Several years ago, when I was a struggling journalist with serious aspirations to be a “real” writer, I had a part-time job in a bookshop, Central News Agency in the Carlton Centre. One or two shifts a week, or over the weekend, I worked in the newsstand/bookshop in the lobby of the Carlton Hotel.
On one occasion, a man walked into the newsstand and asked about a particular book. I told him I enjoyed it, and that it was better than the other “big hit” of the time. I did not realise that I had praised the author of a book. It was embarrassing….
Fast forward… Someone on twitter asked what books I had on my shelves that demonstrated my interests or preferences. I can’t remember which it was. I listed the authors by their names. William Dalrymple was third or fourth on the list – by the number of books. I was a bit embarrassed because William caught the tweet. Earlier, today, I went back to make sure. Indeed, by number of authors, he is in fourth place.
As explained elsewhere, I restarted my writing career three or four years ago when I stopped working full-time to try and eke out a living as a writer. It’s going… Because of my interests in Asia, especially South East Asia, in history, heritage, memory and “travel” writing, I immersed myself in William Dalrymple’s work, especially on India, because he is so exceptionally well informed, knowledgeable, a wonderful writer and he seems like just an all-round good person. I hoped (still do hope) that his work would help me get on with my own research and writing, especially, on Malaysia. And so, there are several reasons for William being third on the “most-authors” on my bookshelves. I can confirm that the following are the books by William Dalrymple I have on my shelves (and about the place). Still a bit embarrassed.
- The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company
- City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi
- From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium
- White Mughals
- Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India.
- Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan
- The Writer’s Eye
- Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond
- The Last Mughal, The Fall of a Dynasty.
The other surprise was that a former professor, who became a friend, was fifth on the list. As an avowed pacifist, I remain unsure of why I have a fascination with war… Christopher Coker would make anyone interested in the subject. On a whim, I took one of his courses at the LSE, along with classes in political economy.