On My Bookshelf

My last post, India For Kids, was about books which introduced the wonders of India to our children. That post, however, lead to requests by friends for recommendations of non-fiction books for them as adults. Non-fiction as a genre includes self-help books, biographies, travelogues, religion and many more as sub-categories.  Non-fiction is not something that can be breezed through and requires some effort in terms of time and concentration, so it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I personally avoid self-help books but enjoy reading books on religion and history. Thus it is all about your personal preference in choosing a book. Quite a few times people do want to read but are daunted by the actual task of picking out a book. Book lists like this one just give them a nudge in picking out a book. 

  • Sapiens (Yuval Harari). A bestseller, which it certainly deserves to be so, this book deals with the history of humankind. On paper the premise sounds boring, the author, however, has written the book with such engaging anecdotes and examples that it keeps you hooked. My favourite part of the book is when he writes about religion.
  • India In Slow Motion ( Mark Tully). One of the most famous faces of BBC in India, Mark Tully has not only distinguished himself as a credible journalist but has also authored several books on India. This book ranges on topics like Ayodhya, corruption and Kashmir from a very humane perspective. You cannot help but see how the book has been written as an impartial observer and yet it retains the essence of India’s heartland.
  • Why I am A Hindu ( Shashi Tharoor). I know its surprising to pick this book over “An Era of Darkness”. While the latter dealt with the pillage of India during the two hundred years of British rule, I found this one more engrossing. In today’s age of socialism, agnosticism and nationalistic Hinduism, a liberal Hindu is somehow lost. This book found me nodding my head quite a few times at the author’s words.
  • Our Moon Has Blood Clots (Rahul Pandita). Kashmir valley has been a troubled spot for many years now. A lot has been spoken and thought off, for the separatists of the Kashmir valley. However, the Kashmiri Pandits, the ones who bore the brunt of the happenings in the Kashmir Valley were a forgotten lot. Journalist Rahul Pandita has written a first-hand account of leaving the valley. He has included the accounts of those who left their homes and became refugees in their own country. It is a moving heart-tugging tale of displacement and then overcoming the odds to shine again.
  • An Utterly Impartial History of Britain (John O’Farrell). I know history is not enjoyed by everyone and that too, the history of a country which ruled you for two hundred years. This book is, however, a laughter riot with tongue-in-cheek humour eliciting chuckles at a steady rate. A totally delightful way to learn the history of a country who either directly or indirectly shaped the world we live in today.
  • James Herriot. I have mentioned the name of the author instead of the books as I loved reading all his books written under this pen name ( The author’s actual name is James Alfred Wight). James Herriot wrote about his travails as a country vet in the moors of Yorkshire. Written with classic, subtle British humour, his books showed his love for the animals and made for an engrossing read.
  • The Gita, for children (Roopa Pai). This list has been made keeping the adults in mind, however, I knew I had to add this book as well, even though it is classified in thirteen plus age-group. Most of us are aware of “The Gita” but are unaware of its nuances and depth. This book is an excellent starting point to discover the magic of  Gita and the philosophy of life. (I have written a detailed blog post reviewing this book which you can read here: The Conversation.)
  • Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortensen). An autobiographical account of Greg Mortensen who has been instrumental in building schools and spreading education in Pakistan and Afganistan. He writes about the challenges faced and his acceptance of the social norms in his fight for the right of education. The book shows how an ordinary man can bring about change.
  • In An Antique Land(Amitav Ghosh). Described as narrative, travelogue, historical account and even autobiographical, this book follows two parallel narratives. The first one is an account of Amitav Ghosh’s stay in a village in Nile Delta, Egypt during the eighties. His interactions and observation with the natives form the backbone. The other is the historical account of an Egyptian merchant and his slaves in India. Amitav Ghosh has tied the two narratives beautifully which stays with you long after you have finished the book. 
  • Begums, Thugs and Englishmen (Fanny Parkes/ William Dalrymple)Long time ago an English Memsahib, Fanny Parkes, came to India as the wife of a moffusil district collector. She was neither totally “native”, nor was she one of the aloof memsahibs who refused to mingle with the people of the country and thus she had a very colourful time in India. Edited from her personal journals this is an interesting read, especially the part about Thugee and the establishment of Landour ( of particular interest to me since I am from Dehradun).

 

This list has been made in keeping with my interests, there are however scores of other books on many more topics which might be more appealing to you. Do not hesitate to experiment, as only then you realise what you are actually interested in.

If you have read (or are planning to read)any of the above books, I would love to hear your views. 

 

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