Entries in literature (5)


Reading list 2012

Inspired by the #bestbooks hashtag on Twitter, and in part out of shame that I haven't blogged in so long, here's s brief list of what I've been reading.

I know a lot of people crib about reading on the Kindle v/s an actual book, but frankly - hardcovers are expensive in the US, and I'm not inclined to wait for a year before the paperback comes out for some books. The following isn't the entire list of what I read this year (and frankly, am still working my way through Teju Cole's Open City, so the list is still a work in progress), but here are some of the books I enjoyed: 

Chinaman aka The Legend of Pradeep Matthew


This was probably my favourite book of the year. When I finished reading it, I couldn't believe I'd put it off for so long. Set in Sri Lanka, this book is not just about cricket -- it's the art of journalism, travel writing, war, and the poignant tale of families trying to get along, fall apart, drink a lot and death.

I went to Sri Lanka in 2006, a few years before the war ended. During the trip, I visited two cities by the sea -- Galle and Colombo -- both of which had come under attack in the week prior to my arrival. The country's tourism sector was still clawing it's way back after the horrendous tsunami. At one point, I got stuck in a traffic jam because the President was passing by. There were tanks on the streets. It felt just like home.

Except it was prettier. I was completely taken aback by the literacy rate, the culture, and frankly, the gorgeous beaches. I'd visit again in a heartbeat if I could. 

Recommendation for Chinaman: Probably best to read right before the India v/s Pakistan series begins. On a related note, Pakistan had better not ruin Christmas Day for me. 


The Hunt for KSM

This year, I went to Guantanamo Bay to cover the arraignment hearing for Khalid Shaikh Mohammad and the four co-accused in the 9/11 case. While I will leave the legality of these hearings to the experts, Terry McDermott and Josh Meyer have painstakingly pieced together Khalid Shaikh Mohammad's story and the hunt that ended in 2003, when he was caught -- in Rawalpindi. The interesting aspect of this book is really how torture didn't lead to KSM's name being disclosed as the lead guy in plotting the 9/11 attacks. 

And yes, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad's orange beard was creepy.


Night Draws Near

House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East

While I had read a lot of Shadid's reportage for the Times, I hadn't, unfortunately, read any of his books before he passed away this year. His reportage, and these two books, should serve as a model for how to cover wars for every journalist out there.

Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power

For a couple of weeks, all I heard in Washington DC were people talking about this book -- self included. Once you read the book, you'll understand why.

The Submission: A Novel

Again, a long overdue read, and in my opinion, the finest post-9/11 book out there.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

When I grow up, I want to be Katherine Boo and write a book as beautiful and meticulously detailed as this.

Malory Towers

Comfort read, inspired by the sister's purchase of the same in Karachi. The first books I remember reading are those by Enid Blyton. And yes, I KNOW she was racist, but I didn't at the time -- and Blyton's books were a foundation for my love for literature.

Pride and Prejudice

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

I think I've read Pride and Prejudice from start to finish about a dozen times now, and arguably, my favourite book. I don't remember the first time I read the full text, but I try and make an effort to re-read it every couple of months. In related reading, Allison Pearson's essay on Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice is fantastic.

And I finally got around to reading P. G. Wodehouse. My life has changed for the better. Also, I want a Jeeves in my life.


Akhbar Mein Zaroorat Hai.

Patras Bokhari, in his essay "Akhbar Mein Zaroorat Hai".

ہمارے اخبار میں پروپرائٹر کا احترام سب سے مقدم ہے وہ شہر کے ایک معزز ڈپو ہولڈر ہیں اخبار انہوں نے محض خدمتِ خلق اور رفاہ عام کے لئے جاری کیا ہے اس لئے یہ ضروری ہے کہ پبلک ان کی شخصیت اور مشاغل سے ہر وقت باخبر رہے چنانچہ ان کے پوتے کا ختنہ، ان کے ماموں کا انتقال ان کے صاحبزادے کی میٹریکولیشن میں حیرت انگیز کامیاب (حیرت انگیز اس معنوں میں کہ پہلے ہی ریلے میں پاس ہوگئے)ایسے واقعات سے پبلک کو مطلع کرنا ہر سب ایڈیٹر کا فرض ہوگا نیز ہر اس پریس کانفرنس میں جہاں خوردونوش کا انتظام بھی ہو ہمارے پروپرائٹر مع اپنے دو چھوٹے بچوں کے جن میں سے لڑکے کی عمر سال اور لڑکی کی پانچ سال ہے شریک ہوں گے اور بچے فوٹو میں بھی شامل ہوں گے اور اس پر کسی سب ایڈیٹر کو لب فقرے کسنے کی اجازت نہ ہوگی ہر بچے بہت ہی ہونہار ہیں اور حالات میں غیر معمولی دلچسپی لیتے ہیں کشمیر کے متعلق پریس کانفرنس ہوئی تو چھوٹی بچی ہندوستانیوں کی ریشہ دوانیوں کا حال سن کر اتنے زور سے روئی کہ خود سردار ابراہیم اسے گود میں لئے لئے پھرتے تو کہیں اس کی طبیعت سنبھلی۔

You can read the entire essay here. Thanks to the sister for buying Kuliyat-e-Patras at the bazar today.

P.S.: This is exactly how some newsrooms function in Pakistan.

The Psychology of Violence.

Am reading Suketu Mehta's Maximum City at the moment, and a 100 pages in, it is a fascinating read. Will write in detail when I'm done with the book, but one passage in particular reminded me of riots in Karachi.

On the Shiv Sena attacking the BCCI office in Bombay:
“The vandals are young men, who, after working twelve-hour days as peons in some office where they endure humiliation and even a slap or two from men who are richer and less Maharashtrian than they are, take the train home. Inside the train, they bathe in perspiration; the air is fetid with sweat and farts. When they get home to the slum, their mothers and their fathers and their grandmothers will ask them what income they have brought home. Such a man lives with a constant sense of his own powerlessness, except when he is part of a mob, part of a contingent of seventy patriots fighting for the country’s honor, walking unmolested into movie theaters, posh apartments, and the offices of the cricket lords of the country, smashing trophies, beating up important people who drive fine cars. All the accumulated insults, rebukes and disappointments of life in a decaying megalopolis come out in a cathartic release of anger. It’s okay to be angry in a crowd; the crowd feeds on your anger, digests it, nourishes your rage as your rage nourishes it. All of a sudden you feel powerful. You can take on anybody. It is not their city anymore, it is your city.
You own this city by right of your anger. "