From My Book-Shelf

One of the biggest challenges for a voracious reader is to find new authors & a place to discover them. Goodreads is the best platform to discover new books & authors and it has turned 10! Finding new authors is incredibly important as it leads to new stories set in different places which offer different perspectives.

Below are three authors I have not read before & reviews of their books.

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Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore

by Manu S. Pillai

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Goodreads Link

Manu S. Pillai was 19 when he started research for this book and published it when he was 25. That is a feat in itself for a 700-page historical account of the House of Travancore.

This kingdom, which was established by Martanda Verma was one of the princely states which sided with the British during the Independence movement. The book largely traces the feud between two sisters- the elder Sethu Lakshmi Bai & the younger Sethu Parvati Bai.

It shows a vibrant, cosmopolitan & a matrilineal society which spans today’s Kerala. Despite the length, the book is not a difficult read as it traces the two sisters battling for the dominion-ship of the kingdom.

There is a good queen & a bad queen and their rivalry has a huge impact on the princely state as it traverses India’s independence. People interested in history should pick up this book as this is a meticulously researched book & it shows a rare account of a princely state which sided with the British.

 

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All That Man Is

by David Szalay

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Goodreads Link

This novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2016 & has a unique structure. It is considered a novel but is actually nine stories of different men in different periods of their lives spanning several countries across Europe.

The first story is that of a teenager & the main characters progress in age as the last one is that of an old man. The stories all deal with a moment of crisis in the lives of these men and while it may seem similar to Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami, it captures the essence of the place beautifully which results in the crisis being portrayed externally & internally.

The stories paint a beautiful picture of Europe and the characters are well-etched out. One of the worst things about short stories is that they don’t feel complete, but this novel provides a sense of satisfaction & completion.

I intend to read more of¬†Szalay’s¬†work.

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Americanah

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Goodreads Link

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a critically- acclaimed Nigerian author whose stories largely deal with migration, feminism & racism. Americanah was her third novel & was in the New York Times list of 10 best books of 2013.

The book deals with teenagers¬†Ifemelu¬†&¬†Obinze¬†who fall is love as teenagers in Nigeria. However,¬†Ifemelu¬†moves to the US and due to circumstances they drift apart. The book traces her troubling journey in the US as she tries to find her feet & Obinze’s in¬†the UK as an undocumented worker.¬†

It tackles themes of Nigerian immigrants in the US & their place in the racist American society. Years later, both of them meet in Nigeria and pick up where they left off. But Obinze is married with kids & she had cut off all communication with him suddenly when she was in the US.

The book also reflects Nigeria’s politics & its road to democracy. The book is interesting & captures the essence really well.¬†Chimamanda¬†is a good author to know Nigerian stories.

Here are TED talks by the author which are considered one of the best.

 

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From My Book-Shelf

5 Books About India to have on your bookshelf

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Freedom at Midnight

by Larry Collins, Dominique Lapierre

For those interested in the partition.

The pair of Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre have written several books together which combine their investigative journalism techniques with historical research. They have written about Paris, New York & Israel and embarked on the Indian Independence together.

The leads of this story are Mountbatten, Jinnah, Nehru & Gandhi. The premise is the Independence of the nation. This book has had painstaking research and uncovered old documents which will make us go through the core people involved in partition. However, since the only major person alive during the writing of this book was Mountbatten, the book does portray him in a good light.

The partition & last few weeks to Independence from the eyes of the ones making decisions about it is a topic which will always be close to our hearts.

 

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The Discovery of India

by Jawaharlal Nehru

India from the eyes of the man who established its principles.

Today when the current PM does not even mention India’s first Prime Minister in his speeches, it is even more imperative that we read this book to know the man who led our nation through the most perilous times and made us a secular democracy when no major world leader of that time thought that we could survive.

Nehru was a brilliant writer and this book is a testament to that. True to the title, it is the discovery of India from the eyes of Nehru. The India that we see through his eyes is glorious, strong, independent, proud and a nation of a very rich cultural heritage.

