Diverse Reading : The JCB Prize for Literature 2020 Longlist

If you’re an incorrigible book lover who is a sucker for never ending TBRs, or a reader who is looking to read diversely, or someone who doesn’t really have the time to read, but wants to read all the important books out there, then reading the winners or longlist selections for literary awards is a really good place to start.

A little background about the JCB Prize for Literature, as referenced from their official website: This Literary Prize is awarded each year to celebrate a distinguished work of fiction by an Indian author. The Prize aims to celebrate and promote Indian writing to the global reading audience. It also makes significant awards to translators, who are able to bring exceptional contemporary writing, originally published in the colloquial language, to the global audience by translating them to English. You can read more about the award and all the shortlisted titles and the winners since 2018 on their website here. I decided to read all the Longlist selections for 2020 as part of my reading. Here are the books with a brief summary. Pick whatever catches your attention as your diverse read choice, or pick all of them to read, or pick just the winner, or pick none.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara: A story that draws on real incidents and a spate of disappearances in metropolitan India.

My Thoughts: I read this book earlier this year, and it has been one of my favorite reads of the year.

In Search of Heer by Manjul Bajaj: An age-old story of love and betrayal set on the riverbanks of West Punjab.

Undertow by Jahnavi Barua: It is Assam of the 1980’s, as deep political unrest simmers in the background the intertwined lives of a household will change forever.

Chosen Spirits by Samit Basu: This novel challenges the genre of dystopic novels with a story that has a silver lining.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed the dystopian world building in this very believable setting of a futuristic Delhi, India’s capital city. Where popularity is measured by Flows (which would be similar to Vlogging I think), and controlled by religious and political parties, who use the technology to further the divide between the rich privileged and the poor discriminated. However, the character arcs felt a little lacking and I’d want a sequel to answer a lot of the open ended questions in the book.

These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light by Dharini Bhaskar: A story of extraordinary women stuck with the choices they make , and the ones made for them.

Moustache by S. Hareesh: A contemporary classic, mixing magic, myth and metaphor into a tale of far-reaching resonance.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar: The novel holds up a mirror to the India of today with a unique voice of the marginalized.

My Thoughts: I was hit by the grim reality of the story, but I had some issues with the lack of own voice representation or feedback from the Muslim minority readers, in the book. A brilliant read, nevertheless.

A Ballad of Remittent Fever by Ashoke Mukhopadhay: A family of extraordinary physicians who battle epidemics, deadly diseases, love and loss, in the city of dichotomies that is Calcutta.

The Machine is Learning by Tanuj Solanki:  novel about twenty-first-century workplaces, love and the impact of technology in all of our lives.

Prelude to a Riot by Annie Zaidi: A tale of political unrest in a small unknown town woven together in a series of soliloquies.

As you can see, I’m yet to finish reading a lot of the longlist titles, but I’m slowly working my way through them.

Have you read any of these books? Do leave a comment on what you thought about the books, in case you’ve read them and which one would you recommend highly?

About the Writer

Prachi has a day job as a Business Analyst in IT, but dabbles at being a writer and a blogger by night. She loves reading all kinds of books but her favourite genre is Fantasy. She keeps finding herself in her parallel universes though. She is a mother to a wonderful little girl and loves to spend her free time reading, writing, dancing and travelling when she can. She currently lives and works in Pune, India. She has a BE in Telecommunications from India and an MBA from Macquarie University, Sydney and aspires to be a writer.

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