Reading Material

In studying yoga and Hindu philosophy for so long, I have gravitated towards Indian literature, both fiction and non-fiction. I love the heartfelt words and the history- and spirituality-laden stories. Whether I’ve liked the books or not, I’ve noticed a truth in all of them that is raw, gritty and so honest that it shames the likes of Western authors who have made fame and fortune of fluff. The Indian authors I’ve read seem to be unafraid of showing life as it really is, instead of the whitewashed, sanitized view we get in the west. I wonder if some authors today write from their heart anymore or are they just looking for the movie deal?

I have a tendency to read one, then the entire arsenal, of a particular author if I’ve liked their work. So here is a list of books I quite like, in no particular order (except my all-time favourite on the top!). Happy reading!

  • Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins (this book embraces the essence of Tantra like no other novel I’ve ever read. It is a fun, funny and wonderful romp – dance, bandaloop – through time, telling a story of life, love, immortality, mythology, comparative religion…and beets. He reminds us throughout to “erleichda” or lighten up.)
  • Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie (in his brilliant style, Rushdie tells the story of children born at midnight on the day of India’s independence…it is an amazing web of history and dream and mysticism and raw truth)
  • The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie (I’m not sure which of his is my favourite, but this is a story about passion, and photography, and raw, dark emotion, and rock music…it’s the story of Orpheus and of looking back when you maybe shouldn’t)
  • Raj, Gita Mehta (I finished this on the plane back from Delhi to London, and the story is a nostalgic journey through a Rajput princess’ life in the heyday of Rajasthan in the early 1900’s. Perhaps this novel was the story of Gayatri Devi, who I knew nothing about prior to reading the book and visiting India)
  • The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie (I was hesitant to read this at first because all I knew of the book was the controversy. Rushdie is a literary magician, and this story shines light on his humour, intelligence, cynicism with Islam – and religion in general – and drags you inside the Koran, whether you like it or not, unlike any other author would have the courage to do)
  • Small Gods, Terry Pratchett (an exploration into the absurdity of the church, a quest for relevance, and the nature of belief) This was my first foray into Pratchett’s Discworld…I am working through the entire series!
  • Maximum City, Suketu Mehta (a very raw look at the dark underbelly of Bombay, from the perspective of a boy who grew up there and went back as an adult. He was a Pulitzer runner-up for this novel)
  • A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry (also a dark story about life in Bombay…what it takes to get by, and an intersection of lives between castes. It’s the story of things becoming more than you can handle, and really looking at the grit of life on the street and the effects of The Emergency. It begs the question of “why go on?”)
  • Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie (this was the first of her books I read, and I was floored by her storytelling. This one is about Pakistani immigrants in London, sibling bonds and what we do for love. Kartography is equally stunning.)

My Goodreads “just read” list:

2 thoughts on “Reading Material

  1. So Lesli, what books did you read while you were in India? Did you try re-reading a favourite book while you could see and smell the setting?

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    • I was reading Raj by Gita Mehta before and during the trip – it is all about the Rajput princely kingdoms we were touring, so it was like walking inside the novel each time I looked around in a palace or fort… the power of words, right? And I just started Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence. I’m at a point in the book where it talks about Akbar the great and the city he built near Agra – Fatehpur Sikri – and, again, it’s like I was walking around in the rooms he describes in the novel, plus he gives some perspective and personality to the King of Kings, Akbar, and his wives. Fun stuff!

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