The art of everything personal and political
Nandini Nair | 08 Jan, 2021
Languages of Truth | by Salman Rushdie (Hamish Hamilton)
In his latest collection of nonfiction, Rushdie brings together essays, criticism, and speeches that focus on his relationship with the written word. Gathering pieces written between 2003 and 2020, Languages of Truth chronicles his intellectual engagement with momentous cultural shifts.
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster | by Bill Gates (Allen Lane)
Gates explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, and details what we need to do to achieve this goal. He gives us a clear-eyed description of the challenges we face.
Pride, Prejudice & Punditry: The Essential Shashi Tharoor | by Shashi Tharoor (Aleph)
Fiction and nonfiction, including over 25 pieces that have never been published before.
The Light of Asia | by Jairam Ramesh (Viking)
The history of a poem that inspired everyone, from Gandhi to Nehru and Churchill. The Light of Asia is a poetic narration of the life of Buddha written by Sir Edwin Arnold. Ramesh traces the original poem’s history and its impact.
Restless as Mercury: My Life as a Young Man | by MK Gandhi (edited by Gopalkrishna Gandhi) (Aleph)
The extraordinary story of the householder and lawyer who would become the Mahatma—told in his own words. This book complements his incomplete autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth.
The Good Girls | by Sonia Faleiro (Viking)
In the summer of 2014, India woke up to the news of two teenage girls found hanging from a tree in Katra, Uttar Pradesh. A photo found its way into the digital world. An investigation followed and arrests were made. Faleiro reveals what happened that night through the voices of the girls’ families, those who saw them last, and the legal and medical officials who were on the case.
Home in the World | by Amartya Sen (Allen Lane)
The memoir of the Nobel laureate, which seeks to answer the question, where is ‘home’? For Amartya Sen home has been many places—Dhaka where he grew up, Santiniketan where he was raised, Calcutta where he first studied economics, and Trinity College, Cambridge. This is a book of ideas, from Marx to Keynes, as much about people as places.
The Heartbeat of Trees | by Peter Wohlleben (translated by Jane Billinghurst) (Viking)
A treatise on the ancient bond between humans and nature. Drawing on new scientific discoveries, The Heartbeat of Trees reveals the profound interactions humans can have with nature, exploring the language of the forest and the consciousness of plants. He reveals a cosmos where humans are a part of nature, and where conservation is not just about saving trees—it’s about saving ourselves too.
The Musical Human: A History of Life on Earth | by Michael Spitzer (Bloomsbury)
A musicologist tells the story of humankind’s relationship with music across evolutionary time, from the birth of the lullaby through to AI generated music, arguing that music is the most important thing we ever did; it is a fundamental part of what makes us human.
The Indian Power Elite | by Sanjaya Baru (Viking)
An examination of the nature of power and elitism in the economic and political context of India. The morphology of the Indian power elite presents a complex structure, which Baru aims to deconstruct—whether it is the civil services, landed gentry or the remnants of the feudal elite.
Unfinished: A Memoir | by Priyanka Chopra Jonas (Viking)
Unfinished takes readers from Chopra’s childhood to winning the beauty pageants that launched her acting career. From her dual-continent career as an actor and producer to losing her father to cancer to marrying Nick Jonas, the book covers it all.
On Nationalism | by Eric Hobsbawm (Hachette)
Eric Hobsbawm’s writing on nationalism explores some of the critical historical insights he brings to this contentious subject.
This Life at Play: A Memoir | By Girish Karnad (translated from the Kannada by Srinath Perur and Girish Karnad) (HarperCollins)
Girish Karnad’smemoirs—first published in Kannada in 2011—were to be translated into English by Karnad himself, but he could only finish part of it. The translation has now been completed by Srinath Perur and is available to English readers for the very first time. From his early life, growing up in Dharwad and engaging with local
theatre, to his education in Mumbai and as a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, his career as a publisher, his successes and travails in the film industry, and his personal and writerly life—Karnad’s voice shines through.
