Reading with... Diksha Basu

photo: Mikey McCleary

Diksha Basu is a writer and occasional actor. Originally from New Delhi, India, she holds a BA in economics from Cornell University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and now divides her time between New York City and Mumbai. Her debut novel, The Windfall, is published by Crown (June 27, 2017).

On your nightstand now:

The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

The Incognito Lounge and Other Poems by Denis Johnson--I've been revisiting this since he died and every line is still electric. "Heat" is my favorite poem in this collection.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan.

Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care--I have a newborn and I like the idea of referencing books instead of Google when I have questions. But Google is so much faster and easier that I end up Googling much more often than I'd like and then promptly spiral into a pit of medical anxiety. I remember when I was growing up, my parents had a book called Where There Is No Doctor, even though there were doctors where we were. I should try to find that book--I used to love reading through it--maybe my medical anxieties started earlier than I remember.

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Enid Blyton but that's no longer considered appropriate, right? Isn't her work really racist and xenophobic? When I was a child, I just loved the Malory Towers series, but I should revisit her books now and decide whether or not I want to give them to my daughter when she's the right age.

I also loved the Russian book When Daddy Was a Little Boy by Alexander Raskin. It's out of print now, but my brother somehow found a PDF of it.

Your top five authors:

There's no way I can answer this without wanting to constantly change my answer--it's like that Friends episode in which Ross laminates the list of celebrities he could sleep with. Is it dreadful to make a Friends reference for a literary website? I apologize. Let me pick my top five authors but I wouldn't laminate this list.

P.G. Wodehouse
Sukumar Ray
Nora Ephron
Rohinton Mistry
Kent Haruf

Book you've faked reading:

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. If you're in an MFA program, it's just easier to pretend you've read it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Stoner by John Williams.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy--I bought it at a used bookshop and it has the back of a woman in a strapless gown walking down an empty street.

Book you hid from your parents:

Coffee, Tea or Me? by Donald Bain.

Book that changed your life:

A lifetime of reading but no one specific book--that's too much pressure on any one book.

Five books you'll never part with:

I split my time between New York City and Mumbai so my books are never all with me, unfortunately. But there are a few that I travel with or keep copies of in both homes:

The Most of Nora Ephron.

Abol Tabol by Sukumar Ray--it's a collection of Bengali (my mother tongue) poetry for children (but really also for adults) that was written in 1923.

Straight Man by Richard Russo.

The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Onono Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan--this is also a book I gift to people. These short poems of love, longing and sexual desire were written by two women of the Heian Court in Japan between the 9th and 11th centuries.

Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson--my tattered copy of this cookbook goes everywhere with me. Lawson is a global treasure.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Jernigan by David Gates.

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