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This is a thread which can be used as a general discussion about "An Exotic Book Cavalcade to the Iconic India" challenge.

We will focus on India, the various states and locations within India, its people, its places, its events, its conflicts and its cultural icons.

Link to the I Like to Learn Quiz on Asia - lots of fun and learn the locations of all of the countries in this area:

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In terms of my first book - I will be reading with the History Book Club - The Jewel in the Crown - the first book in the Raj Quartet.

The focus country for this book is India.

The Jewel in the Crown
Note: Historical Fiction, Novel

The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, #1) by Paul Scott by Paul Scott Paul Scott


"Ah no, waste no pity on young Kumar. Whatever he got while in the hands of the police he deserved. And waste no pity on her either. She also got what she deserved."

August 1942. World War II is reaching its apex, with the conflict consuming almost all of Asia and Europe.

In Southeast Asia, the Japanese have driven the British army out of Burma and are threatening India, where Britain's beleaguered forces find themselves facing an increasingly hostile Indian populace tired of decades of unfulfilled promises of freedom.

On a dark monsoonal night in the town of Mayapore, amid an outbreak of anti-British rioting, a gang of Indian men rape a young British woman.

Through this rape, we are introduced to a cast of characters engulfed and subsequently carried away by the storm of events. Paul Scott's The Jewel in the Crown is part historical novel, part mystery, part love story, part allegory.

But to reduce it to any of these elements is to miss its irony, poignancy, and beauty. Full of complex characters and rich in atmosphere and symbolism, this is a novel that works on many different levels.

The events unfold through the eyes of a varied cast of characters--both British and Indian--united by their inability to escape the straightjacket of race and social roles, no matter their class, education, or political views.

This is particularly excruciating for the rape victim and the young Indian man accused of the crime. These two are drawn to each other by their alienation from the roles they are expected to play.

Englishwoman Daphne Manners finds herself increasingly estranged from her countrymen, while Hari Kumar, an Indian who has lived in Britain for all but two years of his life and is so anglicized that he doesn't even speak Hindi, can't abide his native land. Their struggle with the identities and constraints that society imposes on them and the manifestations of their conflict form the core of the novel, providing the timelessness and richness that make it one of the great novels of the 20th century.

The Jewel in the Crown, originally published in 1966, is the first of the Raj Quartet, the sweeping epic that looks at the collapse in the 1940s of British rule in India. It was followed by The Day of the Scorpion, The Towers of Silence, and A Division of Spoils. --Jonathan King


“A mighty literary experience.”
—The Times

“Quite simply, monumental.”
—Washington Post

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A Search in Secret India

A Search in Secret India by Paul Brunton by Paul Brunton Paul Brunton


The late Paul Brunton was one of the 20th century's greatest explorers of and writers on the spiritual traditions of the East. A Search in Secret India is the story of Paul Brunton's journey around India, living among yogis, mystics, and gurus, some of whom he found convincing, others not. He finally finds the peace and tranquility which come with self-knowledge when he meets and studies with the great sage Sri Ramana Maharishi.


"Fascinating reading, both from a historical point of view, but also because of the spiritual insights they contain." —Books Magazine

"His work is excellent. It has life, colour, movement." —The Times

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Empire of the Soul: Some Journeys in India

Empire of the Soul Some Journeys in India by Paul William Roberts by Paul William Roberts (no photo)


Paul William Roberts's journeys through India span twenty years, and in Empire of the Soul, he creates a dazzling mosaic, by turns tragic and comic, of the subcontinent and its people. From the crumbling palaces of maharajas to the slums of Calcutta; from the ashrams of holy men to a millionaire drug dealer's heavily guarded fortress on India's border with China, Roberts captures the lure of this enigmatic land?this empire of the soul. "India is a harsh mistress," he writes. "She seems to appreciate individual sacrifice so little. Yet she has never wanted for lovers..."


Reminiscent of the work of Bruce Chatwin, this soul-searching literary travelogue turns a keen and uncompromising eye toward India. A Westerner in love with this most un-Western of countries, Roberts (In Search of the Birth of Jesus) evokes in lush prose?and almost too vividly?the profound spiritual heights and sordid depths of humanity he encountered during his years in India in the 1970s and his several return trips in the '90s. The spiritually inclined will be fascinated by Roberts's truth-seeking missions with the famous guru Sai Baba and various traditional Hindu yogis, but they will meet less lofty characters here as well?at one point, Roberts accompanies a sadistic drug-lord to his hashish-oil operation. Roberts describes in excruciating detail unsanitary washroom facilities, fetid food and extremes of poverty?slums, crippled beggars, child prostitutes. His views of the Western seekers he meets along the way are just as unvarnished, especially of the sex-obsessed followers of Bhagwan Rajneesh. Yet the haunting splendor of this ancient, religion-drenched land shines through. At the end of his travels, in Siva's city of Benares, Roberts ponders the cremation-ash laden Ganges River and comes to know his own truth. Going deep within the paradoxes that form the fabric of India, this book offers far more than a postcard depiction
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information

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Out of India: Selected Stories
Note: Fiction

Out of India Selected Stories by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Ruth Prawer Jhabvala


Chosen by The New York Times Book Review as one of the best books of 1986, this volume of stories, selected by the author from her own early work, represents the essence of her Indian experience. Bearing Jhabvala's hallmark of balance, subtlety, wry humor, and beauty, these stories present characters that prove to be as vulnerable to the contradictions and oppressions of the human heart as to those of India itself.


