The best fiction books that make the political feel intensely personal

Who am I?

I grew up in Nepal, where politics was part and parcel of everyday life. During my childhood and teenage years, we lived under a monarchy, where the king was supreme. Yet there was always a simmering tension between what was a mildly authoritarian rule and what the people’s aspirations were. As I grew into adulthood, Nepal saw a massive uprising that ushered in a multiparty system, then later, after a bloody Maoist civil war, the overthrow of the crown. Yet, even amidst all these political upheavals, people do live quotidian lives, and the space between these two seemingly disparate things has always felt like a literary goldmine to me. 


I wrote...

Mad Country

By Samrat Upadhyay,

Book cover of Mad Country

What is my book about?

Mad Country vibrates at the edges of intersecting cultures. Journalists in Kathmandu are targeted by the government. A Nepali man studying in America drops out of school and finds himself a part of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. A White American woman moves to Nepal and changes her name. A Nepali man falls in love with a mysterious foreign Black woman. A rich kid is caught up in his own fantasies of poverty and bank robbery. In the title story, a powerful woman becomes a political prisoner, and in stark and unflinching prose we see both her world and her mind radically remade. A collection of formal inventiveness, heartbreak, and hope, it reaffirms Upadhyay’s position as one of our most important chroniclers of globalization and exile. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Remains of the Day

Samrat Upadhyay Why did I love this book?

Stevens, the butler in The Remains of the Day, is a character whose flaws make him more endearing as you continue with the novel. Fiercely loyal, Stevens is in denial that his employer, Lord Darlington, was a Nazi sympathizer, and, as starved for affection as Stevens is, he fails to acknowledge the love that his co-worker Miss Kenton extends towards him. Ishiguro, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2017, masterfully keeps the focus tightly on Stevens, allowing us to become intimate with his musings and his rationalizations, even as the narrative gradually illuminates what’s happening in the wider political world where Hitler is coming to power. 

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Remains of the Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel Klara and the Sun is now available to preorder*

The Remains of the Day won the 1989 Booker Prize and cemented Kazuo Ishiguro's place as one of the world's greatest writers. David Lodge, chairman of the judges in 1989, said, it's "a cunningly structured and beautifully paced performance". This is a haunting evocation of lost causes and lost love, and an elegy for England at a time of acute change. Ishiguro's work has been translated into more than forty languages and has sold millions of copies worldwide.

Stevens, the long-serving butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on…


Book cover of Such a Long Journey

Samrat Upadhyay Why did I love this book?

As an author from Nepal, I have learned the most from Rohinton Mistry than any other South Asian writer about how to “translate” the landscape and language of my country for an international audience. Such a Long Journey was the first novel that taught me how to integrate the social and political seamlessly into the psychological makeup of my protagonist—in an English that is uniquely local. In the novel, Gustad Noble, a devoted family man, gets snared into the deception and corruption of the government under Indira Gandhi. It’s a riveting read, and Mistry is superb with vivid descriptions. That the book was banned in certain conservative circles in India makes it even more of a gem. 

By Rohinton Mistry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Such a Long Journey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is Bombay in 1971, the year India went to war over what was to become Bangladesh. A hard-working bank clerk, Gustad Noble is a devoted family man who gradually sees his modest life unravelling. His young daughter falls ill; his promising son defies his father’s ambitions for him. He is the one reasonable voice amidst the ongoing dramas of his neighbours. One day, he receives a letter from an old friend, asking him to help in what at first seems like an heroic mission. But he soon finds himself unwittingly drawn into a dangerous network of deception. Compassionate, and…


Book cover of Jump and Other Stories

Samrat Upadhyay Why did I love this book?

While I was a graduate student of writing, I devoured every novel and story by Nadine Gordimer, whose body of work is astounding in how it combines artistic sensibility with a moral vision. Most important, Gordimer, with her unflinching and unrelenting gaze at the horror of apartheid in South Africa, taught me the value of passion in writing. Gordimer is known mostly for her novels, but her short stories are equally sharp and biting in their critique, and she uses the form’s precision to devastating effect. What is striking in Jump and Other Stories is the diversity of her characters and situations, thereby illuminating every corner of the racial injustices in her country.  

By Nadine Gordimer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jump and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fifteen thematically and geographically wide-ranging stories from the Nobel Prize Winner, with settings ranging from suburban London to Mozambique.


Book cover of The Handmaid's Tale

Samrat Upadhyay Why did I love this book?

Hulu’s production of The Handmaid’s Tale has made the television show quite popular, but to know the power of this story, I strongly recommend reading the novel. The beauty of this work is in how personal Atwood makes this dystopian tale about the control of women’s bodies that, in 2022, is alarmingly close to our own realities. Like the white blinders that restrict the protagonist Offred’s vision, Atwood’s aperture is also small, thereby tying our vision closely to that of the main character’s. This, in turn, lends an incredible amount of dynamic tension to the novel, and we truly feel the oppressive lives these subjugated women lead in their nightmarish society. 

By Margaret Atwood,

Why should I read it?

29 authors picked The Handmaid's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

** THE SUNDAY TIMES NO. 1 BESTSELLER **
**A BBC BETWEEN COVERS BIG JUBILEE READ**

Go back to where it all began with the dystopian novel behind the award-winning TV series.

'As relevant today as it was when Atwood wrote it' Guardian

I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.

Offred is a Handmaid in The Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state in what was formerly known as the United States. She is placed in the household of The Commander, Fred Waterford -…


Book cover of The Bridegroom: Stories

Samrat Upadhyay Why did I love this book?

Ha Jin is a writer close to my heart. I find his spare prose and his trenchant images extremely effective in portraying the oppression of the Chinese regime. In The Bridegroom, Ha Jin uses twelve stories to show a China in transition from a society that’s just emerged from the cultural revolution to a more modern land where Western-style chicken restaurants, with their capitalist modes of operation, disrupt the accepted order of things. The Bridegroom has everything a good story collection is supposed to have: memorable characters, interesting situations, good doses of humor, and resonant images. It’s a book I have learned much from and one repeatedly taught in my classes. 

By Ha Jin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Bridegroom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the remarkable Ha Jin, winner of the National Book Award for his celebrated novel Waiting, a collection of comical and deeply moving tales of contemporary China that are as warm and human as they are surprising, disturbing, and delightful.

In the title story, the head of security at a factory is shocked, first when the hansomest worker on the floor proposes marriage to his homely adopted daughter, and again when his new son-in-law is arrested for the "crime" of homosexuality. In "After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town," the workers at an American-style fast food franchise receive a hilarious crash…


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The Edge of Too Late

By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of The Edge of Too Late

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

What's the point of having it all when you have no one to share it with? Brandon Miller has everything—except a commitment from the woman he loves. Angela Cooper has deep scars from a previous marriage. She's not interested in a do-over with Brandon or anyone.

Yet, he arranges a romantic getaway to the historic Harbor Pointe Inn, where he plans to propose. Angela's got her camera in hand and ghosts on her mind, but they arrive to find a much more tangible horror. Accident or foul play? Angela becomes the next target, and when suspects can be worldly or otherworldly, danger and secrets lurk everywhere. Poised at the perilous edge of too late, Angela and Brandon face the fight of their lives.

The Edge of Too Late

By Jan Sikes,


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