• Tuesday, July 05, 2022

E-GUIDE

My top 10 books – Rehan Khan

Rehan Khan

By: Manju Chandran

“AS A writer of historical fiction, I’m keen to maintain a broad range of reading. My Top 10, in no particular order are…”

The Forty Rule of Love by Elif Shafak: A fictionalised tale about the poet Rumi, focusing on his meeting with his spiritual master Shams of Tabriz who arrives with his 40 Rules, such as: “East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond”.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: A documentation of a lawyer’s efforts over a number of decades to release men and women who were on death row in US penal institutions, falsely convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. I remember reading it on a flight, and was left tearful by the force of the narrative, so much so, that the passenger next to me asked me if I was okay? I simply nodded and recommended the book to him.

City of Djinns by William Dalrymple: A travelogue which captures a year he spent in Delhi, visiting the historical sites and in so doing, telling the story of this great city through a number of epochs, such as the partition of the sub-continent, the mutiny of 1857 and the Mughal period. It captures the bitter loss so many felt at being forced to leave a city their families had spent hundreds of years in.

Flowers of Algernon by Daniel Keyes: This tells the story of Charlie Gordon, a man with a low IQ of 65, who undergoes an experiment and becomes the smartest person in the world. He then realises that all the people he thought were his friends were actually making fun of him. It’s written in a diary form and as the effects of the experiment wear off, we see Charlie regress back to where he started.

The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami: A firstperson narrative by Mustafa ibn Muhammad ibn Abdussalam al-Zamori, a Moroccan slave taken by his Spanish master on an expedition to the land of Florida in the sixteenth century, around what is today Tampa Bay. Mustafa documents his journey west across the continent and how the Spanish arrive with the mindset of conquerors, regarding the indigenous people as sub-human.

World War Z by Max Brooks: The story of a zombie apocalypse, which started in China and almost wiped out humanity. It’s written as an oral history of the zombie war, by a representative of the UN, 10 years after the war ended. The sheer expanse of the novel and how the author ties together so many strands of the story across disparate geographies and keeps the story moving forward at pace, is amazing.

Mistborn – The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson: This is an epic fantasy that has incredible world building; The Final Empire is governed by the lord ruler, a tyrant who cannot be killed. Also there is a heist team, whose last job before retirement is to bring down the lord ruler, and magical elements, where different metals can boost the abilities of certain humans (some who are Mistborn, can harness all of the metals).

The Monk of Mocha by David Eggers: This book follows the exploits of fast-talking streetwise Yemini-American, Mokhtar Alkhanshali, and his quest to revive the coffee trade from the Yemini port city of Mocha, which at one point was the global centre of coffee exports. The story takes place in the backdrop of the ongoing war in Yemen. This is a must for coffee lovers and culturally fulfilling if you’re a tea lover.

The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar: It is a mystical work by a Persian poet in which the birds come together to appoint a sovereign. The wise hoopoe birds suggest they should make a journey to find the legendary Simorgh. In the poem, each bird represents a human weakness, which can be considered a metaphor for what holds people back from achieving enlightenment.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley: This for me like many was a life changer. Here was Malcolm, who came from a deprived background, but whose hard work and dedication to a cause was so intense and consuming that he was able to change the lives of so many for the good. I remember reading it at university and finishing it within a couple of sittings. A must read.

Rehan Khan, has always been intrigued by how ideas move from one civilisation to the next. Throughout his travels, what fascinates him most are narratives, myths and legends, which unite cultures, as opposed to dividing them. He is the author of A King’s Armour (2020), and A Tudor Turk (2019), which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2020. These novels have been described as Mission Impossible in the Sixteenth century. He lives in Dubai with his family. You can follow him on @rehankhanauthor

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