Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 ROUNDUP of MY FAVORITE READS
in random order

1. The God Delusion- Richard Dawkins
Scientist, biologist, champion of evolution, Richard Dawkins has, since the last three decades, showcased the concept of scientific reductionism for the general reader. In book after book, starting from his Selfish Gene, Unweaving the Rainbow, Blind Watchmaker and the last offering The Ancestor's Tale , he has sought to explain natural selection and evolution and of how natural selection works through genes and leads to evolution.
In his latest work, Dawkins calls god a delusion, and religion a virus. A delusion that billions believe in despite a total lack of evidence. And a virus that has and will continue to have negative connotations in the form of violence and religious unrest. Don't miss this superb read.

2. Breaking the spell: Religion as Natural Phenomenon
-Daniel C. Dennett

Another book that asks us to jettison religion? Not quite. Daniel Dennett takes a very rational and scientific approach analyzing the demand and requirement for religion and how religious behavior is also a phenomenon that needs to be studied and understood dispassionately.

3. The Lighthouse- P. D. James
Whodunnits have ceased to be my cup of tea. Unless the words flow from the pen of P.D. James. As anyone who's read her A Time To be In Earnest will testify, her work evokes the wonderful charm of a long bygone era of classical England. The world of fine taste in dining and music, of lovely autumns, and of summer houses in Scottish coasts. And then there is her charming Scotland Yard detectice Commander Adam Dalgliesh. Here she has Adam teaming up with Inspector Kate Miskin and new recruit Benson-Smith to solve the murder of a renowned author on a reclusive island off the English coast. Making matters more complicated is the fact that Dalgliesh is now in love and has just proposed marriage to his lady. As he waits for her reply he also has the solving of a murder on his hands. Very entertaining.

4. Inheritance of Loss- Kiran Desai
Kiran Desai's booker winner work is going to be my all time favorite for years to come. Here's the review from The Hindu.

5. Absurdistan: A Novel- Gary Shteyngart
After the huge success of Shteyngart's Russian Debutante's handbook, it is wonderful to see him in form yet again with in this latest offering filled with sharp, glib humor and satire. Absurdistan is a country being made in the sliver of land between Russia and Iran by Russian gangsters working for Golly Burton, a large America Corporation. To get the American government to pour billions of dollars into Absurdistan, these gangsters hatch a plan for war that misfires. At the heart of this hilarious plot is Misha Vainberg, son of the 1238th richest man in the world and product of the new Russian oligarchy. A comic drama full of caricatures, Shteyngart's prose is indeed a treat.

6. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East- Sandy Tolan
In 1967 when Bashir knocked on the door of his home in Ramle in Israel, two decades after his family had fled from it, the door was opened by the new occupant Diana. Diana's family had arrived from Europe after the Holocaust and made Bashir's abandoned house their home. For Bashir, the house with the lemon tree in the backyard signifies the dispossession and rootlessness of his own people but for Diana it means acceptance, homecoming and nation building of a new country and society. On the basis of their shared home, Diana and Bashir, an Israeli and a Palestinian start a journey of friendship amidst all the strife and war of the Middle East. Based on conversations with the real people involved, Tolan shows how victory and defeat are faces of the same coin and how reconcilation is possible in the bleakest of moments.

7. Alentejo Blue- Monica Ali

8. Barefoot Contessa at Home- Ina Garten
Want to make your home comfy, your food appetizing and dinner setting charming? Want quick tips to entertain in style and on a budget? Know to make a grocery list? Or make beetroot salad in minutes? Or skewer delicious lamb kebabs on a bed of couscous? No sweat. Dash out for Ina Garten's book that shows you how to. Caesar Club sandwich, garlic coutons and many many more recipes that look divine. Gorgeous pictures and easy to follow instructions make this an absolute must for the kitchen.
Quick and easy never had so much style.

9. Blind Willow, Sleeping woman- Haruki Murakami
This review from Guardian says it infintely better than I could.

10. The Janissary Tree-Jason Goodwin
Since this is a random list, take no note of this book appearing at the bottom of the pile. In fact it was one of my top faves of the year. Goodwin, a Turkophile given to writing tomes on Ottoman emperors finally writes a beautiful piece of fiction set in Istanbul in 1836. The central character is Yashim, a stylish and dapper man, who is in fact a Court eunuch. Yashim works as a detective for the Empire and is summoned when a young officer of the westernised New Guard is found dead in a pot with his face sliced off. As more officers go missing, Yashim searches desperately for clues among the harems, mosques and lanes and bylanes of the Palace and the city. Intermittently there are short escapades with a Russian beauty but our hero keeps his lust under check (he is after all a eunuch!!) by his reading and cooking. A great read, don't miss this one.

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