By Anjum Altaf
One of your colleagues sent me the following message:
Respected Sir… I would like to request that you please send out a list of books that you think are crucial for 21st century students like us to read. The reason I am asking so, is that during the holidays I would like to do something beneficial and constructive. While there are many books available on the internet and at bookshops (like Readings or Ferozsons, etc.), I wouldn’t exactly know which books are best for me. So could you please send out such a list of books as I believe that a person of your experience and knowledge would be a better judge on which books students should read. I would like to also suggest that while deciding on the books, give us books on a variety of issues, like let’s say some on religion, some on history, some autobiographies and so on.
You have no one to blame but yourselves!
Being a responsive Dean, I am going to try and oblige knowing that the last thing most of you would want to do in the summer is yet more reading. So, please feel free to ignore if you have better things to do. For me, every single one of you counts, so, for my brave correspondent, here are some thoughts:
First of all, there is a yawning generation gap between us and I haven’t yet figured out what makes most of you tick (not for lack of trying, though). So what I am reading now might be of little interest to you and what I read when I was your age might be quite outdated. The world has changed – when I was in college, we used a slide rule. Do you know what a slide rule is?
The best I can do is to take a guess at what you might enjoy. When you return, let me know how I did:
- Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Muhammad Hanif
- Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
- Qadeem Lucknow by Abdul Haleem Sharar
- Almost any book by Karen Armstrong
- A Certain Ambiguity: A Mathematical Novel by Gaurav Suri and Hartosh Singh Bal
- Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
- Urdu ki Aakhri Kitaab by Ibne Insha
- Patras ke Mazameen
- Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
Some books I read at your age that left a mark included the following:
- The Murder of Aziz Khan by Zulfikar Ghose
- Aag ka Darya by Qurratul Ain Hyder
- The Autobiography and Essays of Bertrand Russell
- Poems of TS Eliot and Oscar Wilde
- Plays by Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw
- Poetry of Ghalib, Mir, Faiz
- Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State by Frederick Engels
- The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy by Barrington Moore
- Short stories by Maupassant, Maugham
- Short stories by Manto, Ismat Chughtai, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Krishan Chander
Some books I have read more recently and appreciated:
- Husain Ahmed Madani: The Jihad for Islam and India’s Freedom by Barbara Metcalf
- Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt
- Basti by Intizar Hussain
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
- Chiraghon ka Dhuan by Intizar Husain
Take your pick. Read one or two from each list and let’s discuss when you are back.
Have a good summer. GO LUMS.
Anjum Altaf is Dean of the School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.