BOOK’D: NIKESH SHUKLA

The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla made the rounds last year. It was on nearly every bookstagram account I followed at the time. I’m as you know, partial to women writers, so it takes a while to add a male author to my TBR. So far this year, I’ve only done Born A Crime and Rumaan Alam’s That Kind of Mother. Shukla’s new novel, The One Who Wrote Destiny is a generational saga, following a family as they navigate love, loss and the power of destiny.
In this interview, Shukla talks about a “criminally under-appreciated novelist”, the book he began re-reading the second he finished it and the book that made him feel better about eating. It’s not often that a BOOK’D guest mentions so many interesting sounding books that I haven’t yet heard of! This was exciting to read. Enjoy!

1. What are you currently reading? Do you usually read more than one book at a time?

I am currently reading On Michael Jackson by Margo Jefferson and Ponti by Sharlene Teo. Both are excellent.

2. Have you always been a reader? What is the first book you remember ever reading? What drew you into reading/why do you read?

I have read ever since I was a young child. The one thing my mum ensured was that we went to the library every week. And my parents didn’t really read to me so I was encouraged to read to myself as an antidote to my obsession with television. I remember reading a Batman comic in India when I was six. I read it from cover to cover so many times and then lost it before we came home.

3. What is your philosophy on reading? (for example, some people have to finish every book they start)

There’s too many books in the world to persist with a book I’m not feeling. You get fifty pages, then you get fifty more if I’m unsure.

4. How often do you read? And how do you fit it into your day?

I try and read thirty minutes before bed because otherwise my overuse of screens gives me anxiety dreams.

5. Where do you like to read? Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever read a book?

I read in bed or on the sofa or on the loo or on the bus. Once, I read a Harry Potter, standing up to my knees in the Mediterranean Sea on a hot day.

6. What makes a good book, in your opinion?

Good compelling characters you want to follow no matter what happened to them.

7. Who are your favorite authors to read?

Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith, Hari Kunzru, Niven Govinden, Nikita Lalwani, Danzy Senna, Colson Whitehead, Gary Shteyngart, Teju Cole, Katie Kitamura, Evie Wyld, Claudia Rankine.

8. What is a book or who is an author you wish more people knew about/read?

I wish more people read Niven Govinden’s work. He’s one of our best novelists and criminally under-appreciated.

9. E-book, audiobook or paper? How do you feel about making notes/highlighting books?

Paper or audiobook.

10. Fiction vs Non-fiction?

Fiction.

11. What happens to you when you read a good book? (at the beginning, during and after the experience?)

I keep reading till I have to stop.

12. Do you reread books? Why?

Not so much anymore. Having said that, I re-read Family Life by Akhil Sharma the second I finished it because I was so blown away by it.

13. What book do you wish you could experience again for the first time?

Family Life by Akhil Sharma.

14. What was the last great book you read?

I just judged the Folio Prize and the books on there are some of the best I’ve read recently.

15. If you had to choose three books that everyone should read, what would they be?

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
The Buddha Of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

16. What book(s) are you embarrassed to have read? What books are you embarrassed to still not have read?

I’m not embarrassed about anything I’ve read. I’m also not embarrassed about not really engaging with the canon of classic literature because I find it a bit tedious.

17. How do you feel about ‘classic’ literature?

It’s not for me.

18. How do you feel about book clubs?

Intense. But good for getting you out of your reading comfort zone.

19. What book(s) have remarkably changed your perspective on a given subject or life in general and how?

I feel changed by every book I read. Most recently, Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh made me feel better about eating.

20. How do you choose books to read?

Twitter recommendations, word of mouth recommendations, blog recommendations, kind publicists who send me things they think I’ll like.

21. What books are currently on your to-be- read list?

Astroturf by Matthew Sperling
Distortion by Gautam Malkani
Oreo by Fran Ross
Inner City Pressure by Dan Hancox
Heads Of The Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

NIKESH SHUKLA is a writer and social commentator. His debut novel, Coconut Unlimited, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2010 and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2011, and his second novel, Meatspace, was critically acclaimed.  He is the editor of the essay collection, The Good Immigrant, where 21 British writers of colour discuss race and immigration in the UK.

Connect with Nikesh Shukla

Twitter – @nikeshshukla