Thursday, October 2, 2008

My current favorite

I love reading. I love fiction. I love a good book. And if that book is humourous, written in a simple language, has a dash of reality, a little bit of philosophy and has a riveting plot, all the better. There are a few authors that come to mind, who have the uncanny ability to mix all the attributes above. A year ago, I would have said Somerset Maugham, Jerome K Jerome, Harper Lee(though her body of work is limited to one) make the cut. But now I am ready to add another author to this list. He is a modern fiction author who has written more than 25 books, spanning 4 story series and is internationally acclaimed for The No1 Ladies' Detective Agency series(source: wikipedia). The first time I heard of Alexander McCall Smith was when one of my friends was reading this book called The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency sometime in 2006. I was curious. The name sounded like it was a childrens' book. I like reading anything that comes by, but I would not be too excited about a kids' book. I asked her how she found it, and she said she loved it. Now this girl was by no measure a poor reader. We used to routinely exchange books and I knew that she had a good(very good) taste in books. So when she said she liked the book, I borrowed it from her and very gingerly started reading. Saying I was surprised would be an understatement. I was pleasantly shocked that this book surpassed my expectations and came out with flying colours! Since then I have read almost every book by McCall Smith in the market and eagerly look forward to his new ones!

Now let me get to the point and talk about what is so special about his writing that has me hooked.
There is a story. Each one of his books has a different story. All the characters are very well profiled and you get the feeling that he has spent quite some time thinking about them. None of the characters, however small, is left without a unique personality trait and all of them have a role in advancing the story to its end. No charater is just there to fill pages or to provide the shock value! The story itself is very simple. In most series, there is a central character(or characters) who either has another person's problem to solve(No1 Ladies' series), a personal problem(sunday philosophy club series) or a larger than life ego to satisfy(Von Igelfeld series). While going about doing this, the characters experience love, pain, apathy and a myriad of human emotions and their relationships with other charaters evolve(or degenerate in some cases). All this drives the story to its intended end, which can be the most unexpected or the most mundane.
More than the end, it's the journey that overwhelmes me. It is the way emotions are woven into each story that get me everytime I pick one of his books. It is the simple language that impresses me. It is the fact that he doesn't have to use cliches, (unnecessary) graphical language, (useless) side storylines that are meant to capture the readers' extreme reactions, to sell his books that makes me so happy to read him. All the incidents in his stories are drawn from real life, with a dash of humour. I would go so far as to say that he is one of the best modern fiction writers and certainly my current favorite. Do you have any favorite authors?


  1. Glad you liked them ! I still keep waiting for the next book...over the last 3 years he has churned out books pretty fast.

  2. Yeah he has. Before I can read one he's out with the next. This happened a lot with the No1. series as well as the 44 Scotland Yard series!
    BTW are you Pr@sh@nthi?

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  4. I wrote a couple of posts a long long time ago when I was really down and will probably delete them as well. I just started reading Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth ...its been interesting so far. What are you reading presently ?

  5. Alrighty! I'm reading Espresso tales and The Appeal by John Grisham! Unaccostomed Earth is nice na.....very close to home stories!

  6. I have confused feelings about the book now...the concept is not fresh anymore with so many Indian authors writing on the same lines.


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