The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Publisher/Year: Tantor Media, 2008
What it is: A novel revolving around Balram Halwai, a successful entrepreneur who was able to establish himself even though he came from humble means. He finds work as a chauffeur for a wealthy family, which provides an enlightening peek into the servants’ world. Looking back on his journey to the top, Balram coolly recounts the cutthroat steps he took to get to where he is.
Why I listened to it: Curiosity, plus I’d like to work my way through the Booker winners.
What I thought: I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think I’d like the book at first; my mind kept wandering and it was hard for me to concentrate. After the first chapter or two, I couldn’t wait to hear what happened next. Balram is dark and sarcastic. He’s a conceited country bumpkin (or “Country-Mouse,” as he’s called) who is fiercely intelligent. He also has a mean sense of humor, and I couldn’t help rooting for him. The book basks in the greedy, caste-driven underbelly of India, and I loved every minute of it. I also thought John Lee, the audiobook narrator, did a great job.
If this book were a beverage, it would be: A cup of strong, black coffee–slowly sipped with proper etiquette, of course.
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
Publisher/Year: Anchor, 1999
What it is: A collection of strange short stories.
Why I read it: I love Aimee Bender and think short stories are her strong suit.
What I thought: Like most short story collections, some stories were stronger than others. Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I think the first story, “The Rememberer,” was my favorite. It’s about a woman whose lover is experiencing reverse evolution (I shared the fantastic first paragraph here). Another favorite of mine was “Quiet Please,” about a librarian who sleeps with every male patron in the back room of the library. It’s like Bender takes “normal” narratives, changes one or two things about them, and skews everything so that they’re off-the-wall but still strangely realistic.
If this book were a food, it would be: Chocolate chipotle gelato (which I actually have tasted): sweetly smooth taste at the beginning that tapers off into a spicy, slightly funky–but not unpleasant–lingering aftertaste at the end.