The Hindu on Books | Top books of 2022, a tribute to Bill Kirkman, Jerry Pinto on translations and more

The Hindu On Books newsletter aims to take you deeper into the world of literature every week.

Updated - December 28, 2022 02:04 pm IST

Published - December 27, 2022 02:01 pm IST

This article forms a part of The Hindu on Books newsletter which brings you book reviews, reading recommendations, interviews with authors and more. Subscribe here.

Welcome to this edition of The Hindu on Books Newsletter, the last of 2022.

We have rounded up the year in books, both fiction and non-fiction; we also asked writers, politicians, sportspersons and others about their favourite reads of the year, and we have an interview with Jerry Pinto, who says that despite the recent spotlight on works of translation, the process is neither lucrative nor glamorous. We also pay tribute to Bill Kirkman, journalist, editor, Cambridge University Fellow and international media expert, who passed away recently at 90. For two decades, he used to write a column for The Hindu’s Sunday Magazine

Books of the year

It has been a standout year of fiction. In her essay, Mini Kapoor lists her top five reads of the year. She writes that Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree (translated from the Hindi by Daisy Rockwell) is possibly the most mind-shifting, and riveting, novel she has read in years. Shree’s sprawling chronicle of a year in an 80-something woman’s life — beginning with her turning away from the world in a cold Delhi winter, and ending with her escapades across the border in Pakistan. Shree marshals her cast of narrators to tease out a picture of the interior life of Ma, and to speak on all else in the world we inhabit to make us question every border and faultline imposed by history, society and politics.

New Year 2022 Creative Design Concept with Books Shelf - 3D Rendered Image

New Year 2022 Creative Design Concept with Books Shelf - 3D Rendered Image | Photo Credit: Muralinath

The other four books on her list are Elizabeth Strout’s Lucy by the Sea, which “highlights the essential requirement of empathy in navigating our way through our personal lives and amidst the culture wars that are driving wedges among communities everywhere.”; Janice Pariat’s Everything the Light Touches, which amplifies the message that we could open the vastness in our minds by teasing out the mysteries of the natural world — and its recuperative power; Banana Yoshimoto’s short stories collected in Dead-End Memories (translated from the Japanese by Asa Yoneda) and Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida which gives over the narration to a spirit, and asks us to keep our ear open to the insistent life struggles of the dead and the oppressed, in this case in Sri Lanka’s civil war.

With the world clawing back from COVID-19, but with the virus still lurking, and a war in Ukraine, the non-fiction books of the year reflect on loss, strength and survival. It was also a year of anniversaries – India celebrated 75 years of Independence – and a passing, with Queen Elizabeth dying at the age of 96 after reigning for 70 years.

Among the top picks are Anirudh Kanisetti’s Lords of the Deccan, a journey to the medieval world of the Chalukyas, the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Rashtrakutas and others, reviving the history of a period almost forgotten; Tushar Gandhi’s The Lost Diary of Kastur, My Ba that highlights Kasturba’s unwavering commitment to freedom and justice; Shyam Saran’s timely book, How China Sees India and the World; Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Song of the Cell and Orlando Figes’ The Story of Russia.

Academic Pratap Bhanu Mehta chose Swami Medhananda’s Vivekananda’s Vedantic Cosmopolitanism as his book of the year, calling it the best study of one of the most influential figures in modern India. Former chief scientist of the WHO, Soumya Swaminathan, picked Waheed Arians’ In the Wars. He had fled Afghanistan as a young boy and became a doctor in the U.K., running a charity service for refugees. If politician Sachin Pilot turned to historian Yuval Noah Harari’s books, former cricket Saba Karim was pulled towards Mait Haig’s The Midnight Library, a fantasy novel.  


Jerry Pinto has had a prolific year of writing. Besides his coming-of-age novel, The Education of Yuri, he has written a book on the founders of Mumbai’s Chemould gallery, called Citizen Gallery, and edited two anthologies.

In an interview with Ranvir Shah, he admits that there is very little money in translation because very few people choose to buy translations. “Publishers may be more willing now to publish translations, but they have a limit on what they can pay you because the market determines that. This means that you are not paid a living wage for translation work. This means that you must choose to do it.” Pinto says he chooses the books he wants to work on – “or perhaps the books choose me.”

His first book of translation was Sachin Kundalkar’s novel which became Cobalt Blue. And then the books kept coming, Daya Pawar’s Baluta, the first Dalit autobiography, Vandana Mishra’s I, The Salt Doll, Eknath Awad’s Strike a Blow to Change the World, Neela Bhagwat’s The Ant Who Swallowed the Sun and others.

Asked what would be his advice for budding poets – Pinto is prolific in poetry as well – he said: “Read lots of poetry, but not on the web. Buy books. Memorise as many poems as you can. Don’t be in a hurry to publish. And please take care of yourself. Poetry is dangerous business. 


sm | Photo Credit: GRJGM

Journalist Bill Kirkman passed away recently at 90. In her tribute, Nirmala Lakshman writes that “when Bill began writing a column, Cambridge Letter, for the Sunday Magazine, nobody knew that it would go on for 20 years.

Bill’s writing was sustained by two things: one was the variety of subjects that he dealt with, ranging from serious themes like race relations, policing, conflict, British and world politics, to humorously engaging with topics like English grammar, family relationships and the perplexing ways of the youth.

The second aspect that made his column sustainable was his commitment to reader response. During his visits to Chennai, he took it upon himself to meet many of his readers. One admirer was an elderly woman who was bedridden and living alone, and Bill unfailingly visited her on every trip to India.” Self-critical and self-deprecatory, Kirkman, says Lakshman, was never self-indulgent in his writing.

Most of all, he connected with people: no one was too big or too small. In his last column, he wrote that there is much to be said for giving something up when the time seems right. “That was the kind of wisdom that laced his life. Bill Kirkman was that rare human being who lived the big life and held a big vision for the world and brought boundless affection and energy to every individual relationship. He will be much missed by all those who knew him.” 

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