5 Books About India to have on your bookshelf


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.



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.



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.



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.



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


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.


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.


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

How Great Men Achieve Greatness

I have read so many auto-biographies that now I am skeptical as to how honest they are. I mean…why would someone share his/her ugly side; especially if that person is famous and it can affect his fan base? But I still read some here and there. Maybe I just want to see what these people thought that made them reach that position where everyone now looks up to them. Or maybe I want to be in the group of these men and get a peek as to what they were like.

I have covered David Beckham, Steve Wozniack, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Albert Einstein (this was a biography), Andre Agassi and recently finished Lance Armstrong (for more info refer- https://wordsofashex.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/from-my-book-shelf-9/).

All of them are from various fields- sports, IT, science, philosophy and politics and they have been the best in what they do. But this is not what sets these men apart from everyone else in their field. Most people think that Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi had similar motives and goals, but that is wrong. Nelson Mandela fought for the rights of the black people in South Africa while Mahatma Gandhi was in the search for truth and hence the name of his auto-biography “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was not just another President of India. He is the man behind India’s missile technology today. Of course, there was a team of scientists supporting him but he was the one who held them together and motivated them to share his vision. Steve Wozniack co-founded Apple and even though he is not as famous as Steve Jobs, his contribution should not be ignored.

In spite of their different goals and fields, all these men (except Andre Agassi) have certain things in common:

  1. All of them made their work their religion. They did not let anything distract them from getting to where they wanted to be. If one reads about all these men’s lives, one will find that these men focused a lot on their work rather than family. Work was not work for them, but a vital part of their living- an extension of who they are and their work reflected that.
  1. Every time they came across failure, they rose up again much, much stronger. Dr. Kalam saw the work on his first project stripped of government funding, the second was not considered “useful” enough while one of the rocket launches failed in the second stage itself. Einstein was thrown out of boarding school and even after he was able to complete his college, he was the only one without a job. The professors hated him. He got a job when a friend recommended his name. David Beckham missed a goal for Manchester United in a final for which the fans were after his life. All these men learnt and rose up from their defeats much, much stronger.
  1. All of them believed that their work will bring a change in other people’s lives. Mahatma Gandhi was pelted with stones by some people in South Africa but he did not file a complaint against them (even the police was backing him) simply because he thought it would do them more harm than good. Steve Wozniack believed that computers should be for everyone and relentlessly worked to make a computer cheaper.
  1. All of them knew what they wanted to do or be from a very early age. They loved what they did and they were very good at it. David Beckham loves playing football, Steve Wozniack loves making computers, Dr. Kalam loves rocketry and Albert Einstein loved physics. Mahatma Gandhi was always in the search for truth and he strived to achieve it throughout his life. Nelson Mandela wanted the rights of his people. All these men had certain goals and they acted on it at a very early age in spite of what the people around them said.
  1. These men had tremendous courage to stand up to everyone who challenged them. Some had it in them since childhood like Einstein, while others acquired it along the way like Mahatma Gandhi. They had tremendous will power and discipline.
  1. All of them were driven by an innate power. They had huge goals and never doubted their capability to achieve them. They were very patient and worked for years.
  1. All of them had the brave quality of forgiving their enemies or people who disagreed with them. This is one of the most courageous qualities any human can possess and these men, notably Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were the front-runners in it.

Another person, whom I have not mentioned is Andre Agassi. His auto-biography is very different from the rest. He was motivated, but he was motivated by anger. He hated the society structure and became a rebel. He was the bad boy and every-time someone told him that he must love tennis, he used to say he hated it. And that is why his journey seems very different than the others. I suppose his auto-biography is like his life– a standout from the others, yet successful and the best one of course. 😀

P.S.- This is for hard-core feminists- I have not read any auto-biography of a female simply because I could not get one and not because I have any anti-female psychology kinda thing. 😀

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How Great Men Achieve Greatness