10 Best Books: Mahinder Kingra
Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik (Random House) These sophisticated, witty, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny New Yorker dispatches from Paris perfectly capture a city no longer convinced of its cultural superiority in the world. Whether describing a tour of the taxidermy museum with his son, a fight to save a local café, or a surreal parade in honor of France's World Cup victory, Gopnik's prose blends detached bemusement with a sense of wonder at actually living in the City of Lights.
The Cave, by Tim Krabbe (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) This spare and emotionally devastating thriller set in Europe and Southeast Asia explores the complicated friendship between a decent if insecure professional and a seductive, self-confident rogue whose drug- and sex-fueled lifestyle destroys everyone around him. As in his previous novel, The Golden Egg (adapted into the chilling Dutch film The Vanishing), Krabbe is interested less in action and violence than in a far more gripping Nietzschean contest of wills.
Long John Silver, by Björn Larsson (Harvill Press) A delightfully bloody and surprisingly philosophical pirate tale, narrated by literature's greatest pirate himself. Robert Louis Stevenson's fearsome but ultimately lovable villain, in hiding on Madagascar, relates the events of his life (to no less august a listener than Daniel Defoe) before and after the events of Treasure Island.
The Romantics, by Pankaj Mishra (Random House) A literate and moving first novel set in contemporary Benares, India's holiest city, in which a young and callow Indian student, caught between two cultures, befriends an older English woman, begins a transformative affair with her young ward, and falls in with a reckless and dangerous compatriot.
Scar Vegas: And Other Stories, by Tom Paine (Harcourt Brace) A delightfully eclectic collection of stories that spurn the minimalism found in too much American short fiction with ambitious narratives, colorful characters, and blackly comic situations that the author's daring prose makes entirely believable.
Mr. Wroe's Virgins, by Jane Rogers (Mariner Books) A beautifully realized historical novel (based on real events) about a self-appointed religious prophet in 1830s England who demands that his congregation provide him with seven virgins to care for him and be cared for by him. Narrated by the virgins (whose diverse voices are convincingly rendered by Rogers), this novel explores the edges of religious faith and human fallibility as accusations of immorality are leveled at this unorthodox "family."
The Crook Factory, by Dan Simmons (Avon) This strangely plausible and immensely satisfying thriller set in Cuba during World War II envisions Ernest Hemingway and an accomplished FBI agent working together to monitor Nazi activities on the island and uncovering a vast conspiracy that leads them to the corridors of power in Washington. Simmons deftly weaves fiction and history (Hemingway did, in fact, propose just such an operation), offering both an accurate portrait of the writer and an exhilarating espionage adventure.
The Book of Revelation, by Rupert Thomson (Knopf) In this disturbing novel, a successful male ballet dancer is kidnapped by three mysterious women who proceed to sexually exploit and humiliate him. More frightening than his treatment, however, is his obsessive need, once he is released, to find the women responsible.
A Small Death in Lisbon, by Robert Wilson (Harcourt Brace) The brutal murder of a young woman in 1990s Lisbon sends a melancholic detective looking into the events of Portugal's wartime past, when Nazis and Allies mingled uneasily in the officially neutral country. This exciting and evocative mystery makes brilliant use of dual narratives present and past to explore the legacy of collaboration.
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