People all over the world read for information, education and entertainment. The habit of reading may be part of an ambitious project of self-improvement that many individuals practise through their lives. While readers may be ambitious and desirous of improving themselves by acquiring knowledge through reading, literature can be ambitious too. Ambitious literature may be epic in scale or may reflect the author’s relentless drive to break new creative ground, achieve a new milestone in literature or document how the author has overcome incredible challenges.
The author Franz Kafka, commenting on what the impact of a book should be, once said, ‘A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us’. Literature can shake up our thinking, open our minds to new possibilities, leave us amazed at the scope of the author’s imagination and even change the way in which we perceive the world.
The oral history narratives of India, such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, with the sheer size and scope of the epics, their depiction of great battles and the conflict and collaboration between the divine and the human can be described as ambitious literature.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in 1852, had a profound impact on the movement against slavery and possibly even the American Civil War. It is believed that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe at the start of the Civil War, he said, ‘So this is the little lady who started this great war!’
Some other modern examples of ambitious literature can include J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series, where the author created an entire realm of fantasy, peopled with fascinating characters, including wizards, orcs, hobbits and elves, transporting readers into an alternative landscape of possibilities.
Science fiction is another genre where literature is ambitious in scope and conceptual possibilities. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is one such ambitious saga, which posits the use of ‘psychohistory’ to study the possible future behaviour of large groups of people across the Galactic Empire, using a combination of statistics, history and mass psychology.
Niyogi Books encourages ambitious literature that breaks new ground, fascinates readers and inspires them to discover new perspectives. Some of our books across different genres that do this are:
Antarctica: India’s Journey to the Frozen Continent by S.Z. Qasi and Dinabandhu Sahoo: This book describes the beauty of this enigmatic continent and origin of India’s Antarctic venture as well as gives a first-hand experience of the founder-leader of India’s Antarctic programme and a research scholar who undertook his maiden journey to this continent—known as a white desert and the coldest, driest, stormiest, windiest and the most inaccessible place in the world—an inspiring read indeed!
Aliens in Delhi by Sami Ahmad Khan: A science-fiction thriller that depicts how contemporary India responds to an alien invasion, this intelligently crafted book posits that humanity might soon be extinct. As people in Delhi start turning into alien hybrids, India gears up to face a foe unlike any other.
Zanskar to Ziro: No Stilletos in the Himalayas by Sohini Sen: Two women journey across the Himalayas, wading across difficulties with an often self-deprecating sense of humour—a travelogue that is inspiring, insightful and expands the reader’s horizons.
Saakshi: The Witness by S.L. Bhyrappa: A searingly powerful novel that discusses the meaning of truth and its distortions through greed, sexuality and desire, it makes the reader question the meaning of truth and human relationships.
Thus, we see ambitious literature—in its different manifestations—inspires, unsettles and expands our thinking, which is one of the true purposes of the literary art.