Imagine a year without having a physical copy of a book to read? This may seem unimaginable to many but for some it’s a lived experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. But not to worry, the 44th edition of the Chennai Book Fair is underway at YMCA in Nandanam since Wednesday. The fair will go on till March 9. The annual book fair, conducted by the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI), is being held in February this year instead of coinciding with the Pongal festival in January due to the pandemic. However, the organisers have set up 700 stalls showcasing thousands of titles, ranging from hardcore political books to thrillers to romantic comedies to puzzles and books for children. Book lovers visiting the fair have been left captivated by the long list of books featuring both foreign and Indian authors. This time especially, readers have a pick of more options since certain new titles skipped release last year due to the pandemic. The pandemic paved the way for some writers to take to serious writing and the lockdown also gave them a breather to imagine different worlds and explore new genres. As an addition to the yearly ritual of dropping by at the book fair, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan announced that he would suggest a book every day to inculcate the reading habit among children. Here are four new Tamil releases from different genres that we recommend you look up at the Chennai Book Fair. Milagu by Chandra Thangaraj Milagu (Pepper) is a treat for poem lovers. Chandra Thangaraj captures the beauty of the sprawling pepper cultivations in the landscape of Theni through her poems. She also conveys her feelings as a teenage girl in the mountainous land with several metaphors throughout the book. Reviewers call the book light and refreshing. An excerpt from one of the poems: நினைவிலிருக்கும்போதே சிரி இல்லை அழு கடைசியில் எதுவும் மிஞ்சப்போவதில்லை இருட்டென அப்பியிருக்கும் இந்த துயரங்கள்கூட. (While it’s still in memory, cry or laugh Nothing will remain till the end Even sorrows that surround us like darkness.) Apart from the book itself, the cover also grabs the attention of readers. Designed by Rohini Mani, the cover depicts an elephant with four tall legs with a woman in green sitting atop. Published by Ethir Veliyeedu, the book is priced at Rs 170. Kaalanilai Maatrathin Puthiyathor Kuzhanthai Corona (Coronavirus, the New Child of Environmental Change) Several essays and books have been released on the pandemic and on the impact of COVID-19 on various sectors. However, this book published by environmental organisation Poovulagin Nanbargal, consists of several essays focussing on the impact of coronavirus and possible transmission to wildlife. The book deals with the various zoonotic diseases transmitted between various living species like animals to humans and vice versa. The essays also contend that deforestation is an important reason for the spread of zoonotic diseases. Vidupattavargal: Ivargalum Kuzhanthaigal Than (The Left Out: They are Children Too) by Eniyan This book is not for children but a starting point for adults to start thinking about children who are denied attention and affection. Written by Eniyan, who works for children’s welfare through his organisation Pallangkuzhi, the book talks about the psychological needs and expectations of children based on the author’s interactions with children across Tamil Nadu. The book begins with a colony of Irulas, a Scheduled Caste community, and touches upon various forms of divisions applied in the world of children, starting from colour, gender, caste and class. However, the book delves deeper to explain the issues faced by children in third-world countries and the gaps in treating them right. The book is published by Naadatror Publication. Visavirkaga Kathirukiren by Poo Ko Saravanan This book is a Tamil translation of Dr Ambedkar’s Waiting for a Visa by Poo Ko Saravanan. It narrates a few incidents of untouchability faced by Dr Ambedkar and others. It’s an excellent introduction to people interested in reading about Dalit politics and the oppression faced by the community. Waiting for a Visa is used as a textbook at Columbia University. The book is published by Neelam Publications.