Auther Awards 2024 Shortlisted Books to Read

The AutHer Awards 2024 unveiled its Shortlists, spotlighting exceptional female talents across Fiction, Non-Fiction, Children’s Literature, and Debut categories. The esteemed Times of India saw an influx of more than 2000 submissions for this distinguished accolade, honoring women authors whose contributions enrich and invigorate the realm of literature. Explore further insights here.

A distinguished panel of judges unveiled the coveted Shortlists for the AutHer Awards 2024, honoring outstanding women authors across Fiction, Non-Fiction, Children’s Literature, and Debut categories. The entries, exceeding 2000 in number, poured in from publishers and individual writers, vying for recognition in this pioneering Indian literary accolade. The AutHer Awards, a groundbreaking initiative, is a collaborative effort between JK Paper and The Times of India.

The AutHer Awards 2024 shines a spotlight on women writers who have enriched the literary landscape with their valuable contributions and inventive storytelling. Examining works by female authors released in India from December 2022 to November 2023, the panel selected a diverse array of titles across different genres.

The AutHer Awards 2024 brought together a diverse panel of judges across various categories:

  • Fiction: Anuja Chauhan, Pallavi Aiyar, Satyarth Nayak
  • Non-Fiction: Vikas Swarup, Parvati Sharma, Upinder Singh
  • Children’s Literature: Preeti Vyas, Christopher Doyle, Kevin Missal
  • Debut: Tisca Chopra, Shipra Khanna, Nikesh Murali

Discussing the selection process for the AutHer Awards 2024 shortlist, Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, the Literary Director, expressed, “Condensing an immense reservoir of talent into a concise list is no small feat. Yet, the jurors tackled this challenge with commendable grace.

Consequently, the AutHer Awards 2024 exhibit an exquisite array of talent. Despite ongoing discussions surrounding the influence of AI and digital tools on creative industries, these shortlisted authors encompass diverse narrative styles, underscoring the resilience of the Indian publishing landscape.”

The winners of the AutHer Awards 2024 will be revealed at a grand ceremony in New Delhi on March 17, 2024. Cash prizes will be bestowed upon the victors in all four categories, alongside a Lifetime Achievement Award honoring a female author for her enduring contributions to literature. Additionally, the event will unveil the recipient of the Best Manuscript award. Furthermore, the Popular Choice Award, determined through online voting, will also be announced.

Below, discover the talented authors and their captivating books that have earned a coveted spot on the AutHer Awards 2024 Shortlist.

Category: Fiction

History's Angel by Anjum Hasan

1. History’s Angel by Anjum Hasan

In the midst of contemporary Delhi, during a period where perceptions of Muslims oscillate between victimhood and menace, resides Alif—a middle-aged, unassuming history instructor with an abiding passion for the past he imparts. However, the present weighs heavily upon him: his spouse clamors for an upgrade in residence and transportation, engrossed in acing her MBA exams; his adolescent son harbors dreams of abandoning education for quick wealth; his disdainful colleagues eye his discourses with suspicion; and an old chum, Ganesh, resurfaces with a rekindled romance that once captivated Alif. Then, the unthinkable unfolds. During a school excursion led by Alif, a student provokes him, prompting an impulsive reaction as Alif twists the student’s ear in anger. Suddenly, Alif’s livelihood hangs in the balance, his life hurtling toward chaos. Concurrently, his beloved city plunges into gloom beneath the encroaching specter of violence. Within the pages of this darkly comedic, keenly observed, and profoundly poignant narrative, Anjum Hasan delicately navigates the impact and repercussions of preserving one’s cultural history amidst an increasingly apathetic environment.

Mad Sisters of ESI by Tashan Mehta

2. Mad Sisters of ESI by Tashan Mehta

In the cosmic expanse of the whale of babel, Myung and Laleh assume their roles as guardians, enmeshed in its ethereal confines, venerating the mysterious ‘Great Wisa’ through fervent prayers while spinning their tales. While Laleh finds contentment within this realm, Myung’s spirit yearns for broader horizons. Her departure propels her into a universe defined by shifting islands and ancient maps, embarking on a journey that transforms both herself and Laleh. At the heart of her quest lies the enigmatic mystery of the mad sisters of Esi, shrouded in generations of scholarly speculation. Through Tashan Mehta’s narrative, fables, dreams, and myths coalesce into a tapestry of fantastical proportions, spanning three distinct landscapes adorned with a collective repository of memories and a carnival of madness. Ultimately, the narrative poses a profound inquiry: Amidst the ever-changing chaos of reality, where truth is elusive, what will one choose to grasp onto?

