The first book that I am reading in 2008…is Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale. This is one of the 4 books that I bought in 2007 after reading Pradeep Sebastian’s column ‘Endpaper’ titled ‘Of books inside books’ in The Hindu’s ‘Sunday Literary Review’ (Aug 5, 2007). I have always read Pradeep Sebastian’s column with interest…and the books he recommends or rather, mentions, are invariably different and makes for good reading. This column was about ‘bookish thrillers’ … “Books are the actual protagonists in these thrillers. Not books about books, but books inside books. In this genre, librarians, bookstore clerks, collectors, and even readers (you and I) come off looking brilliant and sexy!”
I had earlier read Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s English translation of his Spanish novel The Shadow of the Wind, belonging to the same genre and enjoyed it immensely. Readers come across the most unusual ‘cemetery of forgotten books’ in this novel, preserved and maintained by a dedicated group of book lovers and initiates. Each initiate is allowed to pick out one book from the library…and the rest…read it for yourself… This book, according to Sebastian, galvanized and expanded the boundaries of the genre and brought the genre into prominence. Pradeep Sebastian mentions 6 books in the column – Jed Rubenfeld’s The Interpretation of Murder (Freud and Jung as characters); Matthew Pearl’s The Poe Shadow (search for Auguste Dupin; and investigation into the last days and mysterious death of Poe); Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale; Michael Gruber’s The Book of Air and Shadow (hunt for an unknown Shakespeare’s manuscript); Louis Bayard’s The Pale Blue Eye (Poe himself investigates a series of Poe-like murders!!); and Sheridan Hay’s The Secret of Lost Things (discovery of hand written version of Melville’s lost book).