NEW DELHI: The Indian literary scene was abuzz with activities in 2015 with works of several big-ticket authors rolled out and a number of festivals organised among other things but writers returning their awards in protest against growing intolerance made maximum headlines.
The year saw numerous autobiographies and biographies, and books related to business, commercial and mass market fiction, besides literary fiction, sports, self help, chik-lit and culinary works. There were a number of works by new and little-known authors too.
2015 began with the mega annual event - the Jaipur Literature Festival where Nobel winner V S Naipaul, American travel writer Paul Theroux, Amit Chaudhuri, Pakistan's Hanif Kureishi, Man Book Prize winner Eleanor Catton and Bailey's Prize winner Eimear McBride were among scores of invited guests.
A number of other festivals followed with one in Kumaon claiming to be the first annual retreat literary festival in the country.
But more than 35 authors giving up their Sahitya Akademi awards and five others relinquishing their posts in the literary body against "rising intolerance" saw a new wave of protest. Their action earned the support of celebrated authors like Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth. PEN International, the world's leading association of writers working to promote literature and defend freedom of expression, also stood in solidarity with the Indian authors.
Otherwise, it was a hectic year for publishers.
According to Karthika V K, Publisher of HarperCollins India, 2015 was a "hugely satisfying year for us in terms of the books we published, the many awards and shortlists, and even a publisher of the year award."
For Penguin Random House, 2015 was a "very strong year with more bestsellers than ever before."
"On the literary fiction list the standout was the culmination of Amitav Ghosh's epic Ibis Trilogy with the publication of 'Flood of Fire,'" says Caroline Newbury, VP Marketing and Corporate Communications of Penguin Random House.
"This year has also been gratifying in seeing international acclaim for a number of our authors. Amitav Ghosh was shortlisted for the Man Booker International, Akhil Sharma's 'Family Life' won the Folio Prize and Neel Mukherjee's 'The Lives of Others' took the Encore Award for Second Novel," Newbury told PTI.
"It was wonderful to see Jhumpa Lahiri's 'The Lowland' win the DSC Prize, Samanth Subramanian win the Crossword Award for 'This Divided Island' (as well as being shortlisted for the hugely prestigious Samuel Johnson Award) and Mihir Sharma's 'Restart' was longlisted for the FT McKinsey Business Book of the Year before taking the Tata Lit Live Business Book of the Year award jointly with TT Ram Mohan's 'Rethinc'," she says.
The launch of Khurshid Kasuri's comprehensive account of his time as Pakistani Foreign Minister, "Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove" in Mumbai in October saw high drama. Shiv Sainiks smeared the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman of Observer Research Foundation's Mumbai chapter, with ink over him hosting the launch of the book. But the organisers went ahead with the launch.
A number of memoirs were also released with former RAW chief A S Dulat's "Kashmir - The Vajpayee Years," NCP boss Sharad Pawar's "On My Terms," Congress leader M L Footedar's "Chinar Leaves" and Sam Pitroda's "Dreaming Big" being few of them.
The year also saw a number of books written by A P J Abdul Kalam with his aide Srijan Pal Singh. A few of these were published after Kalam's death in July.
"Our non-fiction spanned topics and saw the emergence of some interesting new names with a number of acclaimed journalists and columnists releasing first books: Coomi Kapoor's 'The Emergency;' Nisid Hajari's 'Midnight's Furies;' ex-Delhi top cop Neeraj Kumar's 'Dial D for Don;' and Twinkle Khanna's bestselling and completely brilliant 'Mrs Funnybones,'" says Newbury.
Some of HarperCollins' 2015 pick are Raghu Karnad's "Farthest Field" which won the First Book Award (Non-Fiction) at Tata Lit life; Akshaya Mukul's "Gita Press;" "RIP" by Kiran Nagar; "Until the Lions" and "Ivory Throne" by Karthika Nair; Pakistani author Intizar Husain's "The Sea Lies Ahead;" "Gaata Rahe Mera Dil" by Anirudha Bhattacharjee; and "Advantage India" by Kalam and Srijan.
Roli Books says 2015 was an incredible year.