The East Indian by Brinda Charry
The East Indian by Brinda Charry

3. The East Indian by Brinda Charry

Discover Tony, the pioneering Indian immigrant to tread upon American shores, in this gripping tale, hailed as a standout summer read by The New York Times in 2023. Amidst the diverse tapestry of settlers, slaves, and indentured servants navigating the perilous voyage across the Atlantic to the New World during the early 1600s, Tony emerges as a singular figure. Born in the trading hub of the Coromandel Coast in India, his journey takes a tumultuous turn when, as a destitute teenager, he is forcibly taken from the streets of London and thrust into servitude on a Virginia plantation. Refusing to relinquish his aspirations, Tony’s resilience shines through. Despite enduring the cruelty of a tyrannical plantation master, he forges a poignant connection with a young boy who haunts his nightmares. As he embarks on exploratory expeditions alongside traders and encounters Native American cultures, Tony’s worldview expands, revealing the boundless mysteries of the world. In the bustling settlement of Jamestown, Tony seizes an opportunity to pursue his long-held ambition, securing a coveted position as an apprentice to a physician. The narrative unfolds in a Dickensian fashion, weaving together themes of family, friendship, and self-discovery against the backdrop of a burgeoning new world. Experience the rich tapestry of Tony’s journey in “The East Indian,” a captivating narrative that delves into the depths of the human spirit and the enduring quest for identity amidst the seeds of a new era.

The Laughter by Sonora Jha

4. The Laughter by Sonora Jha

Dr. Oliver Harding, a divorced and aging academic, has settled into the rhythms of his quiet life. However, everything changed when Ruhaba Khan, a dynamic law professor from Pakistan, joined his colleagues. Ruhaba’s presence unexpectedly rekindles Oliver’s dormant passions, leading to a secret desire that swiftly evolves into obsession when her teenage nephew comes to stay with her. As Oliver grapples with his discomfort regarding their backgrounds, he also struggles to come to terms with the significant changes they bring—both symbolically and through Ruhaba’s active involvement in student movements on campus. Amidst protests demanding diversity within the university, Oliver finds himself and his beliefs challenged, while his complex past comes to light, painting a more intricate picture than initially apparent. As Ruhaba appears to drift in and out of his grasp, Oliver’s reactions become increasingly shocking and devastating. Sonora Jha skillfully crafts a multifaceted character in Oliver, who is both attuned to and out of sync with his era—a man whose actions first evoke sympathy and then prompt interrogation. As the narrative builds towards its startling conclusion, Jha prompts readers to revisit earlier scenes from a fresh perspective, uncovering hidden depths of loneliness, the nuanced nature of innocence, and the looming threat of white rage in America. “The Laughter” emerges as an explosive and tense exploration of privilege, radicalization, class, and contemporary academia, compelling us to reevaluate our assumptions as both readers and citizens.

Category: Non-Fiction

From Phansi Yard: My Year with the Women of Yerawada by Sudha Bharadwaj

1. From Phansi Yard: My Year with the Women of Yerawada by Sudha Bharadwaj

Within the confines of Yerawada Jail in Pune, diverse actions unfold: prisoners engage in prayer, weep silently, or bury themselves in labor. Amidst these scenes, Sudha Bharadwaj, peering from behind her cell’s bars, chooses to write. Her chronicle offers a remarkably detailed insight into the lives of female inmates, penned during her own tenure within the high-security Phansi Yard from November 2018 to February 2020. Navigating through the rhythms of incarceration, Bharadwaj paints vivid portraits of her companions, their offspring, and even their animal companions. She muses on the quirks of prison life—be it absurd regulations, entrenched caste dynamics, sustenance, conflicts, or companionships—while lamenting the absence of legal recourse for the most vulnerable among them. Despite the harshness she witnesses, Bharadwaj’s narrative doesn’t descend into despair. Rather, it exudes warmth, empathy, and a mischievous wit. It stands as a homage to the resilience of the women who, as Bharadwaj attests, teach her “every single day” the art of enduring injustice, nurturing hope, and finding joy amidst adversity, even within the confines of incarceration.

Raw Umber: A Memoir by Sara Rai

2. Raw Umber: A Memoir by Sara Rai

Discover the year’s most expansive literary memoir.
Raw Umber intertwines autobiographical reflections with Sara Rai’s nostalgic journey through 1960s childhood, delving into the essence of recollection and its profound influence on a writer’s perspective. Delicately capturing the unconscious murmurs of memory and the rhythms of life in serene locales like Allahabad and Banaras, Rai illuminates the formative years that nurture a writer’s imagination. With the spectral presence of her grandfather Premchand and a lineage teeming with literary talent, Rai’s narrative effortlessly traces her evolution into a wordsmith. Within these pages, familial characters spring to life, painting a vivid tableau of India’s literary heritage as seen through the lens of Rai’s youth. Through her unique lens, Rai delicately weaves together the strands of her family’s story, crafting a memoir that resonates with both tenderness and beauty.

