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.

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5 Books About India to have on your bookshelf

From My Book-Shelf

204123

Freedom at Midnight

by Larry Collins, Dominique Lapierre

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This is the second Dominique Lapierre- Larry Collins book I have read. I love Indian history and this book traces the period between Mountbatten becoming the Viceroy till Gandhi’s assassination.

Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah and Mountbatten are the heroes of this book. Of them only Mountbatten was alive during research of this book so it is fair to say that the book can be biased and we can see that with how Mountbatten has been portrayed.

It shows as if he did his best to avoid a bloody partition but because of the irreconcilable differences between the Congress & the Muslim League, the nation had to be sliced quickly. However, it could also be very easily argued that the British left midway in a hurry which led to the bloodshed in 1947.

The book also says good things about Nehru and Gandhi but castigates Jinnah. That is why the book is still banned in Pakistan. But I will take those praises with a pinch of salt. The book goes behind the plot to kill Gandhi but does not delve into Sardar Patel’s effort to unite India clearly.

However, it is a good read and even though we know how this story ends it will keep the reader engaged. The one thing that stuck with me was how close we were to not being partitioned at all. Some “what if…” to wonder.

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The Lowland

by Jhumpa Lahiri

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I haven’t read a lot of Jhumpa Lahiri but I will pick up more of her books after this one.

The Lowland traces the journey of three people- two brothers and a wife set against the the background of a West bengal on the throes of the Naxalite  movement and the United States.

The book is about loss. All characters try to deal with the death of the younger brother as they try to adjust their lives around this tragedy. The book traces their lives as they go about dealing with their motivations & emotions.

It is well-written and the characters have been well etched out. Worth picking it up.

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Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

by Michael Moss

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Everybody must read this book. Everybody.

This book explores how the three most important components used in processed food today are manipulated to make them taste better and make us want them more.

The three components are: salt, sugar and fat. The author takes us to the biggest food companies in the US who started this trend and how we have a problem at hand with obesity today.

With India being touted as the next big market and the processed foods which are on our supermarket shelves led by these very companies, it is imperative that we read this book and become aware of what we eat.

Nothing will make you watch what you eat like this book does.

From My Book-Shelf

From My Bookshelf- Monsoon Reading

I would have liked to add more to my NYC Diary, but I think some stories are better kept personal. I am still in my jet lag phase and miss the city quite a lot. I think I will adjust back soon. 🙂

Also, I am spending the monsoons for the first time at home in the last 15 years or so and it feels good. 🙂 Here are some books which are perfect with a cup of tea and an evening at home when its raining outside.

Night Train at Deoli: And Other Stories

by Ruskin Bond
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This book by Ruskin Bond took me back to my school days. Ruskin Bond writes with a certain passion which is unseen is most of the books about India. Even though I think the language is too simple, I loved most of the stories. But this book is for students still in school and learning the nuances of English language or for people just looking for some really touching stories. The way Ruskin Bond describes Garhwal, one is transported to hills during the monsoon.
This book was a journey back  in time. 🙂

Interpreter of Maladies

by Jhumpa Lahiri
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Most of the stories are about the characters’ emotional turmoil and internal conflicts. Some of the stories are nostalgic while some are really touching. The stories are simple and it is in fact amazing as to how the characters are etched out beautifully in a few pages.

The Inheritance of Loss

by Kiran Desai
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It is slightly easier to review a novel than a book of short stories. I suppose I will get better. 🙂
This is the first book from the mother-daughter stable (Anita-Kiran Desai) which I have read. I think most books by Indian authors which go on to get international recognition focus more on the characters than the central story. This book is no different.
The backdrop for this book is the Gorkhaland insurgency and the consequences the individuals have to face.
The characters are well portrayed and one can feel the loss all of them are going through- the loss of love for Sai, the longing felt by the cook for his son who is in the US trying to get a green card and cleaning dishes till then and the son’s longing to go back to his home.
The book does not take sides as to who is right in the Gorkhaland issue but tells the story of those whose lives are disrupted by it. Kiran Desai has painted the Himalayas and the surroundings beautifully and one can get lost in the world she creates with her words.
From My Bookshelf- Monsoon Reading