Wondering what to read? Allow the weekly BookWag List to help you out. It is a compilation of some of the greatest books ever written – carefully curated by our editors. Go, take your pick. And watch out for a new list every Friday.
1. Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong by David Walsh
He was supposed to be a hero but in fact was a cunning, aggressive and sometimes downright brutal person who shamelessly manipulated the media and his own teammates for his own ends. We all, alas, know the story of Lance Armstrong. But this retelling of it is special as it comes from one of the few journalists who had doubted Armstrong since 1999. This is Walsh’s tale of tracking down Armstrong and the latter’s attempts to steer clear. It is disturbing and shocking. But has to read. Because it happened. And might still be happening.
2. Or I’ll Dress You in Mourning by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
Collins and Lapierre may have gained fame for their epic tale built around Indian independence and partition, Freedom At Midnight, but as a tale of an individual, this, their first work is every bit as good. This is the story of the matador El Cordobes who rose from poverty to become the hero of Spain, and then nearly lost it all in a grisly bullfight. Dramatic and very moving, this is a book that even those who do not like bullfighting should read.
3. The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin
There are not too many people who know of the amazing Erast Fandorin, and that is entirely their loss. For the man is veritably the Russian Sherlock Holmes. A detective based in 19th century Russia, Fandorin has the knack of solving even the most convoluted cases. And this is the book that started the series – a seeming straight forward suicide that has terrible undercurrents. Read it for some elegant prose, gentle humour, lots of mystery and of course, to get a picture of Russia in the days of the Tsar.
4. The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden
Yes, we know that the past few months have seen everyone and their grandmothers write about the death of Osama Bin Laden – heck, a film based on it even got to the Oscars – but when it comes to sheer narrative power, Bowden’s book scores. And it is not really surprising. He was, after all, the man who wrote the compelling Black Hawk Down. No, this is not as stunning as that book simply because the story has been told so many times, but it nevertheless remains very good reading on a very important event.
5. A Wanted Man by Lee Child
Jack Reacher is back and if you have not read this award winning book already, you must. A man gets murdered, Reacher thumbs a ride and finds one of the passengers signalling him secretly. Of course, there are matters of state involved, but how will the man who combines the body of a Schwarznegger with the brain of Sherlock Holmes unravel it all? If you thought Child’s Reacher series was getting monotonous, you need to read this and get your faith in the man back.
6. Jersualem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle
A cartoonist gets invited to Jerusalem. And what follows is an unbiased and stark account of life in one of the world’s holiest cities. Delisle has made making graphic novels that give you a sense of a place an art, and we think that with Jerusalem he has outdone even himself. You get everything – the parties, the local politics, the bazaars, the holy places and of course, the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. The copy is succinct, the art is uncomplicated and striking and the result is sheer magic.
7. Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser
Few sportspersons have inspired as much prose and legend as Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight boxing champion of the sixties and seventies. And this by far is the most comprehensive account of his life based on interviews with a number of people who knew Ali closely, and Ali himself. Hauser is objective and brutal when needed, saving this work from being as hagiographic as some others. A wealth of detail and triva await for all those interested in perhaps the greatest sporting personality of the last century.
8. The Bat by Jo Nesbo
Yes, we know we recommended the latest Jo Nesbo book in our reading list last week. But then we did not know that the very first book featuring his iconic detective, Harry Hole, would be released in an English version only now. Written in 1997, The Bat sees Hole makes his debut as he is sent to Australia to aid in the investigation of a girl who has been murdered. And this Harry is very different from the one we now know – he is more raw and erratic, but shows signs of becoming the legend he will be. A must-read for all those interested in Scandinavian crime writing, or even those seeking just a very good yarn.
9. Accidental Empires by Robert X Cringley
Tech is uber cool these days, but thirty years ago, it was hardly that. People working in technology companies were considered geeks and oddballs. And this is a book that details the rise and conflict that accompanied the growth of Silicon Valley right up till the nineties. There are tales of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Intel, Apple, and just about every tech company you have heard of. And it is told in a racy manner right out of tabloid territory. One of those books that inform and entertain in equal measure. Never did anyone write about technology with so much humour.
10. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William E Shirer
There are some books that have to be read by just about everybody because of the sheer importance of the events they cover. And Shirer’s tome on the rise and fall of Hitler’s Nazi Germany is very high on the list. He was based in Berlin as the world rushed towards war and his analysis of the situation remains unsurpassed to this day. We have seen more books written about Hitler and the Nazis but this remains one of the best to this day. Do not get intimidated by its size – you will be turning pages before you know it.