The Broken Script by Swapna Liddle

3. The Broken Script by Swapna Liddle

As the nineteenth century began, Delhi still held a Mughal emperor, though the once-mighty empire had faded, replaced by the British East India Company, which took control in 1803. In her seminal work, Swapna Liddle explores this pivotal era, dubbed the ‘hybrid half-century,’ where Mughal and British influences converged, reshaping Delhi’s trajectory. “The Broken Script” intricately portrays the struggle between the fading Mughals and the rising East India Company, while also detailing the lives of Delhi’s inhabitants—from renowned figures like Ghalib to lesser-known individuals. Liddle examines the diverse social strata, shedding light on economic, social, and cultural shifts over six decades, including Urdu poetry’s heyday, Delhi College’s innovative educational model, and the rise of Urdu journalism. However, the upheaval of the 1857 Revolt disrupted this progress. Through a nuanced analysis, Liddle challenges simplistic narratives, chronicling both Delhi’s devastation and its inhabitants’ resilience. “The Broken Script” masterfully blends meticulous research with captivating storytelling, offering a compelling narrative of Delhi’s transition and early modern India—a scholarly work bound to captivate readers and inspire discussion.

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Category: Children’s

A Children's History of India in 100 Objects by Devika Cariapa

1. A Children’s History of India in 100 Objects by Devika Cariapa

In an eclectic assemblage, a primal hand axe, a captivatingly sculpted yakshi, the fabled Koh-i-Noor diamond, and even a modest HMT watch—what could possibly unite these diverse relics? Remarkably, they share a common lineage! Each springs forth from the ingenuity of human cognition and the finesse of human artistry, resonating not only with the legacies of rulers and conquerors but also echoing the stories of ordinary individuals. Most profoundly, they bear witness to the evolution of communities and identities across the Indian subcontinent. Encompassing the entirety of Indian history, from the mists of prehistory to the vibrancy of contemporary times, the 100 objects and artifacts cataloged in this volume have left an indelible mark on our present. Explore the lives of those who crafted these extraordinary items, delve into their cultures and traditions, and unravel the profound impact these artifacts have had on our collective narrative. Adorned with vivid illustrations, this captivating work will kindle readers’ imaginations, prompting them to view our rich material heritage through fresh lenses while fostering a deeper appreciation for our diverse pasts.

A Sailor Called Wet Paint and Other Secret Stories from History by Nandini Nayar

2. A Sailor Called Wet Paint and Other Secret Stories from History by Nandini Nayar

How might a woman draped in a delicate sari endure the biting chill of England’s embrace? In what manner shall the crew of a vessel find their way back to their origins, devoid of any currency? When was the most recent occasion the youthful caretaker glimpsed her very own kin? And what rationale could possibly justify a sailor’s audacious act of inscribing ‘WET PAINT’ within the pages of a maiden’s journal? Nurses and seafarers plucked from their familiar grounds, transported thousands of miles to England for employment… a lamentably recurrent narrative. Frequently forsaken, they’re left to navigate their own course across the vast expanse of sea, back to their homeland in India! It’s disheartening. It’s appalling. It’s rending our spirits asunder. What recourse do we possess? Ah, behold these narratives – an abundant collection detailing the plight of caretakers in a foreign domain and the Indian seafarers known as Lascars, all the while challenging the lack of compassion exhibited by the British. Pleading for them to bestow upon these individuals the domicile, the compassion, and the liberty they rightfully deserve. But does anyone heed these pleas? Do you?

Wayel Kati - The Quest of the Seven Gardens by Linthoi Chanu

3. Wayel Kati – The Quest of the Seven Gardens by Linthoi Chanu

In Linthoi Chanu’s “Wayel Kati: The Quest of the Seven Guardians,” a tapestry of myth, magic, and prophecy unfolds, weaving together the fate of chosen individuals tasked with seeking a lost sacred artifact amidst tales of battles, marvels, and the emergence of heroes. Set against the backdrop of Manipur’s heart and hills, the narrative follows seven guardians summoned to recover the Wayel Kati, the scissors of justice. Only Laiba, the young head priest, possesses insight into the quest’s intricacies. As dark creatures breach the boundaries between myth and reality, the world teeters on the edge of destruction, compelling the guardians to confront their identities, purposes, and divine duty. Will they triumph in their mission, or will it propel them towards yet another arduous journey? Through eloquent prose and vibrant imagery, Chanu explores themes of reverence for nature, the imperative of environmental stewardship, and humanity’s enduring fascination with magic, myth, and fantasy as coping mechanisms in the face of harsh realities.

