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Your Favorite Book: Always Coming Home with Shruti Swamy

Your Favorite Book: Always Coming Home with Shruti Swamy

Welcome to another installment of a collaboration between the Chicago Review of Books and the Your Favorite Book podcast. Malavika Praseed, frequent CHIRB contributor and podcast host, seeks to talk to readers and writers about the books that light a fire inside them. What’s your favorite book and why?

This week’s guest is Shruti Swamy, author of debut novel The Archer. What does it mean to pursue art as a woman, especially when society imposes rigid goals and obstacles never cease to block the path forward? Shruti Swamy explores this in her detailed character study of a young Kathak dancer. Vidya, who wishes to devote her life to the classical Indian dance, must eke out an honest existence for herself as family, teachers, friends, and many others cast doubt along the way. With rich prose and loving interpretations of pure dance, we are transported to an India of yesterday, distinctly specific in its detail. It boldly declares that art is not only a calling, but one that must be heard.

Shruti, a longtime Ursula Le Guin fan, brings to the table a recent read as a new favorite book. Always Coming Home, considered the culmination of Le Guin’s cultural musings and varied influences, is by no means an easy read. This fictional ethnography of the postapocalyptic Kesh people combines anthropology, poetry, prose, linguistics, and numerous other genres to paint a portrait of this new society. It combines the agrarian with the scientific, bleakness with hope, and is one of the most unique books we’ve covered on this podcast.

Shruti reflects on what makes a novel a novel, what inspires her about Kathak and stories of the Mahabharata, what it means to create a culture and honor existing ones, and so much more. This is a spirited discussion full of recommendations aplenty, and no spoilers.

See Also

Thornyhold with Pitu Your Favorite Book

Today we're settling in with an underrated comfort read. My guest is Pitu, a bridal stylist and lifelong reader, who relates to THORNYHOLD by Mary Stewart for so many reasons. This book was a pleasant surprise for me, all magical realism and cottagecore vibes. Where the book is a little lacking…maybe plot and characters. But hey, when the escapism and joy is this good, who really needs those other things? Along the way, Pitu and I chat about picking out bridal gowns, living in new continents, really terrible Bollywood movies, and so much more. This is a nice, laid back episode with plenty of recommendations at the end.  Other books discussed: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier Follow Pitu on instagram @pitusultan Follow the podcast on instagram and twitter @yfbpodcast
  1. Thornyhold with Pitu
  2. Always Coming Home with Shruti Swamy (Author of The Archer)
  3. The Enchanted with Ari Honarvar (Author of A Girl Called Rumi)
  4. The Hobbit with Merilla Michael
  5. No Comebacks with MY DAD

Listen to this episode of Your Favorite Book at the link above, and stay tuned for more episodes with other writers in the weeks to come. If you enjoy this episode, check out other episodes of Your Favorite Book on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or other major podcast platforms.

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