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‘Honest, Gripping, Real’: Naseeruddin Shah’s Book Recommendations for Your TBR List

Naseeruddin Shah is spot on when it comes to both writing and recommending books. Here are eight literary works that have found favour in his eyes.

‘Honest, Gripping, Real’: Naseeruddin Shah’s Book Recommendations for Your TBR List

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These recommendations have been curated from various interviews given by Naseeruddin Shah. 

Naseeruddin Shah, a seasoned actor, needs no further introduction. Touted as one of the most visible faces of parallel cinema in India he has found acclaim both in the country and on foreign shores. With nuanced performances that began with his debut film in 1967, Shah has managed to amaze the audience time and time again. 

But as it turns out, being an actor is not his only prowess. When he wrote his memoir, ‘And Then One Day’ at the age of 64, readers called it “poignant”, “honest” and a “memorable piece of work”. 

One thing is certain — whether it is writing books or reading them, one can’t deny Shah has style. 

Here’s a look at his top literary picks. 

1. Loitering With Intent: The Child 

Loitering With Intent by Peter O'Toole
Loitering With Intent by Peter O’Toole, Picture source: Amazon

The book is the first of two in the series by Peter O’Toole, where he goes back in time to explore his childhood as the son of a bookmaker in a bleak industrial slum in England during World War II. This phase of life, he shares, was largely inspired by Hitler and his policies, and the narrative explores Peter’s stints as a journalist and sailor. Shah mentions this autobiography as one of his favourite books in an interview with Chalchitra Talks

Buy the book here

2. The Original Sin 

The Original Sin by Anthony Quinn
The Original Sin by Anthony Quinn, Picture source: Amazon

In response to a question about his favourite autobiographies in an interview with Chalchitra Talks, Shah says he stays away from those that border on “self-glorification”. However, he mentions being greatly affected by Anthony Quinn’s autobiography ‘The Original Sin’, in which the honest style of writing was the main draw. The memoir traces the Mexican actor’s journey from his childhood until his big break into the movies. 

Buy the book here

3. Autobiography 

Autobiography by Neville Cardus
Autobiography by Neville Cardus, Picture source: Amazon

The book authored by Neville Cardus in 1947 was described by English novelist J B Priestley as “one of the best pieces of writing that ever found a way to our Book Society”. 

In a panel discussion for Tata Literature Live, Shah expresses his love for the literary work, calling it “beautiful”. Hailed as one of England’s greatest journalists, Cardus often wrote on cricket and music, both subjects close to his heart. 

Buy the book here

4. Ball of Fire 

Ball of Fire by Fred Trueman
Ball of Fire by Fred Trueman, Picture source: Amazon

Shah mentioned English cricketer Fred Trueman’s autobiography as another one of his “close favourites” while speaking about cricket and literary works that have done justice to the game. In this brilliant recall of his life story, Trueman speaks of his rise to the peak of his game along with the challenges and the thrill sports brings into one’s life. 

Buy the book here

5. There’s Gunpowder in the Air 

There's Gunpowder in the Air
There’s Gunpowder in the Air, Picture source: Amazon

The book chronicles the journey of five Naxals who had been rendered powerless by the authorities and thrown into jails, where they plotted and planned an escape route in the background of the Naxalbari Uprising in West Bengal in 1967. It was one of the first uprisings of its kind directed at the feudal lords and the unjust policies. This book authored by Manoranjan Byapari in the year 2018 was featured as one of Shah’s recommendations by the Oxford Bookstore

Buy the book here

6. The Arsonist 

The Arsonist by Kiran Nagarkar
The Arsonist by Kiran Nagarkar, Picture source: Amazon

In this book, author Kiran Nagarkar holds a mirror to the evils that plague our societies. The book takes readers on a quest to make sense of the caste system, the essence of religion, the irony of people ignoring the homeless but insisting on donating to futile causes, and more through Kabir, a 15th-century mystic and saint. This book was another of Shah’s recommendations featured in a list by the Oxford Bookstore.

Buy the book here

7. Jonathan Livingston Seagull 

Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Picture source: Amazon

In an interview with Humans of Bombay, Shah revealed that if he had to name a character from a book who really inspired him, it would be Jonathan Livingston Seagull. 

The allegorical fable tells the story from the seagull’s lens while drawing parallels with human nature. Determined to escape the conventionality of his seabird life, Jonathan Livingston Seagull attempts to try everything he can to push his boundaries.

Buy the book here

8. Charles Dickens 

Charles Dickens by Simon Callow
Charles Dickens by Simon Callow, Picture source: Amazon

There’s no denying that David Copperfield and Oliver Twist, with their many antics and quirks, were a big part of our childhood. Their creator Charles Dickens was an extraordinary writer, to say the least. These stories about him, and his life, feature in this biography by actor and writer, Simon Callow. What went into giving generations of children such fascinating stories? Find out.  Shah mentioned the book in a recommendations list put out by Oxford Bookstore. 

Buy the book here

Edited by Padmashree Pande

Naseeruddin Shah’s Recommendations by Chalchitra Talks. 
An unreasonable love by Meenal Baghel, Published on 7 September 2014. 
Book Review: Loitering With Intent — The Child by Peter O’Toole by Charlotte Clark, Published on 15 March. 
Recommendations by Naseeruddin Shah by Oxford Bookstore.
The Arsonist book review: A much-needed rebel for our times by New Indian Express, Published on 23 July 2019. 

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