A book that means a lot to you?
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. As a nine-year-old, it was the first ‘serious’ book I bought with my pocket money. I was fascinated by the mad characters and hilarious dialogue. (‘You see it takes twenty four hours,’ said Alice, ‘for the earth to turn on its axis.’ ‘Talking of axes,’ said the Duchess, ‘chop off her head.’)
Your favourite genre?
I love a good whodunnit.
Your favourite character?
Mr Biswas from Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas. He is preposterous, pompous, prickly, dyspeptic, weak and foolish. Yet Naipaul writes him with such sympathy that you can’t help but feel compassion for him. He doesn’t conquer the world but to survive in the hostile environment that he inhabits without compromising his intellectual independence, makes him a true hero.
An underrated book?
Sara Suleri’s Meatless Days is a finely wrought, deeply moving memoir of life in post-colonial Pakistan. Unlike a lot of memoirs, it isn’t the least bit smug or preachy or self-pitying. A masterclass in memoir writing.
An overrated book?
Forty-three million people would disagree with me, but The Da Vinci Code is overrated. Although like all good desis I relish a good conspiracy theory, I found it very tedious.
The book you bought last?
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos.
A book you wish you had written?
Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia.