City of Djinns by William Dalrymple. As a prominent Delhiwalla I've met the author a few times and have several of his other books waiting to be read on my shelf. This a great introduction to Delhi and foreshadows the authors subsequent sustained fascination with Mughal history.
The Third Man by Graham Greene. This is perhaps the first novelisation of a movie. Greene wrote the novella based on his own awesome screenplay for the Carol Reed's seminal movie. Everything about the book and the novel is sensational. Although the famous 'Cuckoo Clocks' line is Welles' not Greene's. Greene's former career as a spy for the British government informs the disconcerting level insight he has into betrayal, amorality and double dealings prevalent in all his writing.
Sophie's World: Jostein Gaarder or the history of western philosophy for teens. I enjoyed this when I read it years ago except for Sophie's story. I found the tying together the various philosophers' intellectual enterprises with a B-grade Blyton-esque mystery irritating. Spinoza comes out of it looking pretty cool. I also dug the comparison made between Jesus & Socrates: both didn't write a word, were championed by their followers & ultimately killed by the authorities for their radical views.
Lucky - Alice Seabold. I attended Syracuse University a few years after the author of this book was raped on campus, and as described in this memoir, told that she was 'lucky' to be alive after the incident. The book is staggering in its honesty and resultant visceral impact. An almost unbelievable section describes how her roommate was subsequently also raped off campus. An inspiring story of coping with crisis which eschews the common platitudes or the pieties of survivor tales.
Series of very readable short stories from the town of the author's birth written far from said location. What are these modernist studies about? Nationalist Ireland? Middle class values in the beginning of 20th century? I like to think it's Joyce's ongoing Jesuitical inquiry into the theme of self-understanding. The Dead and Araby stand out. A more entertaining read than 'Portrait', despite it's restrained style devoid of the stream of consciousness technique run riot in Ulysses.
I adore this book. Hilarious. Having never touched anything more mind altering than booze I don't tend to be easily seduced by 'alternative' lifestyle stories but Thompson's Gonzo-styled,autobiographical road trip with his Chicano lawyer tickled me. Maybe because the story is set the month I was born. "We had 2 bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescaline, 5 sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker 1/2 full of cocaine, & a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers.."