Deepak Unnikrishnan's Critical Reads

March 21st, 2017

The below was originally posted on the Restless Books blog:

In advance of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing-winner Deepak Unnikrishnan's March 22 event at Seminary Coop, the great Chicago bookstore asked him to participate in their “Reading is Critical” series, in which they invite visiting authors to submit a selected reading list of “Critical Reading”— titles that the author finds, personally, critical. We find Deepak's list to be so essential and illuminating—not only as a background for his debut novel, Temporary People, but also as a guide to some of the most vital contemporary and classic world literature—that we're sharing it here as well. Happy reading!

It took me a while to finish Temporary People. As I wrote and rewrote the work I realized I needed to read more to get better at what I wanted my work to do. I suppose you could say in order to write I needed to read and be better informed. And occasionally, watch things, like films. The following books (and other visual mediums) have profoundly influenced the way I see the world. This list does not represent everything I adore about literature, or everything that took to make Temporary People happen. Certainly not, but all of these names have been crucial to my understanding of the written word, and what could be possible with the craft. There are other names but these will do for now. I’m grateful to them all.  —Deepak Unnikrishnan

Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee

Notes from No Man’s Land, by Eula Biss

Alphabet, by Inger Christensen

English, by Jeet Thayil

The Iraqi Christ and The Madman of Freedom Square, by Hassan Blasim

Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala

Here, by Richard McGuire

Goat Days, by Benyamin

The Beast, by Óscar Martínez

Sex: An Oral History, by Harry Maurer

The Photographer, by Didier Lefevre, Emmanuel Guibert and Frederic Lemercier

The Moon and Sixpence, by W. Somerset Maugham

One Day I Will Write About This Place, by Binyavanga Wainaina

Arabian Sands and The Marsh Arabs, by Wilfred Thesiger

Cities of Salt (Trilogy), by Abdelrahman Munif    

Night Draws Near, by Anthony Shadid

Arabesques, by Anton Shammas

The Panchatantra

The Ramayana

The Mahabharata

One Thousand and One Nights

Today I Wrote Nothing, by Daniil Kharms  

The nonfiction of V. S. Naipaul

The work of Primo Levi

The work of Joe Sacco

The work of Enid Blyton

Comics: Amar Chitra Katha

Jimmy Corrigan, by Chris Ware

The stories of Nadine Gordimer

The stories of Lydia Davis

The stories of Zora Neale Hurston

The stories of Kuzhali Manickavel

Rashomon and other Stories, by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Civilwarland in Bad Decline, by George Saunders

Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie

The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy

Bury Me Standing, by Isabel Fonseca

When Memory Dies, by A. Sivananthan

Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino

The Pig and the Skyscraper, by Marco D’eramo

City of Boys, by Beth Nugent

What You’ve Been Missing, by Janet DeSaulniers

A Seventh Man, by John Berger

The Gnomes of Gnu, The Bomb and the General, and The Three Astronauts, by Umberto Eco

Parasite Rex, by Carl Zimmer

The People of Paper, by Salvador Plascencia

This is Not a Novel, by David Markson

Workers, by Sebastiao Salgado (Photographs)

Waltz With Bashir, by Ari Folman (Documentary)

Latcho Drom, by Tony Gatlif (Documentary)

Leolo, by Jean-Claude Lauzon (Film)