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What's trending or not in our bookshelves this week

A fair amount of poetry, from Karuna Ezara Parikh to Vikram Seth, and a beautifully illustrated book on immunity

Front covers of the books.
Front covers of the books.

Where Stories Gather: By Karuna Ezara Parikh, Harper Collins India; 122 pages, Rs. 399
Last year, Karuna Ezara Parikh published her first novel. This year, she has launched her first book of poetry. The poetry itself is all heart, but hackneyed. (‘The ancient/city of your heart’; ‘Your soul is made of laughter’; ‘ body is water’; ‘skin is the colour of earth’.) The book starts with a six-page introduction about Parikh’s apparently hesitant relationship with poetry. Does the context of the writer and their apprehensions about their place in the genre need a separate, special stage? In an age of social media personalities and Insta-poetry—Parikh too is fairly Instagram-famous and refers here to some of her online poetry projects—this is perhaps unintentionally ironic. A four-page section of notes about some of the poems closes the book. Perhaps more time could have been spent strengthening the poetry to speak better for itself and of its writer, with brief footnotes at the most.

Immune—A Journey Into The Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive: By Philipp Dettmer; Hachette, 368 pages, Rs. 1,299.
The human immune system is like a galaxy with all too many unexplored corners—we may forget just how many but covid-19 has renewed our sense of curiosity. Enter Philipp Dettmer, who started the popular science YouTube channel Kurzgesagt—In a Nutshell eight years ago and now has almost 17 million subscribers for the well-produced content that breaks down complex scientific topics. Dettmer’s recently published first book is a deep dive into the immune system. Divided into four expansive categories, it introduces the immune system, going on to discuss the human body’s natural defence systems and the microorganisms and pathogens that attack it. Immune, accompanied by brilliant illustrations, explores everything from parasites and chemical warfare to the complicated world of vaccines.

The Rivered Earth: By Vikram Seth; Speaking Tiger, 112 pages, Rs. 399.
Seven books of Vikram Seth’s poetry have been reprised in a limited-edition collector’s series. Each slim volume is bound with gorgeously minimal covers designed by Maithili Doshi, with illustrations by Nikheel Aphale. The calligraphy on the covers, also by Aphale, is done vertically, reminiscent of the Japanese tategaki format. The series includes Seth’s now popular poetry volume, All You Who Sleep Tonight, and the innovative The Rivered Earth, which consists of four verse libretti, for the violinist Philippe Honoré and composer Alec Roth. The latter collaborated with Seth in 1994 for the opera Arion And The Dolphin, which is also a part of this series. The rest of the titles in the series are Three Chinese Poets, Beastly Tales From Here And There, Mappings and The Humble Administrator’s Garden. A good year-end gift for any lover of Seth or poetry. A box set will be out soon.

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