Virus | by Pranay Lal (Penguin)
Lal presents the wide array of benefits that viruses provide and helps develop a more sane and appreciative perspective of the microbial world. This is the story of the origin of viruses and their role in evolution and how their presence inside and outside our bodies has shaped us.
The Soul of a Woman: Rebel Girls, Impatient Love, and Long Life | by Isabel Allende (Bloomsbury)
An autobiographical meditation from the bestselling Chilean novelist on feminism and what women want.
Everybody | by Olivia Laing (WW Norton & Company)
Olivia Laing charts the long struggle for bodily freedom, using the life of the renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to explore gay rights and sexual liberation, feminism, and the civil rights movement.
Ancient India: Culture of Contradictions | by Upinder Singh (Aleph)
An examination of the contradictions and conundrums of ancient India.
The Hard Crowd | by Rachel Kushner (Scribner)
The first essay collection from the author of The Flamethrowers and The Mars Room. She takes us on a journey through a Palestinian refugee camp, an illegal motorcycle race, 1970s wildcat strikes in Fiat factories, her love of classic cars, and her life as a young woman in San Francisco.
How Prime Ministers Decide | by Neerja Chowdhury (Aleph)
Based on several hundred interviews, and the author’s interactions with numerous PMs, the book provides the inside story of some of the most important (and sometimes controversial) decisions ever taken at the highest levels of government.
Winged Stallions and Wicked Mares: The Horse in Indian Myth and History | by Wendy Doniger (Speaking Tiger)
Horses are not indigenous to India. And yet, folklore and popular culture is full of stories about them. In this book, Doniger examines the horse’s significance throughout Indian history, from the arrival of the Indo-Europeans, followed by the people who became the Mughals (who imported Arabian horses) and the British (who imported thoroughbreds and Walers).
The Tale of the Horse: A History of India on Horseback | by Yashaswini Chandra (Picador)
In this debut, Chandra takes us on the trail of the horse into and within India. What follows is a journey, covering caravan-trade routes originating in Central Asia and Tibet and sea routes from the Middle East. The history of the horse in India, mirroring that of its human inhabitants, is a tale of migration and permanent intermingling.
Tagore and Gandhi: Walking Alone, Walking Together | by Rudrangshu Mukherjee (Aleph)
The first in-depth study of the deep bond between Mahatma Gandhi and Tagore.
We Are Bellingcat | by Eliot Higgins (Bloomsbury)
Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat, an investigative website which in its short life has broken scoop after scoop. This book tells the story of how this school dropout created a new category of information-gathering and galvanised citizen journalists to solve some of the biggest stories, and how big data can be harnessed to protect democracy. It delves into some of Bellingcat’s most successful investigations, such as the truth about the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 over Ukraine, the sourcing of weapons in the Syrian Civil War and scoops into journalistic phone hacking.
Spy Stories: Inside the Secret Worlds of ISI and RAW | by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark (Juggernaut)
With unprecedented access to RAW and ISI, the writers talk about the inner workings of these two rival agencies.
The Right to Sex | by Amia Srinivasan (Bloomsbury)
A dismantling of the politics and ethics of sex in this world, animated by the hope of a different one, written by a young intellectual.
Creation | by John-Paul Stonard (Bloomsbury)
The story of how people all over the globe, from prehistory to the present, have created images in order to understand the world they inhabit. It explores the remarkable endurance of this creative impulse, and by tracing the diversity of artistic forms through the ages, offers an introduction to world art.
The World of Raja Ravi Varma: Princes and Statesmen | by Manu S Pillai (Juggernaut)
Pillai writes of India’s princely states and the ways they stood up to the Raj, through Ravi Varma’s portraits of prominent late nineteenth century rulers, to tell the stories of those states.
India Reborn: British-Colonial Depredations and India’s Revolutionary Comeback | by Prasenjit K Basu (Hachette)
A history of India’s subjugation by Britain, its dire economic consequences which outlasted Britain’s colonial presence, and the real story of the many intertwined struggles that ultimately ended that rule.
