The Internet Personified: Dear Minna, what shall I read next?

I did a bunch of personalised book recommendations on my Instagram and Twitter


Bet you’re pretty bored right now. It’s funny—even those of us who don’t really need to meet other people regularly, like working from home is my life, right? I just kinda… miss people. No one specific (okay, a few specific friends I haven’t seen in some time) but as we settle into the second or third week (I have lost track of time) of social distancing and self isolation and all of it, I miss random encounters. We finally told our maid yesterday to come only every alternate day, and stop coming completely if she or anyone in her family felt sick. (Don’t worry, we paid her in advance.) And we went out swiftly to buy groceries this morning—not hoarding, just buying before we completely run out—and swiftly came home, no lingering.

I’m just going to go ahead and add extra puppy gifs to this newsletter also.

Little Dog GIF by MOODMAN

All this to say why I’ve been super active on my Twitter and Instagram. I’ve been asking people to tell me the name of a book they love plus what sort of book they’re in the mood for, and giving them personalised recommendations. They’re all saved as a highlight on my Instagram stories, but I’m putting them here anyway for the non-Instagram folk and also people who prefer to have these things down on email. Comments are enabled on this newsletter, so go ahead and ask me here as well! As for me, I’m plowing through my pile of unread books, so I am extremely prepared—in that regard, at least—for entertainment during the apocalypse.

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What to read if you:

  1. Like Inheritance of Loss and are in the mood to read old letters.

    A. Epistolary novels are my jam! Haaaave you read Possession by AS Byatt? It’s a double book, very meta and dense, will keep you occupied for at least a week.

  2. Little Women! Also, I’m at home, recuperating from a stomach bug, so anything light.

    A. Feeling the four sisters vibe, but lite? Marian Keyes has a series of books about the Walsh sisters, which are funny & sad, but mostly funny. Start with Watermelon.

  3. The Sellout. Mood: anxiety, with a side-dose of more anxiety.

    A. I think you need some more Black Guy In A White Man’s World feelings. Not a guy, but plenty anxious is the heroine in Octavia Butler’s Kindred, which will have you literally biting the skin off your fingers.

  4. The Kite Runner. In the mood for something that takes me to another part of the world.

    A. Maus by Art Spiegelman has both father and son relationship feels as well as Nazi Germany.

  5. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed and also Cost of Living by Deborah Levy.

    A. If you want someone to tell you that you’re OK, you need to read Mary Oliver’s poetry. Start with New & Selected Poems and read slowly, so you have time to take in everything.

  6. The Left Hand of Darkness + mood: thrillers.

    A. Not quite a thriller, but THRILLING and also set in space is The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, which should fill that hole in your life.

  7. I love dystopian themes, (though not YA); have a hankering for horror written by women/trans people.

    A. Ummm.. Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, but I warn you, you might never sleep again, make sure you read in broad daylight and with company. (Editor’s note: I do not dare to watch the TV show, but you watch and tell me how it is.)

  8. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. Looking for a well-written murder mystery.

    A. Tana French and Kate Atkinson tie for my favourite well-written murder mystery authors. That’s The Dublin Murder Squad and the Jackson Brodie series respectively.

  9. Black literature.

    A. Maya Angelou’s autobiography is a joy and a delight. Start with I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. You’ll never forget it.

  10. Marcovaldo by Italo Calvino.

    A. My favourite linked collection of short stories/vignettes has got to be Flights by Olga Tocarczuk. So beautiful, so true.

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  11. Sexing The Cherry

    A. Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton is about DRAGONS, but like they’re in a Jane Austen novel so similar weird fantasy/history vibes.

  12. One Part Woman and some more fiction from Indian authors, preferably city-based stories.

    A. You’ve got to read Jayant Kaikini’s delicious collection of Bombay short stories called No Presents Please. I loved it.

  13. The Berlin Novels by Christopher Isherwood. In the mood for Indian historical fiction.

    A. (Editors note: I couldn’t for the life of me think of more than two or three Indian historical novels that weren’t actually mythological novels. Any thoughts?) Recent history, but A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry has all the strange relationships that Isherwood does, but also the impending doom of the Emergency going on.

  14. Adele by Leila Slimani.

    A. I believe that Lullaby is a better book so read that, if you haven’t already. (I have, it’s nuts and amazing.)If you want another sex-depravity kind of book though, you should try Tampa by Alissa Nutting.

  15. Pachinko and I’m in the mood for a nice, non-contrived, sticky love story.

    A. When you said “non-contrived love story” the first thing that leaped into my mind was Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, which I read ages ago, but which is still a love story that stayed with me.

  16. The Girl Who Ate Books. In the mood for essays rooted in India.

    A. I think you’ll like If It’s Monday, It Must Be Madurai by Srinath Perur, which combines travelogue with analysis. Also quite, quite funny!

  17. Loved The Fountainhead. Want a geo-political thriller.

    A. The Madaddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood is super, and also very topical given our current times, and very good.

  18. Your favourite books on writing and the writer’s life.

    A. Lynne Reid Banks’ fictional life of the Brontes, The Dark Quartet and also One Foot on the Ground by Shanta Gokhale.

  19. Em and the Big Hoom. Mood: psych/thriller/crime.

    A. We Need To Talk About Kevin has similar dealing-with-family-member’s-mental-health themes plus is very, very twisty.

  20. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Editor’s note: this book came up the MOST) and in the mood for something nice, warm and positive.

    A. I’m currently re-reading Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster and it is everything you are asking for, plus epistolary! (Bonus: both DLL and its sequel Dear Enemy are available for free and legal download on Gutenberg.)

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I think twenty is enough to keep you occupied for a while, though I have LOTS more people writing in and lots more recommendations, since I’ve decided to keep it as a steady feature until this coronavirus stuff lasts. So, let me know if you’d like another of these lists over the weekend, or if that’s too much for you.

What I’ve learned (publishers and book sellers take note) is that in times of crisis, most people are looking to be distracted by either MURRRDERRR or by light, fun stories that take them out of themselves. Comfort reading is as important as comfort eating and MORE important than comfort watching, because you don’t feel like such a pig after for watching twelve straight hours of Friends.

This week in publishing news:

Everything is still SUPER corona, so not much to report this week, sadly.

Penguin Random House India seems to be the first out of the gate with a coronavirus book. It’s called The Coronavirus: What You Need To Know About The Global Pandemic. Considering news is still coming in, I wonder if they’ll update the book with each new edition.

And from The New York Times, what debut authors are doing since all their booklaunches have been cancelled. On Twitter, author and friend Samit Basu said he’d help amplify authors whose events had to be put off, so don’t despair if this is you! (Samit also has a newsletter coming out soon!) Anyway, from my experience, physical events do not shift that many books.

That’s all. Please send gossip. I have none.

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Reddit Thread of the Week: Some moments in movies that made you go, “Er, that’s not how that works.”

This article is encouraging us to post more random shit on social media, and I think we should.

That’s all I got. Have a great week!



Dog Relaxing GIF by 60 Second Docs

Where am I? The Internet Personified! A mostly weekly collection of things I did/thought/read/saw that week.

Who are you?Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of seven books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. (Plus my book recommendation Instagram!)

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