After a week’s break (due to unforeseen circumstances), we are back with our list of books worth reading this week. Once again, we are going across genres and time periods with modern classics rubbing shoulders with older ones, and memoirs tangling with historical fiction. Here are the ten books that we think are worth dipping into this week.
Death Comes to Pemberley
Take a classic work. And ask one of the best contemporary fiction writers around to write a sequel. Well, that’s what Death Comes to Pemberley is. It is not your routine murder mystery – what it is, is in fact a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with Elizabeth and Darcy happily married. Until blood flows, and a character stands accused of murder. Compelling stuff, written brilliantly and so smoothly that you at times think that it is still Austen writing.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom
The world knows him as Lawrence of Arabia, made even more famous by Peter O’Toole’s fantastic rendition of him in the classic film. Well, this is his story told by the man himself. No, it is not a classic autobiography, as it focuses on Lawrence’s campaign in Arabia, and neither is it a page turner, as Lawrence can tend to get profound. But when you do finish reading this book, and about Lawrence’s triumphs and defeats (he dedicates an entire chapter to being captured and tortured), you will know more about one of the most fascinating characters of the twentieth century.
There have been many interpretations of the Buddha’s life but none quite like Manga maestro Osamu Tezuka’s. Spanning eight volumes, the book looks at different aspects of Buddha’s life, with some new spins thrown in. And this is not a devotional book – there are places that will shock and surprise even the Buddha’s most ardent followers. It won two Eisner Awards and for many remains one of the greatest works of Manga ever. Grab the entire set, lock yourself up for a week, and read. You will end up with a picture of the Buddha that you never knew existed.
One for the Money
What happens when chick lit meets mystery and crime? Well, something like Stephanie Plum, a spunky character who makes a living as a bounty hunter, tracking down people who have jumped bail. No, that is not as glamorous as it sounds. And it does not pay well either. It does not help that Stephanie is often distracted by the attractions of her teenage crush and a colleague. Romance, intrigue, investigations, gossip, violence and action, all hog the spotlight at different stages in Stephanie’s often-hilarious escapades. And this is the book that started it all – read it to get familiar with Stephanie Plum. You will never let go!
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John Le Carre
Not too many remember the era of the Cold War when the US and the USSR were at daggers drawn and spying was a full-time occupation on either side of the Iron Curtain. Le Carre, however, knew it only too well and his George Smiley series of books captured the lives of those caught up in the conflict. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the first book in the Smiley-Karla series which sees British and German intelligence cross swords. Elegantly written, it is one of the most classy – and moving – thrillers you will ever read.
Guts! Companies That Blow The Doors Off Business-as-Usual
Kevin and Jackie Freiberg
The duo that wrote Nuts!, the book that described the extremely unorthodox used by Southwest Airlines to succeed, are back with a wider canvas, stretching beyond a single company. In fact, the duo cover twenty five different companies and highlight what makes them tick, not least their unconventional and often iconoclastic leaders. In crackling good prose too. No boring management tome this, and what’s more, it also goes beyond the “regular” suspects among successful companies and pulls out some hidden gems. Read this to be inspired and entertained in equal measure.
Paths of Glory
He might be in the news for his latest book in the Clifton Chronicles series (which we will be reviewing shortly), but Paths of Glory to many is one of the best books written by him. It is one of the few times Archer has stepped into the shoes of a historical personality and told his story. And what a story it is – that of George Mallory, the famous mountaineer who disappeared mysteriously while on the verge of ascending Everest in 1924. This is a fictional account of his life, and yes, it even tells you whether he made it all the way to the peak (a point that is hotly debated even now). All narrated by one of the best story-tellers of this era. If only history could be written like this.
Krakatoa: The Day The World Exploded
In terms of sheer impact, few natural events have had the kind of effect that the explosion of a volcano on an island in Java, called Krakatoa, had in 1883. The whole island was blown apart and thousands were killed in the tsunami that followed in its wake. The sound of the explosion was heard thousands of miles away and skies were affected even over Europe and the US. More than a century after the event, Simon Winchester walks readers through what happened and what followed. It is a tale that is compelling and terrifying in equal part, often showing nature at its worst and some people at their best.
The Far Pavilions
Many call this epic work “the Gone With the Wind” of the east. We would go so far as to say that Kaye’s work is much better than Margaret Mitchell’s. Based largely in nineteenth century Indian, the book tells the love story between and English officer and an Indian princess. But think not of it as some sickly romance – Kaye handles the historical events surrounding the characters with a masterly hand. And will move you time and again, not least when she describes the battle in the embassy of Kabul when sepoys refuse to surrender to Afghan rebels. A big, brilliant book. For those who treasure emotion. And are not afraid to show it.
We had reviewed it earlier this week, and have no hesitation at all in placing this thriller among the best books we have read for a while. Told on alternate chapters by a husband and a wife (who has gone missing), the book tells you not just about a person who has disappeared mysteriously but also of a relationship that has changed and the factors that contributed to it. So has Nick anything to do with the disappearance of his wife Amy or is a web of deceit being woven around him? Just as you think you know, you will find the carpet pulled out from under your feet. A very elegantly written book that will keep you on the edge of your seats, once you get past the first fifty or so pages.