Book lovers: gather around now children! The holidays are upon us. If you are one to party with books, blankets and hot cocoa like me, then I have just the list for you! I present below the ultimate holiday reading list which covers a myriad range of books from all over the world.
I’ll start the list with Dan Brown’s Inferno. I just finished this book last month and I’m very impressed with Brown. His style has improved from the obvious, impetuous thrills to steady and well developed plots. As is typical in a Dan Brown novel, we are shown a madman’s fantasy to save the world from impending doom. But what sets Inferno apart is his method of saving the world; as well as our tendency to jump into the worst possible conclusion for anybody. In a way, the true villain in this book is our mindset. Inferno also effortlessly combines Dante’s poetry and bio-terrorism. If you love a good psychological thriller, this is a great book to start with.
2. THE ODESSA FILE
I was hooked to Frederick Forsyth since the time I chanced upon The Day of The Jackal. The Odessa File is set in 1963, right around the assassination of President Kennedy. The story begins in Germany when a freelance crime reporter chances upon a suicide victim’s old diary. The seemingly unimportant old man turns out to be a Holocaust survivor. His diary reveals atrocities committed by SS officers, some of whom are implied to be alive and operative. The story spans over three continents and unravels an extremely sophisticated espionage system. It is an excellent political thriller for those who’d like to delve into the 3rd Reich’s transition into modern Germany, UK and USA.
3. THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER
This is an old favourite of mine and admittedly a novel that continues to inspire and shape me. I began reading Jeffrey Archer during my undergrad days and The Prodigal Daughter was one of my first exploits. I resonated so much with Florentyna Rosnovski, the protagonist of the story. Her strained relationship with her father, her stubborn pride and the grudging acceptance that she was just like her father, and her immigrant status spoke volumes to me. I highly recommend this book for new readers who are just starting with Jeffrey Archer or even as a first serious novel. Archer has a brilliant way of portraying complex scenarios in free flowing language that’s easy to follow.
4. THE LITTLE PRINCE
When I was 15, I was gifted a bilingual version of The Little Prince. Up until then, I had not had any exposure to French literature nor had I heard of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In all honesty, I wasn’t very keen to read The Little Prince. The book is written in first person’s perspective and starts off with a note of dejection. Gradually it grew on me as I could relate immensely to the author’s depiction of a lonely child and his imaginary friends. I was deeply moved by the range of emotions felt by the author. In many ways, the plot of the novel is a metaphor for the occasional emotional abyss we have all gone through and the miraculous way in which we find ourselves back again.
5. I AM MALALA
The name says it all. I Am Malala chronicles Malala Yousafzai‘s early childhood, her passion for education, her life in Pakistan and her fateful encounter with the Taliban fundamentalists in October 2012, which changed her life forever. Co-authored by Christina Lamb, this memoir goes on to narrate Malala’s fight for survival, right to education for the girl child, her global recognition and being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Everyone must read this book and I mean everyone! Malala’s story is an awakening call for all of us who take many luxuries for granted, albeit a little grudgingly even.
6. THE FOUNTAIN HEAD
I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said this book made me who I am today. Ayn Rand is touted as one of the most controversial authors in classic literature, and not without reason. Howard Roark, the protagonist of The Fountain Head, was perhaps one of the first few characters in the world of fiction to portray individualism and self destruction; and still be considered as one of the good guys. Ayn Rand is notoriously famous for projecting objectivism and rejecting altruism through her literature. Admittedly, her works are an acquired taste. I would only recommend her books if you have the ability to look at life in shades of gray, and not strictly black and white.
This book by Wilbur Smith wouldn’t have made it to my list because I generally avoid over-glorifying the British imperialism. However, Monsoon is a unique story about a British family of four brothers, linked to the (infamous) East India Company, circa 16th-19th century. The story captures the transition of British colonization, evolving trade relations with the Indian subcontinent, and the life altering incidents that completely change the relations between the four brothers. The presence of Arabs, pirates and life at the sea adds a certain flavour to Smith’s novel, who otherwise specializes in Egyptian thrillers.
8. THE WHITE TIGER
The White Tiger was Aravind Adiga‘s debut novel in 2008, which won the Man Booker Prize in the same year. In more ways than one, this novel portrays the coming of age of modern India: a young India unshackling from the oppression of class, race and religion. The book captures the impoverished life of village urchin Balram Halwai, who gradually moves up in life as he travels to more urban settlements. The White Tiger vividly shows the moral transformation of the younger generation and the wider acceptance bandwidth of what is right versus wrong. Balram aims to become a business owner in a major Indian city, and his thirst for power aptly depicts the malleable conscience possessed by many powerful businessmen of today.
9. HONOUR AMONG THIEVES
This was the first novel by Jeffrey Archer that I read and boy was I hooked! Honour Among Thieves is set in 1993 United States, in the backdrop of Saddam Hussein’s revolt after the Gulf War. I have to say this: Americans love displaying patriotism and saving their country via movies and literature! And this book is a perfect example of how a bunch of CIA officers outsmart a rebel syndicate and save USA from the humiliation of the loss of a very valuable document. Among other things, this novel is a favourite of mine because of an almost perfect love story and for the hopelessly romantic teenager, it was fodder for the mind!
10. IMAGINARY HOMELANDS
Salman Rushdie is a British Indian novelist, winner of the 1981 Booker Prize, and an expatriate whose struggles with religion, identity, and faith are evident in his works. I always felt a deep connection with Rushdie’s characters, owing to my own identity issues and the fact that I am unable to “assign” my patriotism to a single nation, religion or system. Imaginary Homelands is a collection of essays penned by Rushdie that critique Indian and Pakistani politics, intolerance displayed by the two major religious factions from these two countries, Palestinian identity, etc. Rushdie is a bold, provocative writer and if you’re not sure whether you can handle his deep set opinions, this book is a good way to find out.
So that concludes my reading list for the holidays! Are there any books in your list that can be added here? Let me know in your comments below if you’d like to recommend other authors/novels.