Chosen by Anuradha Roy
Raga’n Josh by Sheila Dhar (2005). Writing on music is often stupefyingly technical, but Sheila Dhar’s collection of essays and biographical stories is a book like no other. It is comic, compassionate, observant, and exhilarating, and brings alive the secret world of Indian classical music as no work before it has done.
New Selected Stories by Alice Munro (2011). I can read Munro’s stories over and over again and find something new in them each time. Her simplicity is deceptive. Despite its apparent ordinariness, the universe she creates has a tilt to it, an oddity that gives the stories a mystery that doesn’t ever dissolve.
The Dawn Watch by Maya Jasanoff (2017). In this biography of Joseph Conrad, scholarship, biography, history, literary analysis, and travel are woven into a narrative so gripping that it reads like a novel. I hadn’t thought shipping routes could be so fascinating.
A Time in Rome by Elizabeth Bowen (1960). Supposedly a guidebook, A Time in Rome is actually a new, poetic way of imagining and inhabiting the many layers of old cities: their sounds, smells, the parties, the lovers frozen on stone panels. I know now that cities are like onions whose layers will reveal new layers beneath—if we make the effort to unpeel them.
A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler, translated by Charlotte Collins (2015). Quite literally the whole life of a fictional Alpine villager, Andreas Egger, who is crushed by forces of nature and history in wartime Austria. Despite the devastating tragedies, quiet Egger’s sensitivity to every rustle in the natural world and his love for his wife endow his life with a beauty that makes the novel profound and moving.
A Potter’s Book by Bernard Leach (1940). This handbook written by late British ceramicist Bernard Leach gives me sustenance of a kind that no other does. When I am away for long stretches from my wheel and clay, immersing myself in the calm, slow rhythms of Leach’s prose and the precise descriptions of methods, tools, chemicals, and minerals takes me back to the deep pleasure of making pots, and revives me. ■