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TOP 5 NON-FICTION BOOKS TO READ

INDIA AFTER GANDHI – RAMCHANDRA GUHA

India after Gandhi was first published in 2007, but he updated it in 2017, because in the 10 years since the first book appeared, The Republic had witnessed two general elections; “the fall of Congress and the rise of Narendra Modi; a major anti- corruption movement, more violence against women, dalits, and minorities”.

 A magisterial account of the pains, the struggles, the humiliations, and the glories of the world’s largest and least likely democracy, Ramachandra Guha’s India After Gandhi is a breath-taking chronicle of the brutal conflicts that have rocked a giant nation and the extraordinary factors that have held it together. An intricately researched and elegantly written epic history peopled with larger-than-life characters, it is the work of a major scholar at the peak of his abilities

 Ramachandra Guha writes compellingly of the myriad protests and conflicts that have peppered the history of free India. Moving between history and biography, the story of modern India is peopled with extraordinary characters. Guha gives fresh insights into the lives and public careers of those long-serving Prime Ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. But the book also writes with feeling and sensitivity about lesser-known (though not necessarily less important) Indians – peasants, tribals, women, workers and musicians.

Massively resea rched and elegantly written, India After Gandhi is a remarkable account of India’s rebirth, and a work already hailed as a masterpiece of single volume history. This tenth anniversary edition, published to coincide with seventy years of India’s independence, is revised and expanded to bring the narrative up to the present.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer – Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer – from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with – and perished from – for more than five thousand years.

The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.”

The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist. From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave cut off her malignant breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease.

Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets

From the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Svetlana Alexievich, comes the first English translation of her latest work, an oral history of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a new Russia.

Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive documentary style, Secondhand Time is a monument to the collapse of the USSR, charting the decline of Soviet culture and speculating on what will rise from the ashes of Communism.

As in all her books, Alexievich gives voice to women and men whose stories are lost in the official narratives of nation-states, creating a powerful alternative history from the personal and private stories of individuals.

Svetlana Alexievich was born in the Ukraine in 1948 and grew up in Belarus. As a newspaper journalist, she spent her early career in Minsk compiling first-hand accounts of World War II, the Soviet-Afghan War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Chernobyl meltdown. Her unflinching work ‘the whole of our history is a huge common grave and a bloodbath’—earned her persecution from the Lukashenko regime and she was forced to emigrate. She lived in Paris, Gothenburg and Berlin before returning to Minsk in 2011. She has won a number of prizes, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Prix Médicis, and the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award. In 2015, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Bela Shayevich is a writer, translator and illustrator. Her translations have appeared in journals such as Little StarSt. Petersburg Review, and Calque. She was the editor of n+1 magazine’s translations of the Pussy Riot closing statements. Of Alexievich’s writing, she says it is ‘resounding with nothing but the truth’.

Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia

Dongri to Dubai is the first ever attempt to chronicle the history of the Mumbai mafia. It is the story of notorious gangsters like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Chhota Rajan, Abu Salem, but above all, it is the story of a young man who went astray despite having a father in the police force.

Dawood Ibrahim was initiated into crime as a pawn in the hands of the Mumbai police and went on to wipe out the competition and eventually became the Mumbai police’s own nemesis. The narrative encompasses several milestones in the history of crime in India, from the rise of the Pathans, formation of the Dawood gang, the first ever supari, mafia’s nefarious role in Bollywood, Dawood’s move to Karachi, and Pakistan’s subsequent alleged role in sheltering one of the most wanted persons in the world.

This story is primarily about how a boy from Dongri became a don in Dubai, and captures his bravado, focus, ambition, and lust for power in a gripping narrative. The meticulously researched book provides an in-depth and comprehensive account of the mafia’s games of supremacy and internecine warfare. 

An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire

by 

Arundhati Roy Just in time for the elections, Arundhati Roy offers us this lucid briefing on what the Bush administration really means when it talks about “compassionate conservativism” and “the war on terror.” Roy has characteristic fun in these essays, skewering the hypocrisy of the more-democratic-than-thou clan. But above all, she aims to remind us that we hold the essence of power and the foundation of genuine democracy—the power of the people to counter their self-appointed leaders’ tyranny.

First delivered as fiery speeches to sold-out crowds, together these essays are a call to arms against “the apocalyptic apparatus of the American empire.” Focusing on the disastrous US occupation of Iraq, Roy urges us to recognize—and apply—the scope of our power, exhorting US dockworkers to refuse to load materials war-bound, reservists to reject their call-ups, activists to organize boycotts of Halliburton, and citizens of other nations to collectively resist being deputized as janitor-soldiers to clear away the detritus of the US invasion.

Roy’s Guide to Empire also offers us sharp theoretical tools for understanding the New American Empire—a dangerous paradigm, Roy argues here, that is entirely distinct from the imperialism of the British or even the New World Order of George Bush, the elder. She examines how resistance movements build power, using examples of nonviolent organizing in South Africa, India, and the United States. Deftly drawing the thread through ostensibly disconnected issues and arenas, Roy pays particular attention to the parallels between globalization in India, the devastation in Iraq, and the deplorable conditions many African Americans, in particular, must still confront.

With Roy as our “guide,” we may not be able to relax from the Sisyphean task of stopping the U.S. juggernaut, but at least we are assured that the struggle for global justice is fortified by Roy’s hard-edged brilliance. 

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