'A writer of genius ! a writer of world class -- a master storyteller' -- Sunday Times

'An allusiveness, a susceptibility to mood, a tenderness to which Chekhov was the exemplar' -- V. S. Pritchett

'Marvellous ! each story perfectly constructed and complete' -- Jane Gardam

'Her tussle with India is one of the richest treats of contemporary literature' -- Guardian

'Brutally honest, these stories cut straight to the heart of the matter' -- The Good Book Guide

'Seductive ! intelligent and frank ! Jhabvala's troubled fragments provide consolation, not in art, but in the understanding that differences between continents and cultures cannot deny the common core of human yearnings' -- Times Literary Supplement

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India's Unending Journey

India's Unending Journey Finding balance in a time of change by Mark Tully by Mark Tully Mark Tully


Born in India and educated in Britain, Mark Tully is a citizen of two countries and two cultures, both of which have shaped his thinking and given him a unique perspective on the world today.

In this thoughtful and remarkable book, he shares the formative experiences of his upbringing, his early vocation as a priest, his distinguished broadcasting career, and his fascination for India's traditions as well as its modern customs.

India is changing rapidly and will soon become one of the world's most influential nations alongside China and America.

In fascinating, accessible style, Tully shows the many lessons he has learned from India and—most importantly—what he believes India has yet to teach other countries about ways to deal with economic growth and poverty relief, environmental issues, education, management, and democracy.

As he explains, India's journey is one towards a future in which we must draw deeply upon our spiritual and material resources and strive to find a balance in the face of uncertainty.


"Tully challenges the preconceptions others have about this land of contrasts, as well as those India has about itself. In doing so, he beautifully brings the country and its people to life" Daily Express

"Acute and formidably well-read" Daily Telegraph

"Deeply thoughtful" Spectator

"A warm and engaging guide" The London Paper

"The perspective of an insightful observer who has seen it all" India Today

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India: A Million Mutinies Now

India A Million Mutinies Now by V.S. Naipaul by V.S. Naipaul V.S. Naipaul


A New York Times Notable Book

Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul’s impassioned and prescient travelogue of his journeys through his ancestral homeland, with a new preface by the author.

Arising out of Naipaul’s lifelong obsession and passion for a country that is at once his and totally alien, India: A Million Mutinies Now relates the stories of many of the people he met traveling there more than fifty years ago.

He explores how they have been steered by the innumerable frictions present in Indian society—the contradictions and compromises of religious faith, the whim and chaos of random political forces.

This book represents Naipaul’s last word on his homeland, complementing his two other India travelogues, An Area of Darkness and India: A Wounded Civilization.

An Area of Darkness by V.S. Naipaul India A Wounded Civilization by V.S. Naipaul both by V.S. Naipaul V.S. Naipaul


“An intricate, splendid, and utterly memorable book.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“Warm, human, rich with a cacophony of Indian voices, India: A Million Mutinies Now is about the passions and tragedies of a nation caught between the rush of modernity and the power of tradition. . . . An indispensable book for understanding India at the end of the 20th century.”
—The Washington Post

“Brilliantly penetrating and shrewd. . . . Each story, evoked by Naipaul’s sensitive and nuanced probing, reflects complexities and contradictions and gives us a glimpse, however tiny, of the mosaic totality that comprises India.”
—The Chicago Tribune

“Beautifully written, intellectually satisfying. . . . Naipaul is a rare combination of born narrator, who brings to life the places and people he encounters.”
—Foreign Affairs

“Compassionate. . . . Leaves the reader with a powerful sense of [a] people’s dedication, perseverance and passion.”
—The New York Times

“Travel writing, history, novel, lyric—Naipaul’s book partakes of the excellence of every category and fulfills itself in one of the oldest and rarest of forms—prophecy. It bears witness, in unforgettable language, to the best of hopes in the worst of times.”
—The Christian Science Monitor

“Naipaul has retired the familiar, infuriating, immobile face of India and painted a fresh one of human spirit and dramatic change.”

“A shifting kaleidoscope of images of a country almost impossible to imagine, but made more comprehensible due to Naipaul’s formidable intelligence and prodigious narrative gifts.”
—Boston Sunday Herald

“Naipaul creates his India slowly, through whole life-stories told in the characters’ own voices. . . . The detail is wonderful, built up with impeccable care.”
—The Economist

“[Naipaul] has invaluably revealed the brink on which India now stands, the sources of all that rage and all those little mutinies. . . . There is a powerful feeling of change in this book.”
—Los Angeles Times

“Compelling, almost hypnotic. . . . A rich, multilayered portrait of a nation we know far too little about in the West. You will feel you have learned much about India, yet you will sense how much more—how very much more—remains to be learned.”
—Seattle Times

“Authentic. . . . These narratives record, in human terms, the rich and disturbing diversity of contemporary India. . . . Extraordinary.”

“There is a great temptation to quote too much of Naipaul, for in reading the novelist, essayist and travel writer we realize the accuracy of those who consider him one of the finest writers in the language; a man with intense intellectual curiosity, as well as an inherited sympathy for inhabitants of the Third World.”
—The Oregonian

“A superb raga of a book, a raga of morning curiosity and evening meditation. . . . This may be [Naipaul’s] most generous work, and his best non-fiction.”
—The San Diego Union-Tribune

“An absorbing journey through the mind of India. . . . Mutinies will surprise those who have read and ranted at Naipaul’s earlier books on India.”
—St. Petersburg Times

—The Spectator (London)

“In-depth. . . . Beautifully written, this book gives a personal look at the societal and political forces pushing for change in the country.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Prescient. . . . Naipaul’s intuitions and indefatigable on-the-spot research were well ahead of the academic reaction. . . . [He is] a writer who will always be read—and not just by academics—for his intelligence and insight and for the clarity and elegance of his style.”
—The Times Higher Education Supplement

“One of the most intelligent writers of our time. . . . Naipaul’s word-pictures of India are lyrical, spare, precise and vivid. . . . He succeeds—brilliantly—in integrating India’s individual truths with a larger picture of the country.”
—The Toronto Star

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A Passage to India
Note: Novel

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster by E.M. Forster E.M. Forster


A picture of the clash between ruler and ruled and of the prejudices and misunderstandings that foredoomed Britain's "jewel of the crown", this novel of society in India ranks high among the great literature of the 20th century.

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Maximum City

Maximum City Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta by Suketu Mehta Suketu Mehta


A native of Bombay, Suketu Mehta gives us an insider’s view of this stunning metropolis. He approaches the city from unexpected angles, taking us into the criminal underworld of rival Muslim and Hindu gangs; following the life of a bar dancer raised amid poverty and abuse; opening the door into the inner sanctums of Bollywood; and delving into the stories of the countless villagers who come in search of a better life and end up living on the sidewalks.


Pulitzer Prize Nominee (2005)

Guardian First Book Award Nominee (2005)

Vodafone Crossword Book Award for Nonfiction (2005)

Ryszard Kapuściński Prize Nominee (2011)

Kiriyama Prize (2005)

Samuel Johnson Prize (2005)

Second-Place Winner of the 2004 Discover Great New Writers Award, Nonfiction

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Note: Novel

Kim by Rudyard Kipling by Rudyard Kipling Rudyard Kipling



Kim is set in an imperialistic world; a world strikingly masculine, dominated by travel, trade and adventure, a world in which there is no question of the division between white and non-white.

Two men - a boy who grows into early manhood and an old ascetic priest, the lama - are at the center of the novel. A quest faces them both. Born in India, Kim is nevertheless white, a sahib. While he wants to play the Great Game of Imperialism, he is also spiritually bound to the lama. His aim, as he moves chameleon-like through the two cultures, is to reconcile these opposing strands, while the lama searches for redemption from the Wheel of Life.

A celebration of their friendship in a beautiful but often hostile environment, 'Kim' captures the opulence of India's exotic landscape, overlaid by the uneasy presence of the British Raj

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City of Djinns

City of Djinns A Year in Delhi by William Dalrymple by William Dalrymple William Dalrymple


This book, 90% informative and 10% humorous, equals 100% reading enjoyment. It's a delightful and entertaining history of Delhi, India told in a very ingenious way: it runs in reverse pattern from conventional history books in that it starts with the most recent history first and then gradually works back into time, ending in the ancient. However, what I enjoyed the most was how the author always introduces some present-day aspect (an existing ruin or a living person) as background material on which he weaves his historical journey in and out of Delhi's past and present. For example, a Dr. Jaffrey is his link to the Red Fort; a now very old Indian-born English woman, Alice, describes her associations with Lutyens, the creator of New Delhi; a Pakeezah Begum, a crown-princess and librarian, is one of the last surviving descendants of the Mughal emperors and becomes the modern-day connection to history of the Mughal dynasty; and the very decrepit Residency tells you about Delhi's romantic past in the era when it was beautifully intact.

I don't know why, but to me the most poignant stories told were about the Anglo-Indians who ended up abandoned by both Britain and India after the birth of an independent India. I never realized such unfortunate people existed, becoming political refugees denied rights by India, the country of their birth; and by the UK, to which they had blood ties. Mr. Dalrymple interviews a few of these people who by now have grown old and are the living remnants of hardball politics of a bygone era. They give their personal accounts of their own hardships. As victims abused by the system, they were denied basic privileges. These interviews are still quite vivid in my memory.

In the midst of all the daunting history of this city, Mr. Dalrymple intersperses his daily experiences in the form of funny stories about his landlady and apartment; plus he pokes fun of the heat, the noise, the traffic, the driving--all the typical Indian imageries that have been branded in our minds. While these did add diversion to the detailed history, my one fault with the book is that these incidents happened to be the same-ole, stereotypical situations that have been run to the ground about India. I was disappointed that he didn't exert a more pioneering in spirit and come up with more original subjects. Nevertheless, he has a natural talent for describing comical situations (or do I mean describing situations comically?). In spite of this one criticism, I ended up with big smiles on my face many times. And his prowess at transcribing the English spoken in India to the tee can't help but put a grin on your face.

In summary, this is an excellent read just for the sake of learning about a fascinating place. I especially recommend it for history buffs and I heartily recommend it to familiarize yourself with Delhi if it's on your list of travel destinations. I can honestly say that after reading City of Djinns, I most definitely will invest my next time in Delhi looking into some of the sites and districts brought to life in this book.
- Ronald Pompeo - Amazon Review


Thomas Cook Travel Book Award (1994)

Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award (1994)

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Freedom at Midnight

Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins by Larry Collins Larry Collins


First published in 1975, this 2009 edition is a new edition of the best-selling book described as irreplaceable by Le Monde, Paris. It is a poignant reminder of the defining moments of the end of the British Raj, the independence of 400 million people, their division into India and the newly created Pakistan. Time Magazine raised a poetic salutation to this brilliantly written book, hailing it as the Song of India . . . illuminated like scenes in a pageant .

The significance of the new edition lies in engaging the minds of two generations born into a free country, to enable them to empathetically understand the aspirations and goals that united our leaders then towards the common cause of freedom. The significance lies in invoking the re-awakening of the Indian spirit. Surely it is time for the over 1 billion people in India to ask themselves honestly what their contribution has been thus far towards realizing an India free from poverty, illiteracy and inequality.

While numerous tomes have been written on the Indian freedom struggle, the popularity of Freedom at Midnight lies in its easy narrative flow which veers from the thrilling to the enlightening, sometimes poignant and ever-compelling style.


'Magnificently enlightening and exciting.' -- National Observer, Washington

'The song of India...illuminated like scenes in a pageant.' -- Time Magazine, New York

'Thrilling...staggers the imagination.' -- Daily Mail

'There is no single passage in I this profoundly researched book that one could actually fault. Having been there most of the time in question, I can vouch for the accuracy of its general mood. It is a work of scholarship, of investigation, research and of significance.' JAMES CAMERON, NEW YORK TIMES

The dialogue is convincing, the story is emotionally moving and it contains some of the best descriptions of battle I've read..." - TIME OUT

"I defy a reader to put the book down once Robinson has got him into the air..." Paul Fussell, NEW REPUBLIC

'The song of India ... illuminated in scenes like a pageant.' - TIME

'A heroic tale that has not been told a tenth as, well before ... It will give more non-Indians more knowledge of the vast circumstances surrounding the birth of India than anything previously written. With an instinct for drama and a skill in narration, the authors take the reader from Whitehall to Delhi, to Calcutta, to Lahore, to Pula, to the villages of the Punjab and Bengal; their hold on the reader never falters.' - JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH

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Midnight's Children
Note: Fiction

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie by Salman Rushdie Salman Rushdie


Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India's independence, and found himself mysteriously 'handcuffed to history' by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent - and whose privilege and curse it is to be both master and victims of their times. Through Saleem's gifts - inner ear and wildly sensitive sense of smell - we are drawn into a fascinating family saga set against the vast, colourful background of the India of the 20th century.


Man Booker Prize (1981)

James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction (1981)

The Booker of Bookers Prize (1993)

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The White Tiger
Note: Novel

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga by Aravind Adiga Aravind Adiga


Set in a raw and unromanticized India, The White Tiger—the first-person confession of a murderer—is as compelling for its subject matter as it is for the voice of its narrator: amoral, cynical, unrepentant, yet deeply endearing.


Man Booker Prize (2008)

John Llewellyn Rhys Prize Nominee (2008)

Galaxy British Book Awards for Author of the Year

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize Finalist (2009)

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The Beautiful and the Damned

The Beautiful and the Damned A Portrait of the New India by Siddhartha Deb by Siddhartha Deb Siddhartha Deb


Siddhartha Deb grew up in a remote town in the northeastern hills of India and made his way to the United States via a fellowship at Columbia. Six years after leaving home, he returned as an undercover reporter for The Guardian, working at a call center in Delhi in 2004, a time when globalization was fast proceeding and Thomas L. Friedman declared the world flat. Deb’s experience interviewing the call-center staff led him to undertake this book and travel throughout the subcontinent.

The Beautiful and the Damned examines India’s many contradictions through various individual and extraordinary perspectives. With lyrical and commanding prose, Deb introduces the reader to an unforgettable group of Indians, including a Gatsby-like mogul in Delhi whose hobby is producing big-budget gangster films that no one sees; a wiry, dusty farmer named Gopeti whose village is plagued by suicides and was the epicenter of a riot; and a sad-eyed waitress named Esther who has set aside her dual degrees in biochemistry and botany to serve Coca-Cola to arms dealers at an upscale hotel called Shangri La.

Like no other writer, Deb humanizes the post-globalization experience—its advantages, failures, and absurdities. India is a country where you take a nap and someone has stolen your job, where you buy a BMW but still have to idle for cows crossing your path. A personal, narrative work of journalism and cultural analysis in the same vein as Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family and V. S. Naipaul’s India series, The Beautiful and the Damned is an important and incisive new work.


The Beautiful and the Damned is a Publishers Weekly Best Nonfiction title for 2011

A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title

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Inda Calling

India Calling An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking by Anand Giridharadas by Anand Giridharadas (no photo)


Reversing his parents' immigrant path, a young American-born writer returns to India and discovers an old country making itself new.

Anand Giridharadas sensed something was afoot as his plane from America prepared to land in Bombay. An elderly passenger looked at him and said, "We're all trying to go that way," pointing to the rear. "You, you're going this way?"

Giridharadas was returning to the land of his ancestors, amid an unlikely economic boom. But he was interested less in its gold rush than in its cultural upheaval, as a new generation has sought to reconcile old traditions and customs with new ambitions and dreams.

In India Calling, Giridharadas brings to life the people and the dilemmas of India today, through the prism of his émigré family history and his childhood memories of India. He introduces us to entrepreneurs, radicals, industrialists, and religious seekers, but, most of all, to Indian families. He shows how parents and children, husbands and wives, cousins and siblings are reinventing relationships, bending the meaning of Indianness, and enduring the pangs of the old birthing the new.

Through their stories, and his own, he paints an intimate portrait of a country becoming modern while striving to remain itself.

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Third Class Ticket

Third-class Ticket by Heather Wood by Heather Wood (no photo)


"It was a cold and clear January day when the will was read in a small Bengali village on the banks of the Ganges."

And so it was that the villagers learned that a rich landowner had left her money to their community so that they might 'see all of India'. Thus began a unique journey as forty villagers set off in a special third-class railway carriage to travel from the soggy plains of Bengal and the tropicana of the deep south to the alpine majesty of the Himalayas.

Heather Wood was fortunate enough to share part of their trip and, with notebook open and pen in hand, she unobtrusively watched and recorded the villagers' experiences on this unprecedented Indian odyssey.

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A City of Joy
Note: Novel but does have some historical significance

City Of Joy by Dominique Lapierre by Dominique Lapierre


What irony that one of Calcutta's most devastating slums should be known as Anand Nagar, ``the City of Joy.''

By interweaving impressionistic glimpses from the lives of a French priest, a rickshaw driver, and an American doctor, Lapierre creates a searing vision of the struggle for survival, the flashing violence, and the social and cultural practices of the slum.

His theme that from human misery can emerge joy might seem to some readers as a bogus acceptance of a terrible evil.

Yet Lapierre's narrative slides skillfully in and out of both history and fiction to create an effective but horrible montage of disease, death, and destruction amid elements of charity, hope, and love. The City of Joy should elicit strong reactions from readers.
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. - Publisher's Review on Amazon


"This book is a masterpiece" Le Monde

"Its heroes show us... how majestic the human spirit can be. City of Joy redefines all our perspectives" Sunday Telegraph

The City of Joy Foundation:

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The Calcutta Chromosome
Note: Novel

The Calcutta Chromosome A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & Discovery by Amitav Ghosh by Amitav Ghosh Amitav Ghosh


From Victorian lndia to near-future New York, The Calcutta Chromosome takes readers on a wondrous journey through time as a computer programmer trapped in a mind-numbing job hits upon a curious item that will forever change his life. When Antar discovers the battered I.D. card of a long-lost acquaintance, he is suddenly drawn into a spellbinding adventure across centuries and around the globe, into the strange life of L. Murugan, a man obsessed with the medical history of malaria, and into a magnificently complex world where conspiracy hangs in the air like mosquitoes on a summer night.

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Nine Lives

Nine Lives by William Dalrymple by William Dalrymple William Dalrymple


From the author of The Last Mughal and In Xanadu, comes a mesmerizing book that explores how traditional religions are observed in today’s India, revealing ways of life that we might otherwise never have known.

A middle-class woman from Calcutta finds unexpected fulfillment living as a Tantric in an isolated, skull-filled cremation ground . . . A prison warder from Kerala is worshipped as an incarnate deity for two months of every year . . . A Jain nun tests her powers of detachment watching her closest friend ritually starve herself to death . . . The twenty-third in a centuries-old line of idol makers struggles to reconcile with his son’s wish to study computer engineering . . . An illiterate goatherd keeps alive in his memory an ancient 200,000-stanza sacred epic . . . A temple prostitute, who resisted her own initiation into sex work, pushes her daughters into the trade she nonetheless regards as a sacred calling.

William Dalrymple tells these stories, among others, with expansive insight and a spellbinding evocation of remarkable circumstance, giving us a dazzling travelogue of both place and spirit.

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Note: Novel based in part upon some facts from the author's life - also I might add this is a novel which seems to be either very hated or very loved - no in between.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts by Gregory David Roberts Gregory David Roberts


"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."

So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.

Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.

As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.

Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas---this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.


Shortlisted for the Nielsen BookData/ABA Book of the Year Award

Booksellers' Choice (2003)

Shortlisted for Commonwealth Writer's Best First Book for the Pacific Region (2004)

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A River Sutra
Note: Novel

A River Sutra by Gita Mehta by Gita Mehta (no photo)


With imaginative lushness and narrative elan, Mehta provides a novel that combines Indian storytelling with thoroughly modern perceptions into the nature of love--love both carnal and sublime, treacherous and redeeming. "Conveys a world that is spiritual, foreign, and entirely accessible."--Vanity Fair. Reading tour.

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The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita by Anonymous by Anonymous (no photo)


The eighteen chapters of The Bhagavad Gita (c. 500 b.c.), the glory of Sanskrit literature, encompass the whole spiritual struggle of a human soul. Its three central themes—love, light, and life—arise from the symphonic vision of God in all things and of all things in God

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A Suitable Boy
Note: Novel

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth by Vikram Seth Vikram Seth


Vikram Seth's novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find -- through love or through exacting maternal appraisal -- a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multi ethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.


Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book Overall (1994)

WH Smith Literary Award (1994)

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A Fine Balance
Note: Fiction

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry by Rohinton Mistry Rohinton Mistry


With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.


Man Booker Prize Nominee for Shortlist (1996)

International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Nominee (1997)

Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book Overall (1996)

Scotiabank Giller Prize (1995)

Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction (1996)

CBC Canada Reads Nominee (2002)

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Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert by Elizabeth Gilbert Elizabeth Gilbert


In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want--husband, country home, successful career--but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.

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Holy Cow

Holy Cow An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald by Sarah Macdonald (no photo)


n her twenties, journalist Sarah Macdonald backpacked around India and came away with a lasting impression of heat, pollution and poverty. So when an airport beggar read her palm and told her she would return to India—and for love—she screamed, “Never!” and gave the country, and him, the finger.

But eleven years later, the prophecy comes true. When the love of Sarah’s life is posted to India, she quits her dream job to move to the most polluted city on earth, New Delhi. For Sarah this seems like the ultimate sacrifice for love, and it almost kills her, literally. Just settled, she falls dangerously ill with double pneumonia, an experience that compels her to face some serious questions about her own fragile mortality and inner spiritual void. “I must find peace in the only place possible in India,” she concludes. “Within.” Thus begins her journey of discovery through India in search of the meaning of life and death.

Holy Cow is Macdonald’s often hilarious chronicle of her adventures in a land of chaos and contradiction, of encounters with Hinduism, Islam and Jainism, Sufis, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians and a kaleidoscope of yogis, swamis and Bollywood stars. From spiritual retreats and crumbling nirvanas to war zones and New Delhi nightclubs, it is a journey that only a woman on a mission to save her soul, her love life—and her sanity—can survive.

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Wise and Otherwise

Wise And Otherwise by Sudha Murty by Sudha Murty Sudha Murty


Fifty vignettes showcase the myriad shades of human nature

A man dumps his aged father in an old-age home after declaring him to be a homeless stranger, a tribal chief in the Sahyadri hills teaches the author that there is humility in receiving too, and a sick woman remembers to thank her benefactor even from her deathbed. These are just some of the poignant and eye-opening stories about people from all over the country that Sudha Murty recounts in this book. From incredible examples of generosity to the meanest acts one can expect from men and women, she records everything with wry humour and a directness that touches the heart.

First published in 2002, Wise and Otherwise has sold over 30,000 copies in English and has been translated into all the major Indian languages. This revised new edition is sure to charm many more readers and encourage them to explore their inner selves and the world around us with new eyes.

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Song of India

Song of India by Mariellen Ward by Mariellen Ward (no photo)


"Follow your bliss " Joseph Campbell famously said, so she did. After several harrowing years of losses, author Mariellen Ward set out to recover from grief, understand the essence of yoga and rediscover the joy of living by traveling, studying yoga and volunteering in India. The stories in this collection are inspired by the scorched earth of the Rajasthan desert; the hypnotic currents of India's most sacred river; the awe-inspiring spectacle of the sunrise reflected against the white wall of the Himalayan mountain range in Darjeeling; the masses of people at the world's largest spiritual gathering; and the intense, smoke-filled darkness of a night facing death on the river in Varanasi.They are geographically diverse, but thematically linked by the author's transformative journeys across the subcontinent and her obvious love for the culture, the country and the people of India.

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The God of Small Things
Note: Fiction

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy by Arundhati Roy Arundhati Roy


"They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much."

The year is 1969. In the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India, fraternal twins Esthappen and Rahel fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their family. Their lonely, lovely mother, Ammu, (who loves by night the man her children love by day), fled an abusive marriage to live with their blind grandmother, Mammachi (who plays Handel on her violin), their beloved uncle Chacko (Rhodes scholar, pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher), and their enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grandaunt).

When Chacko's English ex-wife brings their daughter for a Christmas visit, the twins learn that Things Can Change in a Day. That lives can twist into new, ugly shapes, even cease forever, beside their river.... (from dust jacket)


Man Booker Prize (1997), BOOKER (1997)

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The Story of My Experiments With Truth

The Story of My Experiments With Truth by Mahatma Gandhi by Mahatma Gandhi Mahatma Gandhi


Mohandas K. Gandhi is one of the most inspiring figures of our time. In his classic autobiography he recounts the story of his life and how he developed his concept of active nonviolent resistance, which propelled the Indian struggle for independence and countless other nonviolent struggles of the twentieth century.

In a new foreword, noted peace expert and teacher Sissela Bok urges us to adopt Gandhi's "attitude of experimenting, of testing what will and will not bear close scrutiny, what can and cannot be adapted to new circumstances," in order to bring about change in our own lives and communities.

All royalties earned on this book are paid to the Navajivan Trust, founded by Gandhi, for use in carrying on his work.

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The Discovery of India

The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru by Jawaharlal Nehru Jawaharlal Nehru


In conjunction with the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund in New Delhi, Oxford proudly announces the reissue of Glimpses of World History and The Discovery of India, two famous works by Jawaharlal Nehru. One of modern day's most articulate statesmen, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a on a wide variety of subjects. Describing himself as "a dabbler in many things," he committed his life not only to politics but also to nature and wild life, drama, poetry, history, and science, as well as many other fields. These two volumes help to illuminate the depth of his interests and knowledge and the skill and elegance with which he treated the written word!!

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Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World

Gandhi His Life and Message for the World by Louis Fischer by Louis Fischer (no photo)


This is the extraordinary story of how one man's indomitable spirit inspired a nation to triumph over tyranny. This is the story of Mahatma Gandhi, a man who owned nothing-and gained everything!!

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Wings of Fire: An Autobiography of APJ Abdul Kalam

Wings of Fire An Autobiography by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam A.P.J. Abdul Kalam


Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, the son of a little-educated boat-owner in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, had an unparalleled career as a defence scientist, culminating in the highest civilian award of India, the Bharat Ratna. As chief of the country's defence research and development programme, Kalam demonstrated the great potential for dynamism and innovation that existed in seemingly moribund research establishments. This is the story of Kalam's rise from obscurity and his personal and professional struggles, as well as the story of Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul and Nag-missiles that have become household names in India and that have raised the nation to the level of a missile power of international reckoning. This is also the saga of independent India's struggle for technological self-sufficiency and defensive autonomy-a story as much about politics, domestic and international, as it is about science.

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Ka Stories of the Mind and Gods of India by Roberto Calasso by Roberto Calasso Roberto Calasso


"A giddy invasion of stories--brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful." --The New York Times Book Review

"So brilliant that you can't look at it anymore--and you can't look at anything else. . . . No one will read it without reward."
--The Boston Globe

With the same narrative fecundity and imaginative sympathy he brought to his acclaimed retelling of the Greek myths, Roberto Calasso plunges Western readers into the mind of ancient India. He begins with a mystery: Why is the most important god in the Rg Veda, the oldest of India's sacred texts, known by a secret name--"Ka," or Who?

What ensues is not an explanation, but an unveiling. Here are the stories of the creation of mind and matter; of the origin of Death, of the first sexual union and the first parricide. We learn why Siva must carry his father's skull, why snakes have forked tongues, and why, as part of a certain sacrifice, the king's wife must copulate with a dead horse. A tour de force of scholarship and seduction, Ka is irresistible.

"Passage[s] of such ecstatic insight and cross-cultural synthesis--simply, of such beauty." --The New York Review of Books

"All is spectacle and delight, and tiny mirrors reflecting human foibles are set into the weave,turning this retelling into the stuff of literature." --The New Yorker

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Slowly Down the Ganges

Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby by Eric Newby Eric Newby


On his forty-fourth birthday Eric Newby, a self-confessed river lover, sets out on a 1200-mile journey down the Ganges River from Hardwar to the Bay of Bengal, accompanied by his wife Wanda. Things do not start smoothly as they run aground 63 times in the first six days, but gradually India's holiest river, The Pure, The Eternal, The Creator of Happiness, lives up to its many names and captures them in its spell.

Traveling in a variety of boats, most of them unsuitable, as well as by bus and bullock cart, the Newbys become intimately acquainted with the river's shifting moods and colorful history. Slowly Down the Ganges brims over with engaging characters and entertaining anecdotes, recounted in Newby's inimitable style. Best of all, he brilliantly captures the sights and sounds, the frustrations and rewards, the sheer enchantment of travel in India.

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Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian by Nirad C. Chaudhuri by Nirad C. Chaudhuri Nirad C. Chaudhuri


The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian is an astonishing work of self-discovery and the revelation of a peerless and provocative sensibility. Describing his childhood in the Bengali countryside and his youth in Calcutta—and telling the story of modern India from his own fiercely independent viewpoint—Chaudhuri fashions a book of deep conviction, charm, and intimacy that is also a masterpiece of the writer's art.

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India: A Wounded Civilization

India A Wounded Civilization by V.S. Naipaul by V.S. Naipaul V.S. Naipaul


In 1975, at the height of Indira Gandhi’s “Emergency,” V. S. Naipaul returned to India, the country his ancestors had left one hundred years earlier. Out of that journey he produced this concise masterpiece: a vibrant, defiantly unsentimental portrait of a society traumatized by centuries of foreign conquest and immured in a mythic vision of its past.

Drawing on novels, news reports, political memoirs, and his own encounters with ordinary Indians–from a supercilious prince to an engineer constructing housing for Bombay’s homeless–Naipaul captures a vast, mysterious, and agonized continent inaccessible to foreigners and barely visible to its own people. He sees both the burgeoning space program and the 5,000 volunteers chanting mantras to purify a defiled temple; the feudal village autocrat and the Naxalite revolutionaries who combined Maoist rhetoric with ritual murder. Relentless in its vision, thrilling in the keenness of its prose, India: A Wounded Civilization is a work of astonishing insight and candor.

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The Collected Essays of A.K. Ramanujan

The Collected Essays of A. K. Ramanujan by A.K. Ramanujan by A.K. Ramanujan A.K. Ramanujan


Poet, translator, and folklorist, A.K. Ramanujan has been recognized as the world's most profound scholar of South Asian language and culture. This book brings together for the first time, thirty essays on literature and culture written by Ramanujan over a period of four decades. It is the product of the collaborative effort of a number of his colleagues and friends. Each section is prefaced by a brief critical introduction and the volume includes notes on each essay as well as a chronology of Ramanujan's books and essays.

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Note: Novel

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse by Hermann Hesse Hermann Hesse


This classic novel of self-discovery has inspired generations of seekers. With parallels to the enlightenment of the Buddha, Hesse's Siddhartha is the story of a young Brahmn's quest for the ultimate reality. His quest takes him from the extremes of indulgent sensuality to the rigors of ascetism and self-denial. At last he learns that wisdom cannot be taught–it must come from one's own experience and inner struggle. Steeped in the tenets of both psychoanalysis and Eastern mysticism, Siddhartha presents a strikingly original view of man and culture, and the arduous process of self-discovery that leads to reconciliation, harmony and peace.

A classic of 20th-century fiction, Hesse's most celebrated work reflects his lifelong studies of Oriental myth and religion.

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Eileen Iciek | 69 comments Bentley wrote: "Shantaram
Note: Novel based in part upon some facts from the author's life - also I might add this is a novel which seems to be either very hated or very loved - no in between.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts by Gregory David Roberts was one that I have and loved. I picked it up in a bookstore and read the first page, put it back on the shelf, but could not forget it and returned the next day and bought it.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert by Elizabeth Gilbert did not do much for me, but I guess some people enjoyed it.

And Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse by Hermann Hesse I read as a teenager when I was in a Hermann Hesse phase. Don't recall much about it at this point.

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Eileen, thank you so much for your post. And thank you for doing such a great job with the citations - your first time out. And we hope you will join us for the challenge - because the books that I have posted are just suggestions.

You have done a great job adding the bookcovers and the author's photo - but you are missing the third segment which is the author's link which is the author's name in linkable text.

You have to go in one more time on the citations and have the author's tab at the top highlighted - but at the bottom now click on link. The first time you click on photo. If there is no photo - at the end we simply add (no photo). So the order is how you have it - bookcover, photo, and then the part that you have missing - the link

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse by Hermann Hesse Hermann Hesse

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert by Elizabeth Gilbert Elizabeth Gilbert

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts by Gregory David Roberts Gregory David Roberts

It is odd - but Shantaram is the one book that folks who read it seem to have polar opposite views on - either they love the book "beyond all belief" or they wanted to throw it across the room (smile). And it is not a short book either.

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Eileen Iciek | 69 comments Bentley wrote: "Eileen, thank you so much for your post. And thank you for doing such a great job with the citations - your first time out. And we hope you will join us for the challenge - because the books that..."

Bentley- thanks for the reminder. I had not noticed that I needed 3 entries.

When I read the book, I thought it was amazing, but the people I showed it to did not have the same response. Mostly it was just a lack of interest. Years later, though, my niece who has spent some time in India picked it up and loved it. And I read all 800 pages or so in about a week. So your observation about either loving it or hating it is probably correct.

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You can go back and edit your post and we will help you get it right.

Yes, Eileen - I have not read it myself but the reviews seem to be "polar opposites". But glad you loved it.

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Mikey B. | 34 comments Hi Another great biography of Gandhi is by his grandson

Gandhi The Man, His People, And The Empire by Rajmohan Gandhi by Rajmohan Gandhi Rajmohan Gandhi


This monumental biography of one of the most intriguing figures of the twentieth century, written by his grandson, is the first to give a complete and balanced account of Mahatma Gandhi's remarkable life, the development of his beliefs and his political campaigns, and his complex relations with his family. Written with unprecedented insight and access to family archives, it reveals a life of contrasts and contradictions: the westernized Inner Temple lawyer who wore the clothes of India's poorest and who spun cotton by hand, the apostle of nonviolence who urged Indians to enlist in the First World War, the champion of Indian independence who never hated the British. It tells of Gandhi's campaigns against racial discrimination in South Africa and untouchability in India, tracks the momentous battle for India's freedom, explores the evolution of Gandhi's strategies of non-violent resistance, and examines relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, a question that attracted Gandhi's passionate attention and one that persists around the world today. Published to rave reviews in India in 2007, this riveting book gives North American readers the true Gandhi, the man as well as the legend, for the first time.

You have already mentioned Louis Fischer.

He also wrote a biography (excellent too!) on Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi His Life and Times by Louis Fischer by Louis Fischer

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Aloha | 181 comments Another region I've always wanted to know more about since I have friends in the area. I've joined the challenge but have not put any books on my shelf. I'll have to ask around what books would give a great and comprehensive overview of India.

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Yes, we are placing some of the books here which you can look at and will add some other lists. So you should have plenty to look at before the challenge starts.

Glad that this next region/country interests you.

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The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History

The Argumentative Indian Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity by Amartya Sen by Amartya Sen Amartya Sen


Written by the Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, this book is essentially a series of poignant essays narrating India’s history and how that history has influenced and shaped its cultural identity. Sen talks about how India has had a long history of public debate (in all spheres of life) and how heterodoxy was prevalent in Indian society centuries ago. This vibrant past is something that Sen believes we all should know about – considering that it can have a deep impact on the way we embrace our future.

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@MikeyB - hope you join the challenge - would love to have you.

@Aloha - glad to see you have saved your spot early. Delighted to have you back for the next challenge.

@Eileen - would love for you to join the challenge if you have the time and thank you for your synopsis and adds.

@Mikey B - Thanks for your add - also great job - like a moderator - only difference is that we place the title in bold above the citation - But your citations are appreciated too.When however a book does not have an image - then just add the link and place (no image) in front of the link. But if you checked under other editions - you would have found other copies with the book cover. If you want to practice and edit - you will see what I mean - sometimes there are no other images but sometimes there are. Great add nonetheless and terrific job with the format too.


Gandhi His Life and Message for the World by Louis Fischer by Louis Fischer (no photo)

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

India After Gandhi The History of the World's Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha by Ramachandra Guha Ramachandra Guha


Ramachandra Guha is perhaps one of India’s best historians currently. This book of his talks about India’s history after it gained independence from the British. This is the perfect book for you to understand the evolution of Modern India. Guha, a former professor and now historian, does an awe-inspiring job of making sense of India’s chaotic and eventful history since independence – the partition, Nehru’s socialist policies, Rajiv Gandhi’s brief but impactful career, the rise of religion and caste-based politics – almost everything you want to know is there in this 900-page book.

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