by Anuradha Goyal
400 Book Reviews
386 Authors
109 Publishers
36 Author Interviews


Elephanta by George Michell

UNESCO World Heritage Site SeriesThis slim volume on the UNESCO world heritage site of Elephanta caves near Mumbai by noted historian Goerge Michell is a good reference guide as and when you visit the monument. Elephanta caves on an island off Mumbai are the first known Hindu caves as all the caves dated before this one, are either Buddhist or Jain caves – be it at Ajanta or in Karla. This cave holding a unique and giant image of Shiva with three faces makes it important both from history, art history and religious history perspective.

Each and every aspect of the cave is explained with pictures and sketch diagrams. High-resolution pictures help you visualize what is being explained in the text. The sketch diagrams out the images and the orientation in perspective and also explain the highly geometric and symmetric base of the cave. Each and every carving on the wall is explained with pictures and with the stories and episodes from Shiva’s life that they depict. Continue reading

Ahmedabad – From Royal City to Megacity by Achyut Yagnik, Suchitra Sheth

Ahmedabad – From Royal City to Megacity by Achyut Yagnik, Suchitra ShethTalk about the timing of my books. I picked up this book about 3 years back when I was supposed to move from Gurgaon to Ahmedabad. The move never happened. We moved to Hyderabad and then to Goa and the book kept moving along. Now, just before I am planning a trip to Ahmedabad, I picked it up to read and I must say it prepares we well to meet the city. As a book written with a fellowship grant to document the history of this vibrant city, this offers insights into the evolutions of the city. Moving chronologically, it starts with the Ahmed Shah laying the foundations of the city to its current megacity status with highways and flyovers.

Current generations probably know of Ahmedabad’s history since the time of Gandhi and his setting up the Sabarmati Ashram here, but not many would be aware of setting up of the city on the banks of the same river by Ahmed Shah. Authors try to trace the habitations Continue reading

Mirrored Mind – My life in letters and code by Vikram Chandra

My life in code and lettersWriting software code that makes life easy for its users and writing fiction that enthralls the reader with author’s imagination have never been thought in the same space. Both software programmers and authors write and create a world, the objective may be different but the semantics and the process may not be. People from the literary world may think too much respect being offered to mere software coders and the software world may not appreciate their parallels in the world of Rasa, Dhvani and Anand. Works like this would probably bridge the gap.

Like the author, I have also straddled both the worlds – of software in its nascent days in India and now as a blogger and author – the literary world. For me this was a good synthesis of two worlds. Vikram Chandra’s description of logic gates was nostalgic to say the least – it took me back to those days when we wrote those assembly language programs and when FORTRAN was an advanced language. Continue reading

Kathmandu by Thomas Bell

KathmanduKathmandu, the capital of Nepal is an intriguing place – an ancient city wrapped in a lot of mythology, where Hinduism and Buddhism co-exist like siblings from an inter-religion marriage. It is a place ruled primarily by the people of the country as they managed to keep all the colonial forces away from them and hence keep the outside influences on their culture to a bare minimum. Landlocked between China and India – they are like a buffer zone who have influences from both and who have trade and pilgrim routes going through them. Not much is known about the history and evolution of the city, so I thought this must be a good book to peep into it. I was cautious that it is written by a British, so there would be dates and dates and tracing back of all the previous European / Western visitors and their records. Bang on – so it was. Author is married to a Nepali and has been living there for more than a decade now, so I expected some first hand experiences of living as an insider – was disappointed on this front but it was kind of compensated by Continue reading

Vikram Balagopal on Creating Graphic Novels

Author of SimianAuthor of Graphic novel series SIMIAN talks about the art & craft of creating a graphic novel. 

Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, what did you study and what do you do for living?

I was born and brought up in Kerala. An avid sketcher from the start, I began  writing poems and short stories when I was nine and discovered cinema soon after. I studied film-making at the NYFA (New York Film Academy) and returned to work in India with various filmmakers. One of my screenplays, “Sentinel Rock”, was chosen by Mira Nair for her Maisha Screenwriter’s Lab in 2006. Currently, I am based in Delhi and, bringing together my three passions of writing, visualizing and drawing, I am working on the third instalment of my graphic novel trilogy SIMIAN. Continue reading

Kamadeva – The God of Desire by Anuja Chandramouli

God of DesireIt’s the era of revival and re-interpretation of Indian history and mythology. Young authors are reading the scriptures, reading commentaries on them and then re-writing the epics or the stories thereof – adding their own interpretations, means and the contemporary contexts. Kamadeva – the God of Desire, makes a special appearance in our epics. He makes an appearance whenever the higher Gods need his help and after that he seems to be living happily with his wife in Amravati. Not many of us have heard his story in isolation. So this was quite a tempting book to pick up.

Anuja has picked all the episodes in Puranas and Itinhaas where Kamadeva made an appearance and weaved it into a lovely story. Story obviously begins with the birth of Kamadeva to Brahma and the curse that is born with him that he would die at the hands of Shiva whom the author chooses to call ‘The Destroyer’ throughout the book. Continue reading

Indian Art by Vidya Dehejia

Introduction to Indian ArtBooks on Indian Art are mainly written for scholars in the academic world and that kind of makes them inaccessible to the general public. In my opinion this is also a reason why most of us do not understand and hence appreciate the rich aesthetic traditions of ancient India. There is a strong need to bridge the gap between scholarly knowledge and what the layperson needs to know about Indian Art and how it evolved over a period of time.

In this textbook styled book, author Prof Vidya Dehejia – a well know art historian, tries to bridge the gap to a large extent. Taking the reader chronologically through the long history of India or Indian subcontinent, she gives a glimpse of the vast spectrum that can be explored with ample aid of pictures that help the reader visualize what the author explains. Its a journey of Indian Art through the ages.  Continue reading

My Beautiful Shadow by Radhika Jha

Radhika JhaBeginning at a high note, the book settles into a monotone of brands and finally scatters all over the place, split and directionless. I started reading the book with an interest to get an insight into Japanese culture that for me is a bit of mystery. Author bio said she has spent 6 years in Japan and that I thought must have given her good insights. Alas, author never went beyond the surface.

In the beginning the protagonist tells ‘ Why is Japan so safe…it is because of the neighbors. They are your police, your judges and your jailors. But most of all, they are your teachers. What keeps us following the rules is the shame we feel if we are caught disobeying our teachers…combination of teacher-policeman is inescapable.’ I looked forward to such cultural nuances, but then the protagonist took me to all possible brand stores and her monotone became boring. Even if clothes are big obsession for women, I am not sure if it enjoyable to read about innumerable shopping trips that hardly have any variety. Continue reading

Billion Dollar Painter – The Triumph and Tragedy of Thomas Kinkade by G. Eric Kuskey

Thomas KinkadeThomas Kinkade apparently is a household name in America and we might have seen his work in Hallmark greeting cards and other merchandize. He was probably one of the rare artists who made billions of dollars from his painting while he was still alive. This is a memoir written by his friend and colleague who worked with him in last 16 years of his life.

It is a typical American story. A team of businessmen finds something to sell – in this case Thomas Kinkade’s paintings. They go ahead and build an empire selling his paintings, bringing in innovations like mechanical replication of paintings on canvas and finding as many avenues to sell his art as possible. They create the branding, the myth and the aura around paintings and the painter. They sell his paintings in original and in copies in all possible sizes. They invite people to open dedicated galleries. They license the art to other companies for use on things like calendars, greeting cards and other merchandize. Continue reading

Death and Dying Edited by Sudhir Kakar

Boundaries of ConsciousnessDeath – a reality that we know nothing about. We all would get there, someday, that is all we know. None of us have the first or even second hand experience of what happens when a human being dies. Every religion has its own take on death and one’s journey towards death. Religions are divided on re-birth but they all agree that not everything dies with the body, there is something that remains beyond the body. What is that – is a matter of another disagreement.

In this anthology various scholars – psychoanalysts talk about death, the process of dying, the mourning and its relevance, transfer of physical signs from one person to another, the near death experiences and the communication between the dead and the alive. Each essay deals with one or more aspects of death. I liked the first two chapters that mention various cases of near death experiences and of weird experiences people had about people who were about to die or were already dead. Continue reading