Sriti Jha became a household name as Pragya ever since Kumkum Bhagya went on air on Zee TV over 5 years ago. And while everyone loves Pragya on screen, Sriti has also won everyone’s hearts. Be it her small gestures for her fans or her poetry, she has always made everyone’s day a little brighter. For the uninitiated, the Kumkum Bhagya actress loves books! In fact, she can read a novel any day, anytime, anyplace. Be it at home, perched on a tree branch or even on the sets of Kumkum Bhagya, the telly town beauty will always have a book in her hand during her free time. And that’s exactly what she is up to in this phase of temporary lockdown. As she revealed, “While I am not shooting for Kumkum Bhagya due to the lockdown, I am reading a lot of novels. Good books are my zone!” And that’s why, she is recommending 21 books to choose from for the lockdown period and even beyond! She suggests:
The Passage, The Twelve and The City of Mirror by Justin Crown: The Passage Trilogy is a dystopian series of books that I absolutely love. The basic plot revolves around how a scientist while searching for the cure of cancer stumbles upon this virus. However, when he starts human trials, all hell breaks loose because people turn into vampire-like creatures and start feeding on each other. The three books capture how the planet deals with the whole situation and how the post apocalyptical world looks like! I must say, they are really emotional and pacy and really interesting to read, especially during this crazy period of lockdown.
A collection of stories by Ted Chiang: This series written by Ted Chiang is based on a probable dystopian future and as they are mostly based on science, it is really interesting to read the stories. I must say that the stories are really well written, and you will really connect well with them.
The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh: This fantastic book speaks about climate change and the part fiction literature plays in portraying it. To be honest, it is a very intriguing novel and it has a very detailed analysis of our world today and how much of it is depicted in the literature that we read. The author sheds light on how things that bother us like racism, inequality and so on get written about from time to time, but the grave danger of climate change is not seen that much as it should be in today’s day and age. It is a book that should be read and while many might feel the subject is boring, once you start reading it, you will be hooked.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: It is one of my all-time favourite novels and I have read it quite a few times. Yes, you actually feel like reading it again and again. Basically, it is a modern retelling of Sophocles’s play Antigone, but it is very relevant. It is sure to make you cry, in fact, it has made me cry so much! The novel is definitely one of the best books that you could ever read.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: If anyone had to read only one book in their entire life, it has to be this one. It really makes everyone better people! In fact, it is now available as a graphic novel and a movie based on it has been made with Gregory Peck too. But rather than seeing the movie, I would suggest you to read the novel as books are always better!
Nine Stories and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: The Catcher in The Rye is also one of my all-time favourites. The best part of this one is that it is a very easy read and it is an account of a teenage boy. While it is dark in parts, I feel that it is the best book to start if you are new to reading novels. The author’s writing is very easy to understand, as well as very contemporary and beautiful. If you don’t want to read a whole novel, you can also take up Nine Stories, which is a collection of 9 wonderful short stories written by J.D. Salinger.
Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: Murakami is one of my most loved authors and I’ve loved everything written by him till date. These three books are my favourite from his lineup. I must say that each of the novel is interesting and they all have magical-realistic things in them, which makes it very interesting to read. In fact, if you are looking for good romantic books, then you should definitely read these as they have some really great romantic elements in them. The flow is very musical and beautiful too. Also, his books are very genuine and while they were originally written in Japanese, the translations are great. However, I must add that there are serious things depicted in the books as well, including estrangement. Something that I relate to a lot is the extreme urban loneliness that we experience and the mundane-ness of our lives. I connect with the fact about how we are living in this rut of doing the same things again and again and how life loses its meaning due to that, but still there is magic in the mundane. I feel that Murakami discovers and portrays that very well.