In Search of the Divine: Living Practices of Sufism in India | by Rana Safvi (Hachette)
Safvi journeys into the fascinating history of the arrival of Sufi saints in India and the impact they have had on the lives of people across communities through the living traditions of India’s major dargahs today.
The Fifteen: The Women Who Shaped the Constitution of India | by Angellica Aribam and Akash Satyawali (Hachette)
A look at the making of the Indian Republic through profiles of the 15 women who were a part of the Constituent Assembly of India and active participants in the drafting of the Constitution. Tracing the history of the making of India’s Constitution, it provides insights into these women.
Of Grass and Gardens | by Sumana Roy (OUP)
This work studies the life and writings of five cultural icons from Bengal, artists who were neither botanists nor environmentalists but wrote about and around plant life. Weaving biography, cultural history, and literary criticism, Roy studies the plant philosophy of several literary and spiritual personalities against the background of the scientific and cultural developments in early twentieth century Bengal.
A Luxury Called Health: The Art, the Science and the Trickery of Medicine | by Kavery Nambisan (Speaking Tiger)
A doctor and writer draws upon her experiences as a surgeon over four decades in rural and small-town India—from Bihar and UP to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu—to show how tragically and, indeed, criminally, the country’s health system and private medical practitioners have failed us.
Sentient | by Jackie Higgins (Picador)
This book assembles a menagerie of zoological creatures—from land, air, sea from all four corners of the globe—to understand what it means to be human. Through their eyes, ears, tongues, noses and more, we embark on a journey to discover how we sense and make sense of the world.
Landscapes of Loss: The Story of an Indian Drought | by Kavitha Iyer (HarperCollins)
This is the story of Marathwada—its stunning basalt hills, scorched brown earth, the flaming reds and pinks the locals wear—through the accounts of its people: its marginal farmers, Dalits, landless labourers, farm widows, and its children.
Indian Botanical Art: From the Moghuls to Today | by Martyn Rix (Roli)
A collection of botanical drawings from the colonial period of Indian history, which melds together scientific precision and artistic grace. Each section on flowers, herbal plants, fruit, shrubs and trees contains an introduction to the vast variety of indigenous plants found in India.
Enter Stage Right: The Alkazi / Padamsee Family Memoir | by Feisal Alkazi (Speaking Tiger)
In this memoir, Feisal Alkazi recounts the story of the Alkazis and the Padamsees—two families who straddled the worlds of art, theatre and literature, and between them, pioneered some of the most important events in post-independence India. While the story of the Alkazi and Padamsee families may read like a mini history of contemporary theatre, Feisal Alkazi laces it with stories that only an ‘insider’ would know.
Pulwama | by Rahul Pandita (Juggernaut)
The inside story of how one man in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) cracked the Pulwama suicide attack case. The investigating agencies were initially clueless about who had planned the attack and how. It is after months of painstaking work that the story became clearer.
The Master: The Brilliant Career of Roger Federer | by Christopher Clarey (John Murray)
Based on 20 years of one-on-one interviews with Federer and with access to his inner circle, including his coaches and key rivals, sports reporter Christopher Clarey tells the story of Federer’s life.
The Three Khans | by Kaveree Bamzai (Westland)
As the three Ms of Mandir, Masjid and Market unfold, a trio of stars emerge to define the nation. Three Khans dominate India’s narrative over three decades. With their distinct following, their specific body of work and their irresistible resilience, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have changed the game.
India versus China: Why They Are Not Friends | by Kanti Bajpai (Juggernaut)
India and China comprise nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population. In recent years, the uneasy peace following the 1962 war has been broken by several military confrontations and the growing power asymmetry between the two countries. This book helps one understand the complex and troubled relationship between Asia’s two largest countries, and how these might develop in the future.
The Saravana Bhavan Murder: The Inside Story of the Tycoon Who Became a Killer | by Nirupama Subramanian (Juggernaut)
P Rajagopal, founder and owner of Saravana Bhavan began life as a poor village boy, but with his drive, ambition, and the superb quality of the food he served, he created a brand.Then the twice-married Rajagopal became obsessed with Jeevajyothi, the young daughter of an employee. The fall of one of India’s most successful restaurateurs is a story of an entrepreneurial genius whose obsession turned him into a cold-blooded killer.
