Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Recommendations: Mini Book Reviews - 1

Here are a few books which I have read at some point of my life – may be a few months back or a few years back. I do not remember the specifics, so I would not be in a position to write full reviews. But these books have stayed in my memory because when I read them, I loved them and I often think about them.

Publisher: Penguin India
Author: Sonia Faleiro
Genre: Non Fiction / Biography /Anthropology

This ‘narrative non fiction’ is a result of author’s pursuit of life of bar dancers through the years. This book is about Leela, a bar dancer the author meets while researching for her story on dance bars. Read author’s interview here and a review of the book here. What stood out for me is the stark contrast in the world these girls live in from ours, their hopes, their dreams and their usually bleak future! It is a remarkable book and very well written.  


Title: Death in Mumbai
Publisher: Random House India
Image Source: flipkart.com
Author: Meenal Baghel
Genre: Non Fiction / Crime

Who hasn't heard about the Neeraj Grover Murder case that involved a TV producer, an aspiring actress and her fiance, a Naval officer! It was a case straight out of a movie or a potboiler. What sent chills down our spines was the gruesome murder of Neeraj Grover, in what looked like a case that involved passion and envy.

There is a dearth of good literature on crime in India. This book is not a simple retelling of the probable turn of events. Meenal Baghel, through her interactions with friends and families of the three people involved in the case, attempts to dig deeper into their personalities. Along with trying to understand what went inside them, she also explores the outside factors like the changing urban culture, driven by high aspirations of small town youngsters, low tolerance, aggression, etc.
Here's a review of the book.


Title: Second Turn
Image Source: anobii.com
Publisher: Macmillan
Author: M.T.Vasudevan Nair (Translated by P.K. Ravindranath)
Genre: Fiction / Mythology

I am particularly fond of various interpretations of Mahabharata and I have several versions already. It was Yajnaseni that sparked my interest in this ancient epic. Mahabharata is quite addictive. Even if you read different versions of the same story, you never get bored. There is always a revelation!

Bhim's character has not got its dues in any of the popular versions, therefore I was curious to get my hands on this one. 'Second Turn' is Mahabharata retold through Bhim's perspective. Draupadi was married to all the five Pandavas and as per their mutually agreed rule, she would stay as a wife of each brother for one year. Since Bhim was the second brother, therefore the name 'Second Turn'. 
Bhim is generally known for great physical might and his love for food. MT Vasudevan Nair's portrayal of Bhim opens our eyes to a sensitive character who is completely dedicated to his mother, brothers and wife. He never really got his dues.
This book is quite a gem but very difficult to get your hands on. It is 'out-of-stock' at most of the online sites. You will be able to get it only if you are lucky.
Here's a review from the Outlook magazine.


Image Source: flipkart.com
Title: