11 Authors Talk About The Book That Has Stayed With Them In 2022

Archana Pai Kulkarni
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2022 Books That stayed
For those who love reading, books can eliminate stress and increase happiness and year ends are the time to catch up with friends and exchange notes on their respective reading lists. 

Here we speak to 11 authors who tell us about that one book they read this year and will stay with them.

2022 Books That stayed

Rochelle Potkar, Author, Bombay Hangovers (Vishwakarma Publications)

Book: What We Talk about When We Talk about Rape by Abdulali Sohaila (Penguin Viking)

I read many poetry books, novels and screenplays this year. As a writer I have been curiously observing and writing around sexuality and relationships and found What We Talk about When We Talk about Rape riveting and unforgettable. To talk sharply yet sardonically about sexual violence and its aftermath, as the system and infrastructure for victims and survivors stay abysmally absurd and insensitive, makes this book a captivating read that balances sobriety with anthropological grasp, never once losing its complexity. It takes a person like Sohaila Abdulali—survivor, writer and activist to bring this conversation to the table in its tempered tenor and tone, where the post-assault life of living, loving, thriving, growing, and contributing to society, self, and family becomes the crux of focus, shifting the discussion to survivalism and spiritualism. No book to my opinion covers the 360-degree perspective of rape better than this one.

Archana Pai Kulkarni


Sucharita Dutta-Asane, Author, Cast Out and Other Stories (Dhauli Books)

Book: Witness: The Red River Book of Poetry of Dissent Edited by Nabina Das (Red River)

Witness – The Red River Book of Poetry of Dissent was published in July 2021, but I read it this year, slowly, a couple of poems at a time. To witness is to bear proof. To dissent is to raise one’s voice against proven wrongs. As long as we are able to do so, we are alive. Voices muted, we are dead. In these times of living in dread of being muted, it is but natural that voices raised in dissent stay with us, that experiences compressed in verse affect us beyond the pages that hold them. This book has thus stayed with me for a number of reasons: First, the theme – dissent – in these times when liberties are at stake, their suppression the norm; Second, the very act of compiling such a volume and publishing it builds upon the idea of poetry, "re-emphasizes its compelling role as protest, as the challenging of norms; And third, it brings together varied voices – 250 poets – known and less known, their tones, styles, experiences, responses, contexts, backgrounds and languages from across the country. When a flattened media is unable to do its job, poetry must step in. This is what Witness does. This is why it lingers and resonates with me.

Bhairavi Jani, Entrepreneur, Author, Highway to Swades: Rediscovering India’s Superpowers (HarperCollins India)

Book: The Stone Tower: Ptolemy, the Silk Road, and a 2,000-year-old Riddle by Riaz Dean (Penguin Viking)  

 I am always intrigued and fascinated in equal measure by writers who are able to weave travel and history in a uniquely constructed narrative. Riaz Dean’s latest book, The Stone Tower – Ptolemy, the Silk Road and a 2000-Year-Old Riddle, is precisely the kind of story that takes you on a treasure hunt. Centred around the Stone Tower mentioned by the great geographer Claudius Ptolemy, on the Silk Road, Riaz connects history and geography with cartography and takes us back 2000 years on the road that connected Asia and Europe.


The book is different than many others that are written on the Silk Road because it centres its narrative around the now lost Stone Tower but then expands out its circle of influence to give us a peek into the life of people and kingdoms along the Silk Road, their differences and their bonds. It dives into the conflicts and sets the stage for us to understand the events and genesis that have shaped Asia’s relationship with the West.

 Sujata Shukla Rajan, Author, Bhog Naivedya: Food Offerings to the Gods (Rupa Publications India) 

Book: Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore (W&N)

Jerusalem. A city which captures the imagination, forces herself on the mind, whether or not one belongs to the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. The Holy City, on whose ancient stones King David, Jesus Christ and Mohammed are believed to have trodden, home to the holiest of shrines. Montefiore describes the complex and tortured history of the city spanning more than 3000 years. Extremely detailed and with graphic descriptions of the violence which has been a frequent occurrence, the well-researched book is fast paced though sometimes dense. The descriptions of Jerusalem, her rulers and major players, the unfolding events and the lives of the common people, are evocative. Herod, Nero, Anthony, Cleopatra, Suleiman, Richard the Lionheart, Bonaparte, Rasputin, Lawrence of Arabia are just a few of the colourful characters that pepper the narrative. Almost a year after I finished reading it, this epic is still etched on my mind: the tragic tale of a beautiful sacred city, razed and rebuilt time and again, its people tortured, killed, shorn of their rights, exiled; its buildings destroyed, blood, gore and filth in the streets. It continues to be a place of conflict, raising so many questions on faith, religion, power, politics, and the rights of a people to their land.