Zen by Shabnam Minwalla

4. Zen by Shabnam Minwalla

In 1935, Zainab Essanji yearned to transcend the confines of her constricted existence, aspiring to join the fervent struggle for independence. Yet, her predetermined path seems tethered to the art of embroidery and awaiting the inevitable embrace of matrimony. Fast forward to 2019, where Zainab Currimji, a student in her penultimate year, finds herself reluctantly embroiled in contentious debates and controversies, a realm she fervently wishes to avoid. However, in the bustling landscape of contemporary India, evasion proves futile against the relentless pull of societal discourse. Within the pages of this enthralling narrative, chronicling the parallel lives of the two Zainabs lies a captivating glimpse into the evolving tapestry of Mumbai and the broader canvas of India. It unfolds a concise yet poignant saga of our collective journey from yesteryears to the present day, shedding light on the essence of our past and the intricacies of our modern identity.

Category: Debut

How Prime Ministers Decide by Neerja Chowdhury Book Cover

1. How Prime Ministers Decide by Neerja Chowdhury

In “How Prime Ministers Decide,” Neerja Chowdhury, an acclaimed journalist and political commentator, delves beyond mere news headlines to unveil a riveting narrative of pivotal decisions shaping India’s trajectory. With penetrating analysis, Chowdhury scrutinizes the operational methodologies of India’s prime ministers, spotlighting six landmark decisions that have left an indelible mark on the nation’s history. Indira Gandhi’s strategic maneuvering to reclaim power in 1980, following her resounding defeat post-Emergency in 1977, Rajiv Gandhi’s missteps in overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Shah Bano case, exposing critical errors of judgment, V. P. Singh’s implementation of the Mandal Commission Report, a move aimed at salvaging his government, yet fundamentally altering the landscape of contemporary politics, P. V. Narasimha Rao’s masterful ambiguity, culminating in the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the transformative journey of Atal Bihari Vajpayee from a proclaimed pacifist to a nuclear advocate, sanctioning the testing of nuclear devices amidst evolving political dynamics, and Manmohan Singh’s understated yet resolute leadership, exemplified by his historic nuclear deal with the United States, defying entrenched interests and adversaries within the political sphere. Drawing from extensive interviews with prime ministers, key political figures, bureaucrats, and influencers, spanning four decades of immersed reporting, Chowdhury offers unparalleled insights into the intricacies of Indian governance. “How Prime Ministers Decide” stands as an unmatched portrayal of contemporary Indian politics, poised to reshape perspectives on the governance strategies of prime ministers.

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff Book Cover

2. The Bandit Queens: A Novel by Parini Shroff

“In Parini Shroff’s debut novel, The Bandit Queens, a refreshing tale unfolds as a group of resilient women take control of their lives by disposing of their no-good husbands, earning them a dangerous yet empowering reputation. Geeta, whose husband vanished five years ago, finds herself at the center of rumors suggesting she’s responsible for his disappearance. However, rather than suffer from the stigma, Geeta revels in the newfound freedom and respect her status as a ‘self-made’ widow affords her in their remote Indian village. Soon, other women seek her advice on liberating themselves from their own troublesome spouses, some more aggressively than others. As Geeta navigates the complexities of her newfound role, she must safeguard her hard-won independence, knowing that even the most carefully laid plans of aspiring widows can veer off course, leading to unforeseen consequences that will profoundly affect the lives of everyone in the village. Filled with cunning criminals, opportunities for redemption, and sharp-witted women, The Bandit Queens captivates with its blend of humor and heart, marking Shroff’s debut as a striking literary force.”

The Daughters of Madurai by Rajasree Variyar

3. The Daughters of Madurai by Rajasree Variyar

Nestled in the verdant landscapes of southern India, Madurai stands as a testament to both spiritual fervor and historical legacy. Amidst the throngs of pilgrims and the echoes of tradition, however, lies a narrative of defiance against entrenched norms. In the year 1992, Janani finds herself confined by the rigid caste system, relegated to the role of a lowly cleaner in the service of an affluent household. Submission has been her lifelong mantra, both within the walls of her workplace and in the confines of her home, where her mother-in-law’s authority reigns supreme. Amidst this backdrop of resignation, Janani discovers a newfound resolve, driven by a determination to safeguard a precious secret at any cost, even if it means forsaking the familiar comforts of her existence. Fast forward to 2019, and Nila finds herself grappling with the fragments of her identity, shrouded in the silence that envelops her family’s past. Having grown up in Australia, disconnected from her roots, she embarks on a journey to Madurai alongside her parents, yearning to unravel the enigma of her heritage. Yet, as she confronts her own concealed truth, Nila navigates the complexities of acceptance and belonging. For both Janani and Nila, love emerges not as a straightforward sentiment, but rather as a profound act of defiance and resilience, challenging the confines of tradition and societal expectations.

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