Books have been a part of my life forever. My earliest memory is that of my father reading religiously to me every day until I started myself. School and college days went by pleasantly where as a backbencher, I perfected the art of reading any book from classics to pulp fiction while appearing engaged with the class. A summer vacation spent working at a bookstore decided the path my career would take and for the past 25 years, the lines between my profession and my passion have happily blurred. While a career has its inevitable highs and lows, the passion for finding new books and new authors never seems to diminish. One of the most relaxing activities is to simply browse at a bookstore. While sadly we are now in a period of diminishing shelf space, the range of titles available online either in the physical or the electronic format has only increased as the process of publishing becomes more democratic.
While my day is often spent reading manuscripts we might eventually publish, my leisure reading is mostly taken up by emerging writers across a fairly eclectic range of fiction and non-fiction titles.
In this column, I would like to share some of these books which will be a mix of the old and the new. What you will not find here are books by Indian authors or from Indian publishing houses, given the potential for conflict of interest. You might or might not find these books in a bookstore but you will certainly find them online or downloadable to a device or app of your choice. I hope you do come to enjoy some of my selections that I have found and enjoyed through my compulsive browsing.
Let me start with a novel set in the publishing realm... In Chris Pavone’s The Accident, a literary agent receives an explosive manuscript that reveals dark truths regarding a media mogul who has political ambitions. As the literary agent tries to find a publisher, a covert wing of the CIA becomes involved, people who have come into contact with the manuscript begin to die and soon she is on the run. While following the classic thriller arc of a person on the run who must unravel secrets to stay alive, Pavone deftly weaves in vignettes on publishing houses, literary agencies, bookstore soirees and the current changing landscape of publishing. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and now look forward to reading his debut novel, The Expats that won him the Edgar Award for First Crime Novel. Publishing has always worked on the principle that you spread your risk across several titles in the hope that a few successful titles will more than compensate for your many unsuccessful ones. In Blockbusters —Why Big Hits and Big Risks Are the Future of the Entertainment Business Harvard Business School expert Anita Elberse argues that all businesses especially the ones in the space of the media, must go in the opposite direction and take bets on fewer titles or products to achieve lasting success in today’s winner-takes-all environment. She makes her case, taking examples from the different strands of the entertainment business movies, music, sports and publishing. While I personally do not accept all her theories, the book is certainly thought provoking and does throw up ideas for not only media professionals but for businesses as well. I am not an avid science fiction reader but I was definitely intrigued when I stumbled upon The Martian by a software engineer and lifelong space nerd Andy Weir. In this first novel, an astronaut is accidently left behind on Mars. The story is a mix of hard science and adventure in a race against time as the astronaut must find ingenious ways to survive while NASA figures out a way to rescue him.
I have always admired the stamina of long distance runners simply because I cannot seem to find the will to move my feet at any speed beyond a stroll! In Running With The Kenyans running enthusiast Adharanand Finn moved with his family to Kenya to understand what makes the runners from this nation champions of the long distance, including the marathon. He recounts the time he spent in a small town called Iten that is dotted with training camps where some of the best runners live and train. As he trains with them, Finn tries to find out the secrets behind their success which include lifestyle and dietary factors unique to Kenyans. This is one travel book which might motivate you to run a marathon through the savannah as helicopters try to drive away lions along your path!
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