The book is also a reflection of Nehru and the vision he had of India.

 

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India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy

by Ramachandra Guha

India’s lesser-known history.

This is the finest book on Indian history I have read. It is over 900 pages but totally unputdownable & very interesting. It takes us through a newly-independent India until the early 90s which was a period that not a lot of us know about.

The book is painstakingly and well researched and is very well-paced. It takes us through the nation’s journey and the major events that took us to this decade. It shows a nation which started low but has slowly & steadily climbed up & stands to be at the frontier in the coming decades.

 

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The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity

by Amartya Sen

India as a culture & society from the Nobel prize winning economist.

This is Amartya Sen’s most famous book and it explores India and it’s culture and history through sixteen of his essays. It tells us about India’s long argumentative tradition which is so important for remaining a secular democracy.

 

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India Unbound: The Social and Economic Revolution from Independence to the Global Information Age

by Gurcharan Das

Indian economy from the eyes of the man who saw it.

Gurcharan Das was the CEO of P&G India from 1985 to 1992. He grew up with the nation & was at the helm of one of the biggest FMCG companies during the high-growth transition phase.

While his other books are okay, this one was really good. It takes us through India’s economy, it’s challenges, the ’91 reforms and the people behind it. It is a breezy read & well-written which touches the periphery of Indian economy and how we have stumbled through to the era of high growth.

5 Books About India to have on your bookshelf

From My Book-Shelf- The New Launches

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Men Without Women

by Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator), Ted Goossen (Translator)

 

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This book was a gift so it will be one of the few books I will keep with me wherever I live. I never buy books but prefer renting them. And what better author to have other than¬†Haruki Murakami.¬†ūüôā

He is one of my favorite authors and his books transcend the laws and boundaries defined by nature. But this one is a series of short stories (seven, to be precise) of men who have lost the women in their lives.

The causes vary and the reaction of the men to these losses vary as well, but what remains constant is¬†Murakami’s¬†fluency and wry humor. To understand the men in this book, one has to go beyond the words and understand how these tragedies have shaped their lives.

These are stories of men without women; Of men who had these women but lost them in tragic circumstances; Stories of men dealing with loneliness. These men are a reflection of all men and how we would react to tragedy and loneliness in our own lives; Or may have already reacted to loneliness.

Murakami had said that writing a novel is like planting a forest and writing short stories is like planting a garden. His garden gives the same shade as a forest.

 

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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

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A lot has been said about¬†Arundhati Roy’s¬†new novel, her first since the¬†Booker-prize¬†winning¬†God of Small Things.

Since her first novel, she has written extensively about the Indian state and its brutalities. I do not entirely support her views because this is politics and you cannot be righteous with it. Brutality goes hand-in-hand with kindness, war goes hand-in-hand with peace and politics is the game of balancing both the sides.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is set in an India which she has seen and written about over the last twenty years. The arrogant, Hindu chest-thumping Gujarat ka lalla (her words) who has gone on to become the Prime Minister despite presiding over one of the most brutal riots in his State; The India which has severely and authoritatively put down the people of Kashmir (and still does) and the Red Corridor which has exposed the unfairness of the  Indian State.

Anjum, a transgender who fights her tragic life to make some sense out of it; Tilo, an architect who travels to Kashmir for her love for Musa are the people who drive this story which is set against a backdrop of an India which is immoral, corrupt, brutal and uncompromising.

There is a cast of support characters as well & this motley group ends up establishing a community in a graveyard as they try to put out the fires in their own lives.

The novel takes us through a vast landscape which ends up distracting us from the stories of these people. The novel’s canvas is too big and some of it seems force-fitted. More than the individual stories, it is the nation that plays the role of the major character unlike her previous novel. Of course, all lives are shaped by external events but the focus is on those particular events rather than the characters.

In that way, it falls slightly short.

GoodReads Link

From My Book-Shelf- The New Launches