Back in 2011, the world was a simpler place. Breaking Bad was still on air, Twitter was actually fun, and climate change hadn’t yet sunk its fangs into the world. Fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire books were thrilled that “Winter is coming”. 2011 was the year that the long-anticipated A Dance With Dragons had been released. Alongside the previous book in the series, A Feast For Crows, the two had set up as many as six major cliffhangers, and the imminent The Winds Of Winter was going to resolve them and take the epic fantasy saga to even more wondrous places.
Much has changed in the 12 years since and we’re still waiting for Martin to deliver the book that was promised. In 2024, there’s no other book that I’m looking forward to reading with as great an anticipation. However, it is extremely likely that The Winds Of Winter won’t emerge this year either. Martin is still writing, and with his fingers in many other literary and TV adaptation pies, and given the fact that he’s 75 years old, I’m seriously starting to worry.
— Bibek Bhattacharya
There are few simple thrills that can compare to digging into a good murder mystery novel, and for the past few years my craving has primarily been sated by authors Keigo Higashino and J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith. While the two authors will be constants, in 2024, I am looking forward to adding the Borei Gowda noir series to my binge-reads list. Created by Anita Nair in 2012, the three books in the series, including the latest release Hot Stage, have the flawed-but-loveable cop “with a very unglamorous name” solving crimes in my own backyard, Bengaluru. The idea of discovering Bengaluru’s seamy side seems exciting.
In 2023, one of the highlights of my stupendously successful year in movie-watching was catching Martin Scorcese’s Killers Of The Flower Moon in the theatre. It ignited a deep interest in the histories and tragedies of North America’s Native American tribes and the grotesque ways in which they have been subjugated over centuries. And yet, it is only now that we are beginning to see their lives find any sort of authentic portrayal in literature, cinema and television. I have bookmarked a highly anticipated novel by Native American author Tommy Orange, whose 2018 novel, There There, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Described in advance lists as a book that “traces the legacies of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School through three generations of a family”, Wandering Stars is a multigenerational chronicle of a Cheyenne family and “America’s war on its own people.”
— Shrabonti Bagchi
Recently, The New Yorker carried a story on the “Great Exhaustion”, a term to describe a persistent feeling of fatigue propelled by an overload of digital communication and overwork interjected with navigating an increasingly competitive professional space. By the end of 2023, I was all too familiar with the feeling. Around that time, my colleague Vangmayi shared highlighted bits from the book Wintering: The Power Of Rest And Retreat In Difficult Times (2020) by Katherine May. It is a personal narrative imbued with her learnings from mythology, literature and the natural world. She suggested another book, Rootbound: Rewilding A Life (2020) by Alice Vincent. Also a memoir, it melds botanical history and biography. As someone who turns to nature during periods of dissonance, I am looking forward to reading both for a restful 2024.
— Jahnabee Borah
Also read: 2023: A year in reading
Posthumous publications, especially when authors were against it, can be red flags. But a few months ago, when Until August, the “lost” novel of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair, I adopted a less-concrete stance, telling myself that there is no clear answer here. One, because he was living with dementia by the time, but also, two, I was just plain greedy for more from him. Marquez’s books, interviews and speeches—specifically 100 Years Of Solitude, and his 1981 interview with The Paris Review—have had a lasting influence on me. With Until August (expected in March) I can’t wait to dip back into yet another of his rich worlds, and lounge for a while in that unique melancholia, the one contrarily and delightfully tinged with hope, that his books evoke so well.
— Vangmayi Parakala
Climate change is no longer a topic that can be ignored. Scottish author Martin MacInnes explores it in his science fiction novel In Ascension, which is set in the near future. The book follows microbiologist Leigh Hasenbosch as she goes on a journey of exploration—from deep ocean trenches to an anomaly at the edge of the solar system. With renewed global focus on mitigating climate change, I am curious to see if In Ascension can offer me a fresh vantage point to our climate reality.
In similar vein, sustainability and longevity are key aspects in the world of sports. For example, how does a team dominate Formula 1? While it’s important to have a great driver line-up, the key is to build a near-perfect racing car. British F1 engineer Adrian Newey’s How To Build A Car (2017) explores his storied career through the spectrum of the cars he has designed. Ahead of the 2024 F1 season in February, I have earmarked the memoir as a must read.
Though it seems like an impossible dream right now, sometime this year I will finish James Joyce’s Ulysses. A Dan Brown marathon would be an appropriate detox, but my curiosity will probably lead me to Werner Herzog. The German director of classics like Aguirre, The Wrath Of God and Fitzcarraldo, came out with a memoir this year: Every Man For Himself And God Against All. It should be a fascinating look at a singular life—though I’d read it for the title alone (Herzog has used it before: it’s the original German title of his 1974 film The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser). There’s an audiobook out too, with Herzog narrating, but I’m so familiar with his distinct cadence from his documentary voiceovers and interviews that I know I’ll read the book in his voice.