Suma Varughese, Author, 50 Life Lessons: A Practical Guide on How to Maximise Happiness (Hay House Publishers India)

Book: Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag (HarperPerennial)


The book that has made the maximum impact on me in 2022 is rather slim (113 pages), the translation of Vivek Shanbhag’s justly acclaimed Kannada novel: Ghachar Ghochar. On the face of it, it is an effortless narration, the story unfolding simply and naturally. And yet when you consider how much is contained within those sparse pages, and how well illustrated every turn of event is and how implacably and deftly the denouement is realized, we have to concede that Shanbhag is indeed a master craftsman. The book is an understated yet merciless indictment of the corrupting power of wealth through the portrayal of a lower middle class joint family which suddenly comes into affluence through a successful business venture. As its members slow descend into the grip of arrogance, insensitivity, selfishness, amorality, brutality and worse, the book also shines a searchlight on each of us living in a country enjoying unprecedented prosperity. How do we hold up against the insidious influence of money? Like all great books, it is an unsettling yet compelling read. I cannot recommend it enough.

Sufia Khatoon, Author, Ger-mi-na-tion (Red River)

Book: The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks (Harperone)

Termites ate through the pages of the ‘book’ I carry around, drawing intricate, deep lines of hollowed light inside as I read this out loud, ‘The wound is the place where the light enters you…’ - The Essential Rumi

The scent of the damped pages, yellowed, fatigued with constant visits of my restless mind, remains patiently waiting for me every day. I feel the words and open the book randomly, I don’t mark the pages; I like to discover it. Every time I find a poem of Rumi like an answer to my disturbed mind, somehow it is baffling that I find comfort in his verses. When I travel, I hold this book dearly. In crowds of people, when I walk for hours on the streets to ease the loneliness of my existential heart, by the sidewalks, or in the park, near the chai kiosks, under the dim lamppost light, I read the poems out loud to tell myself that there is ‘hope’ and ‘beauty’ in this world for ‘me’ to hold and cherish.

‘Do not feel lonely; the entire universe is inside you…’ At times, he can sense the restlessness of my soul ‘don’t take me a mere poet – no, my verse is made of pain and grief more than you know…’ Indeed, poets’ minds are collective consciousness of pain; somehow it connects us all beyond time and provides relief.

Rohini S. Rajagopal, Author, What’s a Lemon Squeezer Doing in My Vagina? (Penguin eBury Press)

Book: The Death Script: Dreams and Delusions in Naxal Country by Ashutosh Bhardwaj (Fourth Estate)

Of late my reading has been biased towards books that are rooted in the complicated reality of our present-day world rather than those that offer an escape from it. Raw, gritty, first-person narratives of conflict, crime, disease and other exceptional encounters have filled my bookshelves. ‘The Death Script’ is a stellar addition to this list. It is an account of the years author Ashutosh Bhardwaj spent reporting as a journalist the lives of those caught on both sides of combat in Bastar and surrounding areas. An impregnable forest. An indefatigable people. A mighty, unyielding state. Bhardwaj captures this violent deadlock in a book that has the fragmentary nature of a journal, the lyricism and emotional resonance of a novel and the detail and urgency of journalistic reporting. He draws us into the Dandakaranya, hundreds of kilometres of dense forest extending across the states of Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, giving us both an intimate look at the everyday struggles, as well as a view of the larger ideological and political forces at play. This is a difficult and disturbing read because you are forced to confront the extreme deprivation, neglect and injustice of a people, your own urban apathy and complicity, and the improbability of a ‘resolution’ in the near future. It is near impossible to emerge from this book, as from the forest, unscathed.

Vinita Agrawal, Author, Twilight Language (Proverse Hong Kong)  

Book: Wild Himalaya by Stephen Alter - A Natural History of the Greatest Mountain Range on Earth (Aleph)

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I say that because as a nature-lover, as someone who practices naturalism in her literature, as a keen birder and above all, as an admirer of the immense Himalayas, it was a treat to read this book. Stephen Alter has a wonderful, easy-going style of travel writing and his range of research is spectacular. Through this work of non-fiction, he shines light on hidden gems on the most fascinating mountain range on the planet - geographically, culturally and spiritually. The book drew me in from the first word. I’ve read the 400 odd-pages book twice and can return to it over and over again every time I need to revisit a particular aspect of the Himalayas. What’s really special about the book is how Alter delves deep into the human interactions that various tribes have with these mountains. The section about Nain Singh Rawat’s solo expedition into a hitherto undiscovered Tibet is gripping. Rawat was sent as a spy to the roof of the world by the insatiably curious British who until then knew nothing about this country. He is given nothing but the most primitive tools to calculate where he is, the atmospheric pressure there, the altitude, etc. At the end of his unbelievable journey into Tibet, he travels 2000 kms on foot around this rugged terrain. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to get up, close and personal with this mystical, magnificent and mesmerising mountain. Incidentally the book was awarded the Kekoo Naoroji Award in 2020. This is an incredible tribute of a book to the Himalayas.

