It’s time to get back to booksFrom books that will help understand human civilisation to books that inspire imagination, here are some picks from Nepali writers, poets and bibliophiles.
Musician Frank Zappa’s quote, “So many books, so little time”, has so often been tossed around as an excuse for not being able to finish a book. But right now, that is not something we can use. We have enough time with the lockdown extended for another week. Yes, it’s an overwhelming time, but books can be a gratifying diversion—if you give them a chance, say bibliophiles.
The Post recently spoke to writers, poets and bibliophiles to find out their favourite reads and recommendations, and to hear how they are coping with the current times. Help yourself with these options to escape the Corona tension and uplift your mood.
Mukarung is a writer and novelist, known for Damini Bhir, which won him a Madan Puraskar in 2012.
A lot of my friends have been telling me that it’s a good time to read. But, to be honest, I am having a hard time concentrating, with the constant news. But I am sticking to reading poems and light, humorous reads. And I would suggest people who want to read to start with light books.
I am currently reading Itar Kavita, a poetry collection that brings together poems from various ethnic communities; however, that’s not yet in the market. I am also re-reading Marxvadi Arthashastra by Dr Vijay Kumar Poudel; it’s a beautiful book. It fits the times we are living in, as it discusses capitalism and the human sentiment—issues the pandemic has brought to the fore again.
But for something lighter, I would suggest Upendra Subba’s short story collection Lato Pahad, as it will entertain readers in this rough time.
Sharma is a political scientist and a voracious reader and also runs a podcast Kitab Charcha.
I love reading books, but these are difficult times, and thus, I am also having a hard time concentrating. So, I have been taking this time to revisit old books, and I would suggest people do the same. Or go for classics and poems. I have been reading a lot of poetry, I think poems help you in these hard times; they fill you up.
But as we all go through a global pandemic, I have been going back to books that give an insight into human lives and the diseases we have lived through. Something analytical that gives an understanding of the current time. I am reading Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors. It’s discursive writing about illness, how an illness defines society, the myths around it.
But I would also suggest people get back to classics as they survive time, like books by Victor Hugo or Charles Dickens, or poems by Wordsworth.
Thapa is a writer, translator and editor and is known for her books All Of Us in Our Own Lives; and Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy.
We’re in for a protracted period of off-again, on-again isolation, so this is the perfect time to catch up on reading that you’ve been wanting to get to but haven’t had time for. My main recommendation would be to read intentionally, following a carefully planned ‘reading project.’ This will offer an additional purpose to your reading experience.
That said, each person’s reading project may differ. Some may want to tackle the classics. (I’ve never read Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, and am tempted to read it now.) Others may want to tackle genres they’ve never tried. (Sci-fi, anyone?) Yet others may want to read all of the books of one particular author—I’d recommend Elena Ferrante—or read the literature of specific societies, like China, or Norway, or Tamil Nadu.
My own project involves poetry. I’ve long waited for the chance to do a deep dive into late 20th century contemporary poetry. I’ll start by reading two books closely: The Making of a Poem by Mark Strand and Evan Boland, which focuses on different poetic forms; and Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield, which examines the themes of poetry and has found particular global resonance.
Writer and translator, Gurung is also the founder of KathaSatha.
I think the best time to read books is anytime. And it’s hard for me to pick just a few. But if I have to, then I love Justin Torres’ We the Animals, a novel that is just 125 pages. It feels like reading poetry and it’s so beautiful, as each chapter reads like a short story of its own. Another book I would suggest is Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.
I also love reading poems; I think they sharpen language as they are so precise with words. So, I would also recommend Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds. I also finished reading Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave, it’s her personal account of the tsunami that happened in Sri-Lanka; it had me in tears. I just finished reading Claudia Rankine’s powerful play on American racism called The White Card: A Play. I am now reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, as everyone is talking about love is like in the time of Corona.
I would also suggest people read Toya Gurung’s Kusum; her careful observation makes her work really beautiful. And Devdutt Pattanaik’s Sita, I loved her retelling of the Ramayana from her point of view.
Lal is a columnist in many dailies, including the Post, and is also the author of Human Rights, Democracy and Governance and To be a Nepalese.
I think this is the best time to catch up with books that you had meant to read. Reading allows you to contemplate, analyse and transports you to different worlds, releasing us from our worries.
I am currently reading books that give an understanding of human frailty and the society. I am re-reading Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, a book that I keep going back to whenever there is uncertainty and anxiety in the community. What we are going through is something we have gone through in the past as well, and these kinds of books tell about how our societies overcame difficulties. I would also recommend people read books by Teju Cole, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Even Shoshan Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, which many say they have read, but they haven’t also Thomas Piketty’s books on capitalism.
But if you want to read about Nepal, I would suggest works of historian Mahesh Chandra Regmi. I enjoyed reading Imperial Gorkha: An Account of Gorkhali Rule in Kumaun and Kings and Political Leaders of the Gorkhali Empire, 1768-1814.
Ujjwala Maharjan is a poet and one of the founding members of Word Warriors, a poetry group.
These days I have been revisiting Naomi Shihab Nye’s 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East. It was published after 9/11 and Nye writes about the lives of people in the Middle East and Arab Americans in a way the readers are able to see them beyond a certain narrative. I picked up the poetry collection around the time when people were making a lot of hate speech against the girl who tested positive for COVID-19 in Nepal and I was very disturbed. But this book, especially the introduction, helped me through it.
I have also been blown away by Ocean Vuong’s novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. I was introduced to Vuong as a poet. This is his first novel, and it’s so good. I would also recommend people read Mary Oliver’s poems, to me her poems feel like meditation in words. To those who want to read poetry but don’t know where to start, they can read poems in poetryfoundation.org. I discovered many of my favorite poets like Maya Angelou through this website.