  4. One Part Woman, Perumal Murugan. I finally managed to read this book, and devoured it in one sitting. Intimate yet expansive, the story teases out the conventions and contradictions of a rural Tamil community.
  5. Americanah, Chimamanda Adichie. One of my favourite contemporary writers, a story about immigration, race, homecoming, and a different experience of the American Dream.
  6. The Patron Saint of Liars, Ann Patchett. I went back to this writer’s very first work, in a sort of trip of rediscovery.
  7. The Wonder, Emma Donoghue. Very different from Room, yet no less engaging. The story, set in late nineteenth century Ireland, explores the relationship between a young girl who is touted as a ‘miracle’ and the woman assigned to observe her.
  8. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell. A richly textured fantasy that teases our ideas about memory, history, good and evil.
  9. The Last Illusion, Porochista Khakpour. Starting from a fable in the Shahnameh, it breaks into the present with a reimagining of 9/11.
  10. Sentenced to Life, Clive James. This book of poems by the novelist and essayist is something I continue to dip into, for wisdom and beauty.

Usha Raman teaches at the University of Hyderabad and edits Teacher Plus magazine.