Could popular books end up opening up the market for literary authors? Amitav Ghosh thinks it may well do so. “Popular literature on the whole is so shallow that people are turning to serious books.” It would certainly seem so from the fact that Amitav Ghosh’s latest, River of Smoke, soared to the top of the bestseller lists within days of its release. It’s hardly easy to read, as he himself candidly admits. Nor is it the kind of book popular writers claim readers now want: about the here-and-now, about people like themselves and not “the miseries of the Raj”, as one bestselling author described it.
And the enthusiastic crowds that turned up at each of his book events, the questions they asked, clearly indicates that there’s a growing readership for books like his. “They want to read, learn from it, and for me, it feels like a privilege.”