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Summer Reading, Summer Loving

Six books to read this summer

Mid life crises, serial killers & private eyes, fantasy empires and a Bollywood diva make up our 2014 summer reading list

Nothing says summer more than the thought of a brand new book to read by the beach, preferably with an umbrella’d drink, and some calypso music in the background.

And if The Gods That Be can’t arrange for that, we’d just as settle for a Bacardi Breezer, a ratty armchair and the air-con on full blast – as long as we still have the brand new book to read.

Here are some of the reads we can’t wait to sink our teeth into this season.

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

Unlike a lot of other (cough cough “male”) readers, we don’t look at either chick lit or a beach read as a pejorative. A book is a book is a book and as long as it is a story interestingly told, we are in. Jennifer Weiner doesn’t write in our favourite genre, but we are huge fans of her sense of humour (you have to read her tweets on The Bachelor if you don’t believe us), her ability to satirise social mores, and her complicated heroines with distinct voices.

We are also always stunned by her uncanny ability to create ‘real’ women-to-women relationships. Your best friend, your mother, your kid sister – Weiner understands exactly how they can infuriate you and fill up your life with joy in equal measure.

Her latest protagonist is a 40 something writer who ostensibly has the Sandbergian all, but falls prey to prescription drug abuse. We can guarantee that we will be a little mad at her in the beginning but learn to love – or at least empathise with – her before the book ends. We can also guarantee that we will laugh in recognition at the many social foibles Weiner will skewer with her pen. Can’t wait!

Releases in India in early July

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

A writer as prolific as Stephen King (he has written more than 50 books now)  has to have a few missteps. But his last few books have been some of the best works he’s ever done.

11/22/63 was one of our favourite reads of 2011, and we enjoyed the quiet subversion of Kingsian tropes in Joyland. Mr. Mercedes sounds like a doozy too! A retired homicide detective is contemplating suicide when he receives a taunting letter from the Mercedes Killer, a remorseless murderer who once drove into a local job fair killing 8 hapless passersby and injuring fifteen more. What follows is the kind of cat and mouse chase that makes the best of thrillers.

A lot of King fans claim that he’s best at horror, but we have begun to enjoy his foray into other genres more.We are also always happy when King is writing about a small Midwestern town because his compassion shows in the beautifully drawn side characters, and at 449 pages this seems like the ideal read for a long flight, or the rest day between the World Cup matches.

Available in major bookstores all over India

Half A King (Shattered Sea Series) by Joe Abercombie

With 10 months to the next Game of Thrones episode (and possibly 10 years before George RR Martin finishes the book series) we have to make do with books that have blurbs by him. And he describes this first in a YA series thus

“A fast-paced tale of betrayal and revenge that grabbed me from page 1 and refused to let go.”

The synopsis sounds a bit Lannister-lite to us, with the protagonist Yarvi, a one-armed prince who must fight for his kingdom befriended by a benevolent uncle (err Tyrion), and a sympathetic wife with her own agenda not too seemingly different from Margaery Tyrrell.

But hey, there are only so many original stories. And if the inspiration is good, and the writing crisp (all past Joe Abercombies tell us it is), who are we to complain? Besides, Abercombie churns out his easy-read fantasies at a fast pace (he’s promised to finish the trilogy by end next year), so – at the least- we won’t be left dangling mid plot. Three weekend breaks in the next 18 months, and we may just have a favourite new writer!

Releases in India on July 14th

The Silkworm by J K Rowling

No one knows how to spin a yarn as well as Joanne “Jo” Rowling. She could have settled into wealthy obscurity after the wild success of the Harry Potter series, but she loves crafting stories too much to even consider that option. Rowling made her debut in the world of crime fiction with The Cuckoo’s Calling, writing under the pen name of Robert Galbraith. We like nothing better than PIs (Private Investigator or Private Eye as they are called in Britain) when it comes to the genre of crime fiction, and in Cormoron Strike, Rowling has tickmarked all the requirements of a mysterious PI – a former military officer injured in war, dumped by his lover and on the verge of penury, trying to unravel the alleged suicide of a supermodel. The role of Hermoine is played by Robin Ellacott – Strike’s calm, composed and clever temp who has a secret passion for sleuthing.

Rowling tends to keep things simple when it comes to human emotions, not quite matching the complexity of a John Le Carre or a Raymond Chandler. Once you’ve recovered your breath, you also realize that her characters – and “Good Always Triumphs” finishes – tend to be stereotypical. But no one makes a roller coaster quite as much fun as Rowling. Reading her books is like a visit to Disneyland – possibly predictable, but unswervingly exhilarating.

Strike and Robin return this June in The Silkworm, in which they investigate the disappearance of a writer reviled by most of his colleagues. We admit we can’t wait to finish it in a single night, and are already looking forward to several pleasurable re-reads.

Releasing worldwide on 19th June and available for pre order on Kindle

Conversations With Waheeda Rehman by Nasreen Munni Kabir

In an age in which celebrities can’t wait to recount their life – usually while still in their 20s – Waheeda Rehman is an anachronism. It took celebrated Bollywood writer Nasreen Munni Kabir years of pleading with the intensely private actress before she agreed to a book on her life. But then, Rehman has always done her own thing, which itself is unusual in the immensely chauvinistic world of Hindi cinema. A consummate actress and an outstanding dancer, Rehman married a lesser known actor and, unlike Bollywood divas, spent decades living on her farm on the outskirts of Bangalore. She was also one of the rare actresses to be paired opposite younger actors – from Dharmendra to Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna.

Conversations With Waheeda Rehman provides glimpses into a lost era of Hindi cinema – a time in which professional rivals were also close friends and directors were passionate about creating great cinema. It also offers glimpses into Rehman’s self assurance – such as her audacious demand to refuse costumes she didn’t like before she signed her first film, when she was not even 18! However, readers hoping for a bare-all on her relationship with Guru Dutt may be disappointed. Rehman speaks warmly about her mentor and alleged lover, without making any sensational revelations about their relationship or his unexpected death. As she says:

 I know we are public figures, but I strongly believe my private life should remain private. What ultimately matters and concerns the world is the work we leave behind.

Touché.

Available in major book stores all over India

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is to literature what Salvador Dali is to art. He may be shunned by the Japanese literati, but Murakami has more than compensated for that by taking the English speaking world by storm. And while he’s built a reputation for whimsical plots and surrealist characters, Norwegian Wood remains one of the best love stories we’ve ever read.

Murakami seemed to have lost his Midas touch with the autobiographical What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, but he followed that up with the runaway success of 1Q84, proving that he was not quite ready to fade away into the sunset.

Murakami returns this August with Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (the original in Japanese was published in 2013) – the story of a 35 year old still haunted by the rupturing of his relationship with his high school besties. A Murakami book never lacks in flair and originality  – a bit like a Quentin Tarantino movie – so we can’t wait to lay our hands on this one (and then draw comparisons with Julian Barnes Booker winning Sense of an Ending)

Expected in August 2014

From books for kids to those inspired by food, colours and India, check out our other reading lists here

My Big Red Bag brings original content inspired by life’s joys and passions. Check out other articles from our Midsummer Madness Issue, and stay tuned to our latest content by following us on Twitter and FB. See you on the other side!

Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7 via Compfight cc

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