By now those who follow publishing news in India may probably be aware of the writer who won the industry -- hand's down -- in 2016.
The trends, this year, weren't surprising in the least. As usual, the quantity of sales determined the success of the printed word, not the quality of the writing. Complexity was sacrificed at the alter of cleverness or, worse still, clichés. The march of the sleepyheads seemed unstoppable -- in the case of the American elections or in the shelves of the few bookshops that remain operational in this country.
If literary fiction seemed to be fading away before the mighty glow of commercial successes this year, our predictions for 2017 are more favourably disposed towards the former. The reason being Arundhati Roy's second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which is scheduled to appear in the first half of 2017.
It's been two decades since Roy published her Booker-winning novel, The God of Small Things, so the public's expectations of the new work are understandably high. From all indications, the latter sounds like a difficult novel, one that experiments with form. That was also the case with Roy's first novel: it not only went on to become a best-seller, but also attained the status of a cult classic.
Other fiction highlights of the year include Booker-shortlisted author Jeet Thayil's new novel, The Book of Chocolate Saints. Meena Kandasamy, best known for her poetry, is also coming up with her second novel, When I Hit You -- an unflinching exploration of domestic violence in marriage. Journalist Prayaag Akbar makes his fiction debut with a sci-fi fantasy, Leila.
Amitava Kumar, who has never shied away from narrative adventures, returns with a novel called The Lovers, which, the blurb says, is reminiscent of the work of John Berger and Teju Cole. Mohsin Hamid, best known for The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is coming back with a new work, Exit West. If the title is any indication, it will probably take us back to his favourite themes, exile and alienation. But the Pakistani writer who may create the most controversy this year is Sabyn Javeri, whose novel, Nobody Killed Her, is believed to be a thinly-disguised portrait of the life and assassination of a former Pakistani prime minister (your guess is as good as ours).
Of the more unusual fiction titles this year, we are excited about Tamil writer Perumal Murugan's new book in translation, Seasons of the Palm, and Amit Chaudhuri's novella, Friend of My Youth. And saving the best for the last: there's a new Anuja Chauhan novel called Baaz in the making. The year in fiction couldn't get much better.
Keeping with the trend of the past few years, the non-fiction lists of most publishers are getting stronger, with several titles that seem confidently headed for the bestseller lists already. Quite a surprisingly few quaint ones may also find favour with the connoisseurs.
Two big Bollywood biographies must be on the top of everyone's to-read list next year. First up, Rishi Kapoor's autobiography, Khullam Khulla, which has been hotly awaited for a while and going by the title, readers are expecting some explosive revelations between the covers. No less candid is supposed to be Karan Johar's life story, co-written with journalist Poonam Saxena, also rather appropriately titled, An Unsuitable Boy.
The competition posed by these stars is ably fielded by a number of big-ticket political books and popular history titles. Journalist N Ram's book on political corruption in India, Milan Vaishnav's survey of the marketplace of electoral politics When Crime Pays, Omar Abdullah's book on Kashmir, Jayanthi Natarajan's memoirs, Shashi Tharoor's Indians, Sagarika Ghose's Indira Gandhi and her Afterlife and Jairam Ramesh's Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature are posied to rock the headlines.
Of the weightier reads, Pankaj Mishra's Age of Anger promises to be packed with big ideas, as most of his writing is. The Collected Works of historian Romila Thapar are going to be published next year, and so will be the autobiography of UR Ananthamurthy in an English translation, tentatively titled Suragi. For children, there's Archana Garodia and Shruti Garodia's The Complete History of India, which will be eagerly awaited by adults too, given the politics of historiography in books for young readers.
In reportage, Sanjoy Hazarika's book on the Northeast, Strangers No More?, and Tripti Lahiri's Maid in India deal with topics that are of urgent and contemporary resonance. As does Yashica Dutt's Coming Out as Dalit, part-memoir and part-contemporary history. Sudeep Chakravarti's Bengalis: Portrait of a Community will have a vast community of interested readers, many of them likely to violently disagree with his thesis. Sanam Maher's book on Qandeel Baloch, the Pakistani Internet sensation killed by her brother to protect the 'honour' of the family, might able to resurrect the story of a brave, young girl from the amnesia of the news cycle.
The most prolific writer of the coming year seems to be mythologist Devdutt Patnaik, who has several books with several publishers, but Gods in Hinduism sounds like the most exciting of the lot.
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