Reading in the time of a pandemic

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I had two or three books scattered about the living room, the last few I’d bought before the lock down. But elsewhere in the flat is a growing pile of books which have slipped below the radar. William Dalrymple’s latest, The Anarchy, promises to be a great read of the world’s most out of control corporation: the British East India Company. To go with it I picked up an older book which I think I’ll read through, Opium City by Farooqui. This is a history of the rise of Bombay, from a port with nothing to do, into its modern avatar. Two more bits of Indian history round off this part of my collection. One is the highly recommended book on Dara Shikoh, The Emperor Who Never Was by Supriya Gandhi. The other is below most radars, The Deoliwallahs by Joy Ma and Dilip D’Souza chrolicles the incarceration of all Chinese in India during the 1962 China war. That covers about four centuries. Enough.

Why did I let a Michael Ondaatje slip to the bottom of a pile. COVID-19 gives me a boon: rediscovering one of the great novelists from Africa. I know nothing about Otessa Moshfegh, except that The Family kept telling me to read My Year of Rest and Relaxation after she finished. Now that my year (or less) of rest and relaxation has come around, I’m getting round to it. I know even less about Anna Burns and the book Milkman. It’ll surprise me, no matter what.

Light reading? Yes, I have a thriller: Pythagoras’ Revenge, and a graphic novel, First Hand, by a collection of Indian artists. Nine books for mortal men doomed to die another day.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. I haven’t got round to The Milkman yet either, and the Dalrymple is bound to be a fascinating read. I suspect that here in the UK, the other books won’t reach the library service – when it reopens. I thought I would be reading far more at the moment. It turns out I’m still too busy!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m reading “No Picnic on Mt. Kenya” and enjoying it. Next up is a Hemingway novel set in the part of Italy I know best (so I can visit vicariously in time and space?). I haven’t read Hemingway in a while and I wonder how it will go. Then I have a couple other climbing books. I’m no longer a person who loves to read — too many years grading papers and evaluating exit exams and reading for answers for my own books changed me as a reader. I read like a hunter hunts. I used to read like a hiker hikes.


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