10 Contemporary Authors I Enjoy Reading

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I am a bit of an old soul. Though I may be physically present in the now, my mind flitters off away into bygone eras- the heyday of the 1920’s, the Depression of the 1930’s or the tumultuous times of the Great and Second World Wars. I wonder what it must have been like to live in the Regency, Victorian or Edwardian periods or in Imperial Russia.  If only I could travel back in time armed with a  package of antibiotics and an iPad!

It is quite natural that my reading should be centered on mostly writing from these periods and genres.  That is not to say that I do not enjoy a few contemporary authors and I hope to build on that list in the following years. Ironically, most of these authors write of bygone eras or have an old-fashioned way with words.

Here in no particular order are a few of my most read, contemporary authors:

1) Alexander McCall Smith:

McCall Smith is perhaps my most beloved contemporary author. I’ve enjoyed delving into both his Isabel Dalhousie series and 44 Scotland Street series, both set in Edinburgh. I’ve also enjoyed the simple stories of the Mme Ramotswe set in Africa. His stories have a simple charm, offer great minute details into daily life and a dry humour. He reminds me of a male Barbara Pym or a modern day PG Wodehouse.

2) Kate Atkinson:

I read Atkinson’s ‘Life after Life’ which was a stunning novel written in an unusual format telling of an individual’s experience of the second World War. There was great depth to the historical detail provided by Atkinson’s storytelling. I cannot wait to read more.

3) Jacqueline Winspear:

If you like the ‘cozy mystery’ genre and if you enjoy historical fiction, then Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series is for you. I appreciate Winspear’s great attention to historical detail and exacting prose. She has an eye for documenting the minutia of everyday life.

4)Peter Mayle:

There are a number of books describing expat life in the South of France, but few do so as evocatively as Peter Mayle. All the sights, sounds and flavours of Provençal life are embodied in his sunny, descriptive prose.

5) Paula McLain:

I greatly enjoyed McLain’s novel .’The Paris Wife’, providing a fictional (yet quite believable) account of Hemingway’s life in Paris from the perspective of his first wife Hadley. The narrative is smooth and free flowing and very engaging.

6) PD James:

I remember being quite absorbed with PD James’ Cordelia Grey mystery, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. Though decidedly gritty, it was one of those mystery/thrillers that you really cannot put down.

7) Colin Dexter:

Dexter weaves a wonderful web of mystery and history on the streets of Oxford in his Inspector Morse series. They are fast, intelligent and absorbing reads.

8) Helen Fielding:

I grew up reading Fielding’s entertaining ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’. I have a great love for the epistolary format of storytelling and Fielding’s depiction of a modern day ‘Pride and Prejudice’ scenario is both refreshing and extremely funny.

9) JK Rowling:

Where would we be without the magical world Rowling has created in her Harry Potter novels? Just as I grew up with the magic of Enid Blyton and CS Lewis’s stories, many generations of children have already grown up with the comfort of the mystical realm of these fantasy novels.

10) Vikram Seth:

I do believe that Seth’s magnum opus ‘A Suitable Boy’ will be a classic that will be remembered and loved many years from now. Not only is his prose lovely, the scope of his novel is quite breathtaking and true to the narrow slice of historical time he has depicted in post- Independence India.

An Equal Music is another favourite book of mine.

Other authors I wish to read soon are  Donna Tartt, Murakami, Adichie and many others.

Tell me, who your favourite authors are, who are living in the present day and age?

Introducing #bookmatchartwork – the pairing of a unifying theme in literature and art

Today I am posting about two things I am very passionate about- books and paintings. So by incorporating a hashtag #bookmatchartwork I will be trying to pair two otherwise unrelated creative bodies of work. This Instagram post befriends Peter Mayle with Van Gogh- in the beautiful location of sunny Provence.

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Do you hear the word 'Provence' and immediately think of purple lavender fields, succulent grapes bursting off their vines, weekend summer markets and long, balmy evenings, languorously eating cheese and sipping red wine? There is no need to exert the imagination when you have Peter Mayle's 'A Year in Provence' at hand. Through his lively, year long diary, we glimpse a vision of Provençal beauty that exceeds our imaginative expectations. (This book made it to my top 10 books list of 2015 on my blog). To add to that, we have the beauty of two of Van Gogh's most famous paintings: The Starry Night and Wheat Field with Cypresses. Both were painted during Van Gogh's stay at the asylum in Saint- Rémy-de-Provence. A key feature common to these paintings are the diagonal line created by the low rolling hills of the distant Alpilles mountains. Don't you love it when a book or a piece of art takes you to a faraway place? I'm creating a tag called #bookmatchartwork . If you would like to pair a book that you think thematically or visually matches a work of art please use it. I am tagging a few friends who I think might be interested in doing this tag. If you are interested in art and books I tag you!

A post shared by Arpita Bhattacharya (@bagfullofbooks) on

Eight Books that Remind Me of Summer

Summer is receding into Autumn here in the north east corner of North America. Soon summer will be a warm fuzzy memory that one can wistfully think about when there is five feet of snow piled high on the ground. There are certain books that remind me of summer. They are not always set in the height of that particular season but they are often easy to read stories that make me relax, feel good and smile in equal measure. For me, summer is not only a season, it’s a state of mind…

Here in no particular order are eight books that remind me of summer.

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1) My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell- This is the sun-drenched account of a young boy’s encounters with the natural life of the Greek Isle of Corfu. What makes these memoirs eminently readable are the hilarious descriptions of Durrell’s family. Be prepared to laugh aloud with every turned page.

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2) Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome- written in a time when young English children returned from boarding school to spend summer holidays sailing around the serene water bodies of the English Lake District. There is a charm and innocence and way of living captured in these children’s books which is magically locked in time.

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3) A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle- alright, technically this is not a summer specific book. However, the location plays the most important part in this ‘year in the life’ narrative and when I think of Provence I immediately think of sunshine, good wine and summer markets. The language is lovely, descriptive and yet easy to read. After you’ve read the book you feel as if you have taken a good long holiday without having moved a physical step.

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4) Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie- this is not the kind of book that will give you a warm fuzzy feeling, being interlaced with murders, but it does have all the ingredients for a tremendous beach read. Set in a English seaside resort in Southern England the plot is brilliant and you have none other than the esteemable Hercule Poirot to help you along with your sleuthing.

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5)An Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim- Four English women, due to their own individual reasons, escape their dreary life in London to spend a month in a rented Italian castle. The warmth and beauty of the location strikes a change in each of these women. They find themselves embracing circumstances and causes they had long given up on…

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6)Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons- this is a feel good Cinderella-esque love story set in 1930s rural Essex. What sets it apart from any other frothy romance is Gibbon’s exceptionally witty writing style, her simultaneous interweaving of several plots and her sometimes very profound observations about life.

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7)The Darling Buds of May by HE Bates- this book is just ‘perfick’ to read in the summer if you should choose to use Pop Larkin’s (the protagonist of the book) favorite adjective. A young tax collector comes to Pop Larkin’s Essex farm for an audit only to find himself totally carried away by the love, laughter and excesses of the Larkin family. He falls in love with Mariette, the eldest Larkin daughter, Ma Larkin’s cooking and also Pop Larkin’s philosophy of living life to the lees. The descriptions of nature, summer and especially food make this an exceptional book.

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8) Something Fresh by PG Wodehouse- to end our summer feast of stories we have some of the eccentricities of Blanding’s Castle for you. The absurdities of the English aristocracy, unlikely situations, unusual characters like Lord Emsworth and his large household and the series of misadventures that assault you will have you alternatively laughing and cringing. Wodehouse as always is at his ascerbic best.