Self-help. Truth and consequences.Thrills. Family saga. Humor. Knowledge and power. History. Inspiration. What more could a bibliophile ask for? 2013 was a haphazard year for South Asian-centric books. That in itself was unusual since previous years had seen an appreciable growth in such offerings. Nevertheless, some extraordinary books made the India Currents Gr8 Reads of 2013 list. Some were published with great fanfare; others entered the market atop the authors’ impressive bodies of work; and a heart-stopping debut left readers breathless. If you haven’t read these remarkable books yet, what are you waiting for?
HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA by Mohsin Hamid. Published by The Penguin Group, Riverhead Books. March 5, 2013. $26.95. 240 pages. (Available: HC, PB, D, AB)
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a cleverly-crafted tale told in the style of a “self-help” book in the second person. “You” travel from a dusty village to a bustling city with an unnamed narrator as “you” climb from abject poverty to corporate success using
his step-by-step method. That method raises soul-searching questions including that of our own destinies. Compelling, witty, and reflective of contemporary life in a changing society, HtGFRiRA lingers long after the last page.
OLEANDER GIRL by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Published by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. March 19, 2013. $17.75. 304 pages. (Available: HC, PB, D, A)
Korobi, raised by her grandparents and named after the deadly oleander flower, seeks answers about her heritage and the parents she never knew. Her quest compels her to postpone her wedding and takes her to America, where she learns the unimaginable and is
faced with difficult decisions. Through Divakaruni’s signature beautifully-crafted prose, Oleander Girl portrays a young woman and her family at the crossroads of change.
THE CARETAKER: A RANJIT SINGH NOVEL by A.X. Ahmad. Published by St. Martin’s Publishing Group, Minotaur Books. May 21, 2013. $24.99. 301 pages. (Available:HC, PB, D, AB, A)
After being disgraced, Captain Ranjit Singh of the Indian Army finds himself in America, embroiled in a string of situations that would break a brave man’s spirit. Singh, now part of a community of illegal aliens trying to keep their heads above water while staying below the radar, plays a deadly catandmouse game with a politician and those who want what they believe Singh possesses. The Caretaker is a dazzling debut and thriller
of the first degree.
AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED by Khaled Hosseini. Published by The Penguin Group,Riverhead Books. May 21, 2013. $28.95. 416 pages.(Available: HC, PB, D, AB, A)
Khaled Hosseini is a master storyteller, one who reaches deep into the souls of his characters and his readers. His most complex novel yet travels between Afghanistan and France to the United States over seven decades. And the Mountains Echoed tells the
tale of a family fractured by sacrifice and how each member of each generation survived poverty, war, displacement, and self-discovery. This is, arguably, Hosseini’s best to date.
OPEN MIC: RIFFS ON LIFE BETWEEN CULTURES IN TEN VOICES Various Authors, Edited by Mitali Perkins. September 10, 2013. Published by Candlewick Press. $15.99. 144 pages. (Available: HC, D, MP3, A) Ages 12-Up
Award-winning author Mitali Bose Perkins contributes to and edits this lively collection of short fiction and non-fiction pieces that puts a humorous spin on an otherwise serious subject. Drawing on their own experiences, ten Young Adult (YA) authors tell stories that break down cultural and racial barriers. In the introduction, Perkins states, “Once you’ve shared a laugh with someone, it’s almost impossible to see them as ‘other’.”
THE LOWLAND: A NOVEL by Jhumpa Lahiri. September 24, 2013. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, a Division of Random House. $27.95. 352
pages. (Available: HC, PB, D, AB, A)
A tale of two brothers, as different as night and day, is the foundation of Lahiri’s absorbing new novel. It is the late 1960s, a time of political upheaval in Calcutta. One brother soars with his continuing studies in America while the other descends into the Naxilite underground. Complex and penetrating, The Lowland dissects the moral issues that come with headstrong conviction, violent revolution, inexorable grief, the unbreakable bonds of family, and yes, love. Lahiri’s precise and inspired prose grabs the reader’s attention.
THE MOUNTAIN OF LIGHT by Indu Sundaresan. Published by Washington Square Press, a Division of Simon & Shuster. October 8, 2013. $16.00. 352 pages. (Available: PB, D, AB, A)
The Kohinoor, once a stunning 186-carat diamond and still impressive at a truncated 105 carats, is an object over which empires, countries, and people fought, shed blood, and died. The novel begins in 1817, when Afghanistan’s deposed Shah Shuja Durrani is duped by Maharajah Ranjit Singh and loses the diamond to him. From that point on, Sundaresan provides a thought-provoking hopscotch history of the diamond’s travels through a turbulent time of change and subterfuge. This must-read is a gem in Sundaresan’s bibliography.
I AM MALALA: THE GIRL WHO STOOD UP FOR EDUCATION AND WAS SHOT BY THE TALIBAN by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. Published by Little, Brown and Company. October 8, 2013. $26.00. 352 pages. (Available: HC, PB, D, AB, A)
Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai rejected the notion that females are meant to remain in the home and illiterate. Reared in a rural Pakistani family that encouraged her dreams as if she were a son, she fought for the right to an education. The Taliban, enraged by her conviction and hoping to make their point, shot her in the head at close range. The result?
This young girl has become a worldwide symbol of fearless strength and peaceful protest. Her autobiography is a remarkable story of inspiration and empowerment.
HC=hardcover | PB=paperback | D=digital | AB=Audiobook CD | A=Audible download | MP3 = MP3 CD
Jeanne E. Fredriksen reads and writes from Wake Forest, North Carolina, where she is happily at work on her young adult novel.