Tanushree Podder, Author, More Spooky Stories (HarperCollins India)

Book: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (Atria/Emily Bestler Books)

This year, I have read nine books. The ones that captured my imagination were Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House, Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, and Alison Weir’s Innocent Traitor.  Picoult’s The Storyteller stayed with me. Jodi is one of my favourite writers and a powerful storyteller. Her strength lies in picking a controversial topic and weaving a convincing story around it. Whether it is dealing with organ harvesting, marginalization, or forgiveness, her subjects are as unique and her stories never fail to touch the reader’s soul. In The Storyteller, the protagonist, Sage Singer, is a psychologically scarred loner and a baker by night. Her Jewish grandmother, Minka, is a holocaust survivor and the originator of the bread’s recipes. Into Sage’s life comes Josef Weber, an elderly man burdened with deep secrets. They meet in a bereavement group, which Sage joins to get over the loss of her mother. Josef is an elderly man struggling to cope with his own deep secrets. In a surprising twist, Minka narrates her experience in the Nazi concentration camp and Josef requests Sage to kill him. It is only then that Sage discovers he is a former SS member who has hidden his identity for 70 years. Does Sage agree to his request? The book is extremely well-written and thought-provoking—a beautiful and heart-rending story.

2022 Books That stayed 2022 Books That stayed

Manjiri Indurkar, Author, It's All in Your Head, M (Tranquebar)

Book: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (Faber & Faber)

"For breakfast I eat convenience store bread, for lunch I eat convenience store rice balls with something from the hot-food cabinet, and after work I’m often so tired I just buy something from the store and take it home for dinner. I drink about half the bottle of water while I’m at work, then put it in my ecobag and take it home with me to finish at night. When I think that my body is entirely made up of food from this store, I feel like I’m as much a part of the store as the magazine racks or the coffee machine." This is a quote from Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, which was the first book I read this year. It's also the first book of Murata to be translated into English. The book is, as the New Yorker called it, a love story between a woman, Keiko, and a store. Not her store, but a convenience store, or what would be our version of a D Mart. The woman is a misfit, an oddball, the world and its pretentions to be a part of a larger scheme of things, of ideas like meaning and purpose don't make sense to her. What makes sense is the routine of working at the store. Its rhythm, the hum of the store, its machines, its silences, everything. It has been conjectured that Keiko is perhaps autistic, she doesn't understand language cues, takes words literally, often wonders why people don't do the things they say. And many a woman who are on the spectrum have felt connected to Keiko. I am not on the spectrum. But I am someone who struggles to emote. Most recently, a friend called me Wednesday from the series, out of love. I struggle with expression, if not comprehension of such emotions. And I found quiet solace in Keiko's routine driven life and the way she has made sense of the world around her. Kieko is not a likeable character, how can she be? She doesn't follow the rules of human society, not because she is a rebel of any kind, but only because she doesn't know how to understand those rules. It's hard to put a label on her. What stayed with me was Keiko's eerie silence and as writer, the sheer bravery of writing an unlikable woman. A woman who refuses to make sense, not in a mysterious way, or the way that mysterious sexuality is ascribed to women in literature. Keiko wants to live her life, and doesn't want others to prod her with questions like why is a 36-year-old woman still working at a convenience store? Her lack of ambition makes little sense to the people around her. Reading literature, watching films leave me with this lingering feeling of how every story, if told well, matters. Being part of the world run by the capitalist machinery, it is so easy to get cowed down by it. It is so easy to feel insignificant. But stories remind us why each story matters. Kieko sometimes puts on makeup so she can fit in. Acts angry or indignant to replicate the behaviour of others, only to make them feel comfortable. An "act" of solidarity. But she mostly doesn't want any of this. She just wants to live the way she is living. In these small moments I found my own hypocrisies mirrored. The act I have put up for the sake of the world. Kieko and I aren't the same. But in parts of her story, mine found relevance, made me feel seen and heard.

Pervin Saket, Author, Urmila (Jaico Publishing House)

Book: Intimate City by Manjima Bhattacharjya (Zubaan)

I was struck by this book because it sets out to seek answers, but eventually discovers that asking the right questions is more important. It explores how technology and globalisation have changed how we understand sex, intimacy and relationships. I especially loved that by investigating the power plays of new technologies, the book expands the scope of the next generation of feminist explorations on sex and power.

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Rochelle Potkar Look back 2022 2022 Books That stayed