Top 10 Game Changing Moments in Indian Economy | by Bibek Debroy (Rupa)
Debroy discusses the key inflection points in the Indian economy, from the nationalisation of banks to demonetisation.
Radical Cartography | by William Rankin (Picador)
A look at how we represent the world through maps, suggesting that maps aren’t just an end in themselves, but a way of confronting novel problems and finding creative visual solutions.
Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe | by Niall Ferguson (Allen Lane)
Drawing from history, economics and network science, Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe is a global post-mortem for a plague year. Ferguson describes the pathologies that have done us so much damage: from imperial hubris to bureaucratic red tape and online schisms.
Fractured Freedom: A Prison Memoir | by Kobad Ghandy (Roli)
Dedicated to his inspiration, his late wife, the book details Kobad Ghandy’s early life—from his time studying in London to his return to India and introduction to the Dalit Panthers and radical politics. It gives us an insight into his decade-long journey of arrests and time in prisons across India.
Ayodhya and Beyond: National Hindutva Awakening | by Subramanian Swamy (Rupa)
Subramanian Swamy goes beyond the headlines to discuss the road map for a Hindutva awakening beyond Ayodhya.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life | by George Saunders (Random House)
For the last 20 years, Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. Here he shares a version of that class, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. The seven essays are for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever. It explores the essence of great writing and how it works on the mind.
Shades of Black | by Nathalie Etoke (translated by Gila Walker) (Seagull Books)
Focusing on recent and ongoing topics in the US, including the murder of George Floyd, police brutality, the complex symbolism of Barack Obama and Kamala Harris, Etoke examines Black existence today.
Shikwa-e-Hind: The Political Future of Indian Muslims | by Mujibur Rehman (Simon & Schuster)
What is the political future of Indian Muslims? Over the years, deliberations have occurred with regard to the economic or cultural identity of Muslims because it was presumed that the political future is ascertained in the Indian constitution. The rise of majoritarianism as an electoral issue has altered that situation.
The Taste of Literature | by Chandrahas Choudhury (Simon & Schuster)
From Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay to Vikram Chandra and Irene Nemirovsky to Raj Kamal Jha, the reader will find an eclectic array of essays. Each essay is a few pages short, and covers matters from Hindu nationalism to questions of myth, history and the realist novel.
In Home in the World, Amartya Sen asks where is ‘home’? for him home has been many places—Dhaka where he grew up, Santiniketan, Calcutta and Trinity College, Cambridge
Locking Down the Poor: The Pandemic and India’s Moral Centre | by Harsh Mander (Speaking Tiger)
A book about a lockdown that should never have been. With stories of the suffering of the migrant workers and the homeless, and data about the extent of their destitution, Mander shows how the Indian state and the middle class wilfully abandoned the country’s poor and vulnerable.
Exiles of the New Frontier: Epics of the Homeless in India | by Ashwin Parulkar (Speaking Tiger)
Containing over 100 life histories—of homeless men and women across in Delhi—the book examines why and how people become homeless, how they survive on the streets and how some of them exit the state of homelessness but many never do. Ashwin Parulkar has worked for nearly a
decade among this demographic.
Leopard Diaries | by Sanjay Gubbi (Westland)
An account of the Indian leopard by Sanjay Gubbi, winner of the Green Oscar. The leopard is often overlooked in the Indian wildlife scenario given the media obsession with lions, tigers and elephants. But this hardy predator is found all over the country often in close conjunction with urban settlements. It has been at the forefront of the human-animal conflict in several places and often subject to the ire of the locals.
The Many Lives of Agyeya | by Akshaya Mukul (Context)
A complex man and a literary giant, and deeply involved with the social politics of the time, Agyeya was worshipped and reviled for his unconventional views and unorthodox personal life. This biography is as much an account of the life of an important figure from Indian history as it is a slantwise look at the history of a newly independent India, by the author of Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India.