We all have books we turn to when we’re writing new ones. Some writers I know prefer to read books connected to the ones they’re writing, to stay immersed in that world. I, however, need to read a completely different genre so that the part of my brain that’s occupied with world building can go on on its own without outside interference. For the most part, that’s detective fiction — stories about murder mysteries and policemen solving the case against all odds. It’s therapeutic for me to delve into those worlds, but every now and then I have to emerge so I can really read and come up with ideas for what to put into this column. This week we’re talking about statuses: whether it’s single ladies in India, what you put up on Facebook or the status of the world.
Sreemoyee Piu Kundu’s Status Single is the result of her interviews with about 3,000 single women on the realities behind being single in this country. It’s very much a PLU (people like us) book, and yet, it is an important one simply for taking into account the stories of thousands of urban, educated women and what happens to them in this country when they are minus a husband or partner.
Through this, Kundu weaves her own narrative of being single at age 39 and what people say to her and how she feels. (One particular section called Friend vs Unfriend talks about how whenever she wants to hang out with her married friends, they insist on their husbands going along, which made me wonder if I was doing the same to my single friends!) Kundu has divided the book up into sections, each with a theme: sex, living with your parents as an adult, having kids alone, divorced singles and so on. It’s a book you should read whether or not you’re a single woman, but especially if you are.
The whole Cambridge Analytica episode was murky and full of twists and turns, but surely not a surprise to anyone who has been online for the past couple of years. We have given away our data to practically everyone — from the random shopping app you only used once to a quiz app that was once the in thing. Our data is everywhere, sprinkled on every single website we visit, and this was just a wake-up call to be a little more careful with it. It reminded me of Dave Eggers’s fantastic 2013 book called The Circle , which takes place on a fictional Google/Facebook website’s campus.
It’s near future stuff, you’ll probably be acquainted with a lot of the horror he describes from letting technology take over if you’ve watched a season of Black Mirror , and because it is near future, you’re probably already on your way to getting there.
Mae Holland has just taken a job at the coveted Circle, a website that takes all your data and puts it into one identity called TruYou, so you only have to ever remember one password. Eventually, the story builds and builds to its inevitable ending, and I have to warn you the ending isn’t so great, but the build-up is truly chilling so read it for that if nothing else.
One of my favourite ‘what-if’ scenarios is how the world suddenly ends — through disaster, plague, what have you. What do you do next? Post-apocalyptic novels are about as cosy as detective fiction, you’re in a world you can escape just by closing the book, but what fun to read about how people survive. I discovered Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It only over the past weekend, but I was hooked from the first few sentences: “Lisa is pregnant. Dad called around 11 o’clock to let us know.” Miranda is a teenager in a small American town and when we start to read her diary, everyone’s really excited about a meteor hitting the moon, and so they’re all having viewing parties and so on.
But! The meteor knocks the moon closer to earth and suddenly the world changes. There are four of these books called The Last Survivor series, all about a world where tsunamis are normal, death is everywhere, crops are failing because of the sudden volcanic activity and your whole life is suddenly rearranged. Hugely addictive for your next escapist read.
Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of six books, the latest ‘The One Who Swam With The Fishes’, is out now in bookstores ;Twitter: @reddymadhavan