Becoming by Michelle Obama: The novel speaks about Michelle Obama’s journey and she is someone I really look up to a lot. In fact, everyone who is a feminist would look up to her because she is brilliant. I feel this book truly helps you grow as a person. It is not only meant for girls, it is meant for everyone because it is more like a journey of a human being who comes from a normal background, just like one of us and how she goes into this huge mansion called the White House and what happens after that and what happens to her identity as Michelle, as a feminist and as a lawyer and how she deals with that! It is a really important read. In fact, this novel is available as audio books as well, that too in her own voice. So, when she mentions songs, she sings along, which really makes it an even better experience.
The Only Story by Julian Barnes: Once again, coming back to one of my favourites, this novel is the story of a relationship between a 21-year-old boy and a 50-year-old woman. It is not more of a love story, but more like a story about a shared mischief. The author uses very contemporary language and that makes it very easy to connect with. It is an intriguing novel and I really recommend reading this one!
How to Change your Mind by Michael Pollan: A special non-fiction book for me, this one is about the journey of psychedelics including LSD, mushrooms and DMT over the years. It basically chronicles the journey of these psychedelics, both socially and scientifically. In fact, the book delves into how they were discovered, how the society reacted to it and what sort of research has been going on about it up until now. I love the fact that it doesn’t blindly say that the psychedelics are not good, it is not judgmental in that sense. It even sheds light on the counter culture that LSD created during the 50s and 60s and also speaks about some amazing and very interesting people like Albert Hoffman and Amanda Feilding. It is one of the books that I keep sharing with my friends and I couldn’t recommend it enough!
Mythos by Stephen Fry: The British comedian, actor and writer, Stephen Fry has written this wonderful book about Greek Myths Retold. It is presented in a humorous tone, which I absolutely love. Also, in the book, while he speaks about the Greek Mythology, he also points out how a lot of Harry Potter names have originated from there. He even revealed how a lot of contemporary pop culture is strongly based on Greek Mythology, so you will surely relate to it and being a funny book, you will enjoy it.
Sapiens. Homo Deus and 21 lessons for the 21st century by Yuval Noah Harari: These novels are a part of a trilogy. I actually don’t have the third book, 21 lessons for the 21st century, but I want to read it. I guess you all should go beyond the lockdown phase and read these as they are really important books, especially in the current scenario. ‘Sapiens’ talks about how we (humans) got where we are, while Homo Deus talks about what could happen post that. It delves into how data is collected, how data is currency, how AI (Artificial Intelligence) is taking over most of our work and everything else that has shaped us till now and how that will in turn, shape everything around. 21 lessons for the 21st century, on the other hand, talks about a lot of things like how war affects us, how AI will affect us, how climate change will affect us and how we as people need to do! I must admit that the author is a very smart man and he has presented everything so well, that you will want to keep reading his work and keep following him as well.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: It is a story about two teenagers – Theodore Finch and Violet Market, which is bound to touch your hearts. It is very painful, but what I like about it is that it speaks about mental health so well and I feel that it is so important in such times. You can actually feel what an adolescent goes through in these times! I have to admit the book is really amazing, it is beautifully written with a lot of humour, but the pain is hard-hitting and deep and it will make you cry!
Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup: Last but by far the best, is this one… It is an absolute gem and I must say the author has created absolute magic with this one! It talks about the love and longing between humanity and the earth itself and gives us a completely different view of our beauty, our capacity to love each other as well as harm each other and our mysterious relationship with nature. I have given this book to everyone and it is like a drug that you are addicted to!
Bonus Read: The Rules of Contagion by Aadam Kucharski!
There you have it, Sriti Jha’s recommended list of books! Parting with her list, she added, “Apart from all the books I recommended, I also wish everyone checks out audio books that are available online. In fact, you can also listen to them while cleaning up your house, which most of us are doing during this 21-day lockdown. Also, on YouTube, there is a channel called Books on Toast, which has thematic episodes where they discuss various genres of books and they have very good recommendations. It is fun to watch as well because both the girls who host the show are really very funny. That was my list. Happy Reading, Happy Quarantine.”