by Anuradha Goyal
390 Book Reviews
376 Authors
107 Publishers
34 Author Interviews


Who wrote the BhagwadaGita? By Meghnad Desai

Who wrote the BhagwadaGitaBhagwad Gita is a sacred text for a large section of humanity and a mystery for the almost anyone who has either heard of it or read it. Scholars of the last couple of centuries have worked on it – trying to understand it, write commentaries on it, bring out its relevance to the current realities and to understand its historicity.

Meghnad Desai in this small book tries to reverse engineer the book. He tries to find out who actually wrote Gita – was it Ved Vyas the author to whom Mahabharata is attributed or was it an independent author who wrote it and the text was later made a part of the epic Mahabharata. Once he concludes that it was an independent text, he goes on to explore if it has a single or a multiple authorship? He tries to explain the disjointed nature of the philosophies in the text some of which even look contradictory. He refers to the similar works that have been done by both Indian and European scholars in trying to figure out Continue reading

Moving to Goa by Katharina Kakar

Katharina KakarThis book was on my reading list since the day I moved to Goa this January. Reading it after living here for 7 months was probably the best time to read it. I could relate to all that Katharina had to say about Goan–Migrant relationship having experienced it first hand. I had visited some of the places she mentioned in her book and got a list of places to be visited in the non-touristy part of Goa. Perfect timing as always.

So, Katharina and her husband Sudhir Kakar who is also a famous author moved to Goa about a decade ago settling down in a small village in South Goa. She begins the books by narrating the circumstances of their moving and how Goa chose them rather than they choosing Goa to live (I so connected with this phrase, for cities including Goa have been choosing me for sometime now). She then goes on to talk about the known and not so known aspects of Goa. Continue reading

The Last King in India – Wajid Ali Shah by Rosie Llewellyn-Jones

Rosie Llewellyn-JonesBiographies of historical figures stitched together using the material that is available with a bit of imagination acting as a thread can be very interesting – as they leave some gaps open to interpretation for the reader. As you read you add the bits you know about the figure – mostly what you have heard about them from popular perception or read in school text books and it can be a heady mix of known facts and myths and legends surrounding the figure. I expected that a lot in Wajid Ali Shah’s biography – for he comes from an era that was well documented and he was the last of his kinds.

Rosie writes primarily from the British accounts of Wajid Ali Shah. The book starts on a not so great note. By second chapter I was lost in names and dates – there were just too many of them and the king himself was literally absent from these chapter that means around 30% of the book. A detailed account of his mother’s journey to England, Continue reading

Creating Room to Read by John Wood

John WoodBuilding 10,000 libraries around the world, in places where the concept was almost non-existent is like the biggest ‘Punya’ that you can do. Giving children the ability to change their own destiny and giving them the power to impact other’s lives is a cause that towers above most other forms of charity – at least in my mind.

Author is the celebrated personality behind the ‘Room to Read’ movement and in this book he talks about his journey that began with a trek in Nepal and has reached this magic figure of 10,000 in a short period of few years. He has used every management principle under the sun and his personal experience of working with Microsoft to run Room to Read. The way he scaled up and expanded operations while managing the required funding for doing so makes a great case study for all kinds of businesses and NGOs.

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Bahar Dutt on Green Wars

Green Wars
Bahar Dutt, Image Credit – Vijay Bedi

I loved the stories of Green Wars – it introduced me to animals and landscapes of place far and wide. I had many questions for the author Bahar Dutt, so here are they along with her answers.

Tell us something about your growing up – where did you live, what did you study? Do you remember when and how you developed this inclination for animals and nature?

I spent my childhood in New York city as my dad who was working with Air India was posted there. My mother worked for a newspaper there and they both juggled their hectic careers and managing their two daughters , which am sure wasn’t easy! My childhood years were mostly in an urban environment so I wonder where I got the wildlife bug from? All I knew was I wanted to be around animals. So I spent my formative years burrowing myself in books on nature , Gerald Durrell and James Herriot. Later on I went on to do my Msc in wildlife conservation from the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology ( DICE)at University of Kent Canterbury, UK. I did my Masters thesis at the famous Jersey Zoo studying a species of Amazonia primates known as the Black lion Tamarins, I lived in a tent not far from the Zoo with my course mates, it was fun to study these animals in the day and come back and cook rajma-chawal for my English friends in the evening!