I’d bought Khayal-e-Yaar, a book of short Urdu stories by Pakistani novelist Sumaira Hameed in July, after a Google search—“Easy Urdu novels to read”—the same one I applied when, during the pandemic, I decided to read an Urdu novel in full. There was no lofty or intellectual reason for this—I wanted to test my half-baked knowledge of Urdu. Umera Ahmed’s Alif was my first novel, followed by her Peer-e-Kamil. It helped that I had seen the 2019 Pakistani drama based on Alif, with Hamza Ali Abbasi playing the tormented lead character Qalb-e-Momin. Reading the books, understandably, took time, and jugaad: I skipped parts I didn’t understand and gauged some things from context. Khayal-e-Yaar has been collecting dust after several failed attempts at going beyond one paragraph. This year, I hope to pick up pace. Sometimes, it isn’t in the reading of the book that there is joy, but in being able to finish it.
— Nipa Charagi
I’m hoping to read at least a small pile of books this year, most being fiction, as usual. Kelly Link’s The Book Of Love is one, which, put simply, is about three teenagers who are resurrected to complete a series of tasks. Link’s earlier writing style (she wrote the wonderful Get In Trouble) assures me this will be full of magic, humour and emotion. Fourteen Days is another, which is set during the pandemic in a New York building, where the residents gather every night and tell each other stories. The twist here is that each chapter is written by an unidentified, but major author. The authors range from Margaret Atwood, John Grisham to Celeste Ng. With such diverse writers, I’m excited about the variety in storytelling this one book will hold.
— Dakshayani Kumaramangalam
The one book I keep returning to—and hope to do so in 2024 too—is Christopher McDougall’s Running With Sherman: The Donkey Who Survived Against All Odds And Raced Like A Champion about how his life changed after adopting Sherman, an abused burro (small donkey). It’s a real-life personal account that reflects not just the importance of human-animal bonds, but serves as a reminder of how you don’t have to go too far from yourself to find strength, inspiration and joy. One book I am looking forward to is Iconic: My Life In 50 objects, a memoir by Zandra Rhodes, in which British designer documents her 50 years in the fashion industry and why she never stopped making clothes that were “too bold for the mainstream”.
If any part of your childhood was spent in Chennai, you’re likely to have wandered its beaches looking for turtle eggs to save, volunteered at the Croc Bank, and been inspired by herpetologist Romulus Whitaker to care for all sorts of creepy crawlies. Having done all those things, I am looking forward to Whitaker’s forthcoming memoir, despite its trite title, Snakes, Drugs And Rock ’n’ Roll. Another book on my list is Olivia Laing’s forthcoming The Garden Against Time that promises to be a meandering contemplation of the idea of creating paradise on earth, appreciating nature, and the privilege of “having a garden”. I also want to spend time on the beautifully produced The Lay Of The Land: A Story Of India through its Maps by Deepti Anand and Sanghamitra Chatterjee, which elevates the two-dimensional map into an object that tells tales of climate, migration, social engineering and technology.
On 12 August 2022, author Salman Rushdie was stabbed multiple times by a 24-year-old suspect. The Booker Prize-winner has broken his silence on surviving the 2022 attack with his new book, Knife. The much-awaited personal account will be published in April. “Knife is a gripping, intimate, and ultimately life-affirming meditation on life, loss, love, art—and finding the strength to stand up again,” states the publisher note.
If you want to move from the personal to the anthropological, then read Mèla: Everyday Indian Aesthetic by visual artist Sayali Goyal. To be published this year by Roli Books, it lies at an interesting intersection of art, design and culture. Goyal delves deep into design as moulded by the everyday reality of people in India. Mèla asks a pertinent question: Is design language universal or does it take on a different tone in different parts of the country based on local contexts?
The year before the pandemic, Bama’s Karukku was added to my bookshelf. She sits in the middle, between Vivek Shanbhag’s Ghachar Ghochar and All About Love by Bell Hooks—both I finished within a week during the pandemic, yet Karukku has remained there. In the autobiographical novel, Bama talks about the lived experience of caste discrimination while reflecting on her identity as a Dalit Christian woman. While giving it to me, my mother said, “It’s a voice you should be familiar with”. Ignoring her advice has never really worked out well for me. Another book that I hope to pick up this year is Conversations on Love by Natasha Lunn, which explores the complex layers within different forms of love. Be it friendship, parenthood, or romance, love is often talked about as an experience, and less as something that can be dissected and understood. I am curious to know what the book has found.