A book a day keeps the blues away; Your lockdown reading is here
* Thousands of e-books are just a download away; many are available on discount, others, free of cost. Publishing house Juggernaut Books has made select titles available for download free on its mobile app. Read the prize-winning Early Indians by Tony Joseph or actor-writer Twinkle Khanna’s Pyjamas are Forgiving, if you are in the mood for something light. For a dose of history, you can turn to Kohinoor by William Dalrymple, or, for policy discussions to Good Economics For Hard Times by Nobel prize-winning economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo.
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* National Book Trust is also offering some of its titles for free download, as part of its initiative #StayHomeIndiaWithBooks. Over 100 books, in various Indian languages, including Ahomiya, Bangla, Guajarati, Malayalam, Odia, Marathi, Kokborok, Mizo, Bodo, Kannada, Sanskrit, can be downloaded from its website nbtindia.gov.in. Most of these are for children and young adults, but there are also classics by there Rabindranath Tagore, Premchand and others. More titles will be added soon.
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* Kolkata-based Seagull Books is offering a free book a day, available for download from its website. The first batch of seven is already out, which includes translated works of writers Banaphool, Alawiya Sobh, Florence Noiville, among others. Return to the site each Sunday for a fresh stash for the week.
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* Author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has penned the first chapter of what is to become a crowd-sourced novel — possibly an apocalyptic one, given the times — in which, Manaroma, a school teacher, wakes up to find not only her husband and children missing, but the whole city quiet. Initiated by Harper Collins India, anyone can participate in the contest and the collection of the prize-winning chapters will result in a book.
* A virtual literature festival with book readings, conversations, sneak peaks into authors’ bookshelves, masterclasses and workshops has been organised by Juggernaut Books. You can listen to actor Konkana Sen Sharma read Jhumpa Lehri’s Hell-Heaven, Shabana Azmi read the story Nanhi ki Nani by celebrated Urdu writer Ismat Chughtai or tune into a masterclass by dietician Rujuta Diwekar, who will guide people on quarantine workouts and meal plans.
* Manjul Publishing House is also organising a two-day literary fest from April 11 on their Instagram live. Watch 20 authors, including mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, on @manjulpublishinghouse.
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* The annual Jaipur Literature Festival has also announced a new series called ‘Brave New World’, in which the sprawling grounds of Diggi Palace have been replaced by the boundless possibilities of the internet, with interactions with over 40 authors including Jhumpa Lahiri, Michael Palin, Robert Macfarlane, Aanchal Malhotra, Bee Rowlatt, Edmund de Waal, Peter Carey, Roger Highfield, Tom Holland, among others. Instead of putting out videos of older sessions, the organisers decided to have “digital-specific format, a point-of-view, one-on-one, half-hour sessions, directly talking to the viewers, taking questions”. Peter Frankopanm, who argued about “the danger of a forthcoming pandemic” in a magazine article in December after the outbreak in Wuhan, will be in discussion with Pulitzer-prize winner writer and oncologist Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee; Tom Holland will be talking to Stephen Greenblatt about Roman poet-philosopher Lucretius’s warning on pandemics.
* Organised by Niyogi Books on their facebook page, many authors are doing readings of their works. Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award-winning writer E Santhosh Kumar narrated a short story from A Fistful of Mustard Seeds, which was originally written in Malayalam over two decades ago.
* Roli Books has launched their digital initiative, Roli Pulse, which will see podcasts, weekly debates and virtual book clubs. They have also been running a weekly line-up of authors speaking on various issues. This week saw activist Aruna Roy discussing the migrant exodus due to the lockdown with Chirag Thakkar, commissioning editor at Roli Books, while Sujata Assomull and fashion designer Rahul Mishra contemplated on the Indian fashion scene in the times of COVID-19.
* Watch out for Harper Collins’s virtual reading party along with ‘The Curious Reader’, a portal for booklovers, on Instagram Live. The first edition, on April 11, will be called ‘Chai Time’, and it will feature Richa S Mukherjee, author of Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt Ltd.
*Pan Macmillian has also joined the bandwagon with a ‘Reading Space’, where they will post videos and articles every Tuesday from their authors, on a range of topics — investigative stories, history, culture and travel, climate change, personality development and spiritual guidance. The first one was by Ankur Bisen, author of Wasted.
* JCB Prize for Literature has also announced a series on their Instagram called the #TheJCBPrizeCatchUp. Here, readers and aspiring writers can interact with authors and dwell upon the challenges the virus has brought to fore — isolation, loneliness and sickness and how that affects their creative process. On April 11, Mukta Sathe will talk, followed by Vivek Shanbhag on April 13, and Roshan Ali on April 15.
* Pakistani writers Fatima Bhutto and Sanam Maher are also making an effort to bring the global literary community together with a project in support of writers, publishers and booksellers affected by event cancellations and bookshop closures in this time for social distancing. ‘Stay Home, Stay Reading’ has writers from all over the world sending videos reading, in many languages, from their work and works that bring them comfort in these times. While Bhutto read from Alice Greenway’s White Ghost Girls, Irish writer Caoilinn Hughes read from her latest dark comedy The Wild Laughter, and Omar Musa read from his debut novel Here Come the Dogs.
* Penguin has come up with a line up to keep the children engaged with the online initiative called #OnceUponABookWithPenguin. Since March 30, at 6.30 pm, an author has been going live on Momspresso’s Facebook page every day to tell the kids a story. While Neha Singh’s I Need to Pee, Tazmeen Amna’s The Incredible Adventures of Mr Cheeks: The Carnival of Hastings, and Ruskin Bond’s Mukesh Starts A Zoo turned out to be really popular with children, the upcoming sessions include a reading of Let’s Do This Together by Lubaina on April 11, and Lavanya Karthik will end it with Ninja Nani on April 14. Mompresso has also collaborated with publishing house Hachette with another set of sessions at noon. On April 11, Archana Garodia Gupta and Shruti Gupta will hold an interactive history quiz.
* Meanwhile, Usha Uthup and Nandita Das, among other celebrities, have come together to sing, read and tell stories on Katha with Karadi, a website that Karadi Tales launched to entertain children during the lockdown. They have several audiobooks narrated by actors such R Madhavan, Vidya Balan, Soha Ali Khan and Jaaved Jaaferi, along with virtual storytelling sessions by actor Janaki Sabesh and authors like Natasha Sharma and Sampurna Chattarji. They have released a free e-book titled Farmer Falgu Stays at Home, written by Chitra Soundar, on the importance of social distancing, and another one titled Princess Easy Pleasy – I’m So Bored by Natasha Sharma, a story about how children can quell boredom while indoors. They are hosting daily live events on their Facebook and Instagram pages at 5.30 pm.