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Love and Lust by Pavan K Varma & Sandhya Mulchandani

Pavan K Varma, Sandhya MulchandaniIf you thought Kamasutra represents ancient Indian erotic literature, read this book to know that it is just a small speck in the spectrum of Erotica in Indian literature that has its beginnings right in the Rig Veda and is found in as much abundance in the folk literature around the country.

60+ pieces, excerpts, stories and poems from plethora of Indian literature, a lot of which I did not even know existed makes it quite an erotic reading – pun intended. I wonder how the authors put together such a vast collection of literature – how many they would have surfed and how many they would have read. They introduce each piece by telling a bit about the author, the time period in which he or she lived, the context where relevant, contemporary works, language and Continue reading

Shaping the World Edited by Manju Kapur

Women's Writing in India23 women writers of Indian subcontinent origin share their writing journeys – more precisely trying to answer – why do they write, when was it they wrote for the first time and of course the influences that went into writing. There seems to be a question on writing routine as they have all randomly tried to answer that.

What struck me the most in the book is the homogeneity that these 23 women share even when they come from diverse backgrounds. Each of them seems to be inspired by Virginia Woolf. At some point while reading I felt but for Virginia Woolf may be we would not had any of these women writers and I am not sure if that would have been a good thing or a bad thing. I have read a few of these writers and have liked Namita Devidayal and Tania James stories and I liked their pieces in the book intuitively. Most of these women took to writing to deal with their loneliness that came with leaving a job to take care of family or Continue reading

Malavikagnimitram by Kalidasa Tr by Srinivasa Reddy

KalidasaMalavikagnimitram is one of the earliest works of Kalidasa and critical analyst have always called it a bit raw and those who are good with words say that you must read it to know the growth of the poet, dramatist and author Kalidasa. I may have read bits and pieces of his works in school, but never got to read him in detail though I have all his works in original Sanskrit along with the translations in Hindi. I think I have been putting away reading that giant book for amount of time and concentration it requires. When you read the original in the language that you understand in minutest of nuances, you tend to get lost in the multiplicity of meanings thereof.

So when this small little book came to me, I read it as soon as possible to at least get started on that path. Translator – who in my opinion re-writes the book in his own way, talks about Kalidasa and his works in the beginning. He gives a context for the play and talks about Continue reading

Green Wars by Bahar Dutt

Dispatches from a Vanishing WorldBahar Dutt – an animal lover and an environmental journalist talks about her various expeditions across India and a couple of them outside India to brings out the damage we are doing to the environment, ignoring the integral food chains that run through them – all in the name of development. Not to forget the displacement of people who inhabit in these places and for whom the forest are a part of their lives and not just a statistic like the urban dwellers.

In 10 stories that span from Delhi to valley of Chambal, to beaches of Goa, to Himalayan ranges of North East India and to Gangotri glacier she tells the story of her following a story for her television show. She talks about her own situation, she talks about the journey, she talks about the not so well known species of animals that usually do not make it to the endangered list and hence get no protection, she talks about Continue reading

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Amitav GhoshI met Amitav Ghosh in Hyderabad at the launch of River of Smoke, the sequel to this book and I remember him talking in detail about the opium trade, as if that was all that the entire world was bothered about for the longest time. He claimed that Europeans came to India more for opium than any other thing. I believe he has centered his Ibis trilogy on the Opium wars of mid 19th CE and that’s all he was focused on.

This is an extremely well researched novel based on many different accounts of various aspects of the Opium trade in India. Set in 1838, it has characters from villages in what is now eastern UP, port in Calcutta and a ship that has come here to take coolies to black waters or island of Mauritius. This book is about the journey of various people who will get on board a ship called Ibis that leaves Calcutta. There is a bhojpuri speaking woman from a village on the banks of Ganga Continue reading