So I did a lot of reading on the bike trip, far too many to post in detail, so here’s a short summary:
The Gabriel Club by Joydeep Roy Bhattacharya.
Strange and intriguing book. I loved it. The story is nonexistent but the feeling is tremendous. Reminded me of Smell, but far more bizarre. You can read an excellent review here (A Stunning Debut) or even better, buy it here. Initially I was surprised that the book didn’t do well but then I figure a public that thinks Dan Brown is “Umberto Eco on steroids” will probably not go for this stuff. I fell bad for the author that he didn’t hit it big with this one, but if anything that is a confirmation of the high standard of art in this lovely work.
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster.
What a revelation this book has been. Auster’s style is very dry, and yet his stories are full of feelings. He writes about his characters in short, simple sentences but proceeds to make them into incredibly complex human beings. Bizarre things happen in his stories, but nothing that could be deemed impossible. It’s a wonderful twilight zone between realism and surrealism.
Smell by Radhika Jha.
I got this book on my trip to Kerala last year. Simply superb. Towards the end one can almost feel reality crumbling around the protagonist. The scene with the puppet show on the metro totally blew me away. Radhika writes with a real intensity of feeling and even though one knows that this is a work of fiction, she certainly writes as though all these things actually happened to her. Although the styles are totally different, the smell motif reminded me of another excellent book, Perfume, another must read.
Fooled by Randomness by Nassem Nicholas Taleb
This book is aimed at financial market participants, traders, etc, who think they can predict the market. Taleb demolishes many theories about market movements, especially technical analysis, etc. He expounds beautifully on the role of chance, the brain’s calculation of probabilites and the many misconceptions people have about stochastic processes like market prices. A wonderful book, almost epiphanic. Having worked in banking for many years, I can safely say that Taleb is a very rare specimen, the renaissance man with a deeply philosophical bent of mind engaged in one of the most cut-throat professions in the world, and his book is a rare glimpse into the mind of this man. Malcolm Gladwell has a nice piece on him at his website.