"We started out in January with a blockbuster – 'The Red Sari' by Javier Moro. This was a much- awaited book as we had tried to publish on earlier occasions but were unable to do so because of the political situation at the time.
"Other notable releases were a family cookbook of Zarine Khan – 'Family Secrets: The Khan Family Cookbook;' General Shergill and Capt Amarinder Singh's book on the 1965 India Pakistan War – 'The Monsoon War: Young Officers Reminisce 1965 India-Pakistan War.' We end the year with a stunning art book – 'Sita Ram: Picturesque Views of India' (Lord Hastings' Journey from Calcutta to the Punjab, 1814-15) by J.P. Losty," says Pramod Kapoor, publisher of Roli Books.
According to Bhaskar Roy, CEO of New Delhi-based Palimpsest Publishing House, the publishing canvas in 2015 was dominated by great non-fiction titles.
"Palimpsest opened the year with an elegant collection of essays edited by senior journalist Dilip Bobb – 'The Best of TEL'. A while later we brought out the year's most talked-about book, Mani Shankar Aiyar's 'Achhe Din? Ha! Ha!!'
And to end the year we discovered a new writer. Neeru Iyer's 'Of Bridges Among Us,' a collection of short fiction, is a work of great promise," Roy says. 2015 also marked new entrant Speaking Tiger's first year in publishing.
"We are proud to have published fiction such as Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar's 'The Adivasi Will Not Dance,' Chetan Raj Shreshtha's 'The Light of His Clan,' Stuart Blackburn's 'Into the Hidden Valley' and Indu Balachandran's 'Runaway Writers,'" says Speaking Tiger co-founder Manas Saikia.
"Our non-fiction titles include powerful autobiographies - Jerry Pinto's translation of Daya Pawar's 'Baluta' and Sharad Pawar's 'On My Terms;' essential critical works on India such as Harsh Mander's 'Looking Away' and 'Nehru's India' edited by Nayantara Sahgal; and Ruskin Bond's 'A Book of Simple Living' and 'Friends in Wild Places.' Our new series, the Ruskin Bond Selections, brought three long-forgotten titles – 'Rungli-Rungliot,' 'The Valley of Flowers' and 'East of Suez' - back to life," he says.
Pan Macmillan Publisher Diya Kar Hazra describes 2015 as a glorious year and a year of prizes.
"We won Publisher of the Year at the Bookseller Industry Awards and three of the six on the Booker shortlist were ours. Among our major acquisitions were Don DeLillo's 'Zero K' and Oprah Winfrey's inspirational memoir ('The Life You Want'), an outstanding novel by prize-winning Pakistani author Khalid Akhtar ('Love in Chaiwara and other Misadventures') and an unputdownable thriller 'Mohenjodaro' by Maha Khan Phillips," she says.
"2015 has been an important year for Pan Mac India in our endeavour to build and grow our lists, with the appointment of a publisher (Hazra). On the international front we further strengthened our distribution network with the representations of Oneworld, the prize-winning independent publisher, Wiley (one of the foremost academic publishers in the world) and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (a leading US trade publisher of brands like Betty Crocker and Curious George)," adds MD Rajdeep Mukherjee.
According to Sugata Ghosh, Director (Global Academic Publishing), Oxford University Press India, "2015 started on an excellent note for the Academic Division with the success of 'Me Hijra, Me Laxmi,' and Jairam Ramesh's 'Green Signals: Ecology, Growth and Democracy in India.' This was followed by the publication of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen's 'The Country of First Boys' later in the year."
OUP books and authors also won many prestigious awards through the year including the 2015 Joseph W. Elder Prize in Indian Social Sciences for Bhrigupati Singh's "Poverty and the Quest for Life: Spiritual and Material Striving in Rural India;" the 2015 John F. Richards Prize for South Asian History for "Power, Memory, Architecture: Contested Sites on India's Deccan Plateau, 1300-1600" by Richard M. Eaton and
Phillip B. Wagoner and the Srikant Dutt Book Award by NMML for "Forgotten Friends: Monks, Marriages, and Memories of Northeast India" by Indrani Chatterjee, he says.