Dishoom Co-founder, Shamil Thakrar’s Reading List

This year Dishoom celebrates it’s tenth year in London. We can’t imagine life without it – nor a lockdown without those bacon naan kits. Here we asked co-founder Shamil Thakrar to recommend some of his favourite books. If you need something to read over the holidays look no further:

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John le Carré

With the very sad passing of John le Carré, you must read this if you haven’t. Surely the best spy novel ever written, full of ingenious ideas and twists, and suffused with the melancholy of the cold war in the early 1960s. Read this and then immediately watch the 1965 film with Richard Burton and Claire Bloom. Book and film are both a proper treat. You’ll also meet an old and dear friend of mine, George Smiley.

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

This is urgent. Your children may one day ask you two questions about our changing climate. 1. Did you know? 2. What did you do about it? This book helped me to understand how I want to answer those questions.

Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage

The wise Yotam Ottolenghi and the wonderful Ixta Belfrage give us a gift of these beautiful recipes. Some are so simple in their composition as to seem implausible, but are all the more delicious for it. I am in awe of these two artists and grateful for the food that they have allowed us to cook.

The Anarchy by William Dalrymple

My family would not have washed up here in Britain if the East India Company had not existed. Dalrymple tells the story of the Company, a rapacious capitalist power controlling armies and territories, aggressively focused on making its stockholders in London wealthy beyond reckoning. This book is pacey and fascinating and Dalrymple is a thoughtful and sensitive historian.

The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz

This year has taken its toll on my mental well-being, and I know I am not alone. This book is a series of short vignettes written by Stephen Grosz, a distinguished psychotherapist, about his patients. His writing is elegant, concise and gentle, and I was left feeling hopeful and feeling strong compassion for his patients, and perhaps even for myself.

The English and Their History by Robert Tombs

I confess that I was put off by the title of this book which was recommended strongly to me by a friend. I wanted to read a ‘British’ history, and yet I found this to be a magisterial thousand pages sweeping across two thousand years. It kept me turning pages with fascination. It feels very sane. Somehow, by the end I had a much better sense of myself, what it means to be an immigrant to these shores.

Partition Voices by Kavita Puri

Kavita Puri has done the very brave work of finding survivors of the events of 1947, when the parting gift of the British Raj was to partition India into India and Pakistan, and millions died in the violence. These stories have hardly been told. They are shocking and moving and telling them is necessary. I used to think this was Indian history, of interest to me because my family came from India. Now I see that this is British history and needs to be understood.

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

With his various novels, David Mitchell weaves a world that is rich, compelling and ultimately hopeful. Utopia Avenue takes a fictional British rock band (whose music I’d dearly love to hear) who come together and make music in the historical world of 1968, meeting Leonard Cohen, Crosby Stills and Nash and Joni Mitchell in New York, San Francisco and Laurel Canyon. This was a psychedelic delight and an escape.

 

The ‘New’ (ie newly revamped) Dishoom Covent Garden opened this November but has been scuppered by Tier 3. Do order for home delivery within London here, and the Bacon Naan Roll Kits can be delivered nationwide. The cookbook, Dishoom, From Bombay With Love, £18.95 can be ordered here.

— Daisy Allsup
17th December 2020