Sunjeev Sahota's life in books

Sunjeev Sahota was named as one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists in 2013.

Sunjeev Sahota's first novel, Ours Are the Streets, was published by Picador in 2011. His second, The Year of the Runaways, was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and described as 'The Grapes of Wrath for the 21st century' by the Washington Post.

Here, Sunjeev shares his life in books.

A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry

This is a long novel about four characters who come together in ‘a city by the sea', and reading it was my first experience of being completely absorbed by a book. I remember turning the last fifty pages or so while sitting at the back of a midnight coach from London to the north of England, and having to concentrate hard in the dim motorway light. I still think about Ishvar, Om, Dina and Maneck.

Ek Chadar Maili Si, Rajinder Singh Bedi

This is a short village-set novel about Rano, a strong Punjabi woman who's forced to marry her much younger brother-in-law – someone she'd only ever looked upon as a son – following the murder of her husband. The book never gives in to simple-mindedness – as we do in life, its characters are allowed to feel many different things at the same time, and perhaps because of this I think it's a book that has a great deal of dignity.

The Dark, John McGahern

The book centres on the relationship between Mahoney Junior and his violent father, and it's another book that understands the complexity and, sometimes, the seeming irrationality of individual behaviour: I wish I could talk to Mr McGahern about some of Mahoney Junior's decisions at the end.

A House for Mr Biswas, V S Naipaul

It's a story of thwarted ambitions, of a man fighting to break free and leave his mark on the world. I think it's one of the funniest novels I've read, and Mohun Biswas a great tragicomic character.

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

I love reading the old Russians, and I think I've read a good chunk of the most famous ones – Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Turgenev, Chekhov, Pushkin – but it all started sometime around 2001 with an Everyman edition of Anna Karenina.

Ours are the Streets

by Sunjeev Sahota

Book cover for Ours are the Streets

Sunjeev Sahota's Ours are the Streets is a poignant and powerful story of political radicalization.

When Imtiaz Raina leaves England for the first time, to bury his father on his family’s land near Lahore, he exchanges his uncertain life in Sheffield for a road that leads to the mountains of Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Once back in Yorkshire, he writes through the night to his young wife Becka and baby daughter Noor, and tries to explain, in a story full of affection and yearning, what has happened to him – and why he has a devastating new sense of home.

The Year of the Runaways

by Sunjeev Sahota

Book cover for The Year of the Runaways

Shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2015

The Year of the Runaways tells of the bold dreams and daily struggles of an unlikely family thrown together by circumstance. Thirteen young men live in a house in Sheffield, each in flight from India and in desperate search of a new life. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar; and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the chaotic Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband's clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call.

Sweeping between India and England, and between childhood and the present day, Sunjeev Sahota's generous, unforgettable novel is – as with Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance – a story of dignity in the face of adversity and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.