Soldier & Spice, Aditi Mathur Kumar

For Pia, regular life is a thing of the past. She is now an army wife. From “just Pia” to an aunty, a memsaab...and, her favourite words in the whole wide world, Mrs Pia Arjun Mehra.

Pia finds herself having to suddenly be more “lady-like,” focus on themed ladies’ meets, high teas and welfare functions, and deal with long (unexpected) spells of separation from her husband. She faces extraordinary challenges, a little heartache and, crucial army-life lessons. In the mysterious and grand world of army wives, Pia learns that walking in high heels is okay as long as you don’t trip on combat boots. She learns that “civil” is also a noun, that JCO and GOC are (very) different from each other, that snacks are “shown” and “WTF” is better explained as Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Yes, it really is a new world!

An Order from the Sky and Other Stories, Imayam, translated from the Tamil by Vasantha Surya

The stories in this collection describe the aspirations and agonies of the men and women living and working in small towns and villages of Tamil Nadu – all they want is to live and thrive as human beings. Winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award, Imayam, is one of the most significant Tamil writers today. He peers into the lives of these characters and observes them with rare empathy and attention. An Order from the Sky and Other Stories redefines the possibilities of Indian short fiction.

Chittacobra, Mridula Garg

In 1979, Mridula Garg released her third Hindi novel, Chittacobra, the story of an intense love affair between a young Indian woman – disconnected from her home, social milieu, marriage, and husband – and a gypsy missionary from Scotland. There was an uproar – the novel was branded obscene and the police came to arrest her. But the controversy also took this remarkably frank and sensitive exploration of love and desire to many thousands of readers. It became, and remains to this day, one of the most celebrated works of modern Hindi literature.

A Fistful of Moonlight: Stories from Assam, edited by Mitra Phukan, Arunava Sinha, Lucy Hannah

A man is so fascinated by shoes that he sees the world through the lens of footwear. A daughter’s forced death sparks generations of trauma until the family confront their curse. A young girl is liberated when she chops away her long tresses and along with them the pain of several identities. The oilfield disaster at Baghjan claims a life and a community struggles to make sense of their loss. Social taboos prevent a love match leaving emotional wounds that will last forever. A family’s future is at risk when they are forced to leave their home yet again.

A Fistful of Moonlight is a collection of 14 stories that explore love, identity, politics, fantasy, and a fresh take on an age-old fairy tale, transporting readers into the heart of contemporary writing from Assam.

Terminal 3: A Graphic Novel, Debasmita Dasgupta

It’s August 2019 and Khwab Nazir is waiting to board the plane at Terminal 3 of New Delhi International Airport. Set to represent India at an international jiu-jitsu tournament, Khwab nervously looks towards her unknown future. She also reflects on her complicated past-of growing up against the insurmountable difficulties of life in Kashmir.

Between happiness and emptiness, desire and grief, penance and peace-Khwab has endured. She has a dream that life will be a paradise, one day. Breathing against the backdrop of conflict, Terminal 3, is the story of the everyday people striving to live their dreams in the Valley.

The Last Tiger: My Favourite Animal Stories, Ruskin Bond

The Last Tiger is a collection of Ruskin Bond’s most beloved animal stories as well as a brand new work, “The Call of the Leopard,” which has never been published before. The title story introduces a wise and crafty tiger who survives every attempt on his life. “Those Three Bears,” “The Eyes of the Eagle,” and “Tigers for Dinner” describe dangerous encounters in the wild. “Guests Who Come in from the Forest,” “Panther’s Moon,” “The Leopard,” and “Song of the Forest” bring the wildlife of the Himalayas to vivid, memorable life.

Other tales in the book tell of thrilling beetle races, the schemes of a ball-chewing crocodile, and monkeys who dance on roofs. We also meet a series of eccentric pets in this book – a friendly baby elephant, a sullen cassowary, owls who grow fond of spaghetti, the mischievous yet sensitive monkey, Toto, a narcissistic python who loves his own reflection, and others.

Tears of the Dragon: An Arjun Arora Mystery, Ankush Saikia

Detective Arjun Arora feels his life is crumbling around him. His father has passed away, and he cannot forgive the corrupt police officer who sent Arjun into a coma a year back. And then, a young widow visits him and presses him to take on a new case: to investigate her husband’s mysterious death. Rohit Vats was a pharmaceutical company executive who had recently returned home to Delhi from a work trip to China. Soon after, he turned up in a seedy part of Kolkata – dead.

Was it a love affair gone wrong, geo-political intrigue, or corporate rivalry which led to Vats’ death? Arjun finds that Vats might have been looking into illegal wildlife trafficking and zoonotic diseases like SARS. Increasingly, it appears that the answer to the mystery might lie in China.

Dattapaharam: Call of the Forest, VJ James, translated from the Malayalam by Ministhy S

On the eve of Independence Day, Mahesh reads a small news item about a mysterious forest dweller who appeared in the middle of a rainforest out of nowhere and disappeared without a clue. Immediately, he recognizes the man as Freddie Robert, their friend, guide, leader and the one they had all named Yudhisthira, who had disappeared into the forest several months ago, in search of a rare new bird. Mahesh and his four friends, each named after a Pandava brother, and Panchali, or Meera, decide that the only way they can ascertain whether the man was indeed Freddie is to return to the forest and search for him.

A rumination on solitude, man’s connection with nature and the strings that attach us to this world, the novel is at times a fable on the modern world, at times a search for identity amid a quest of discovery, and an enquiry into what really makes us human.

Disclosure: Arunava Sinha is the editor of the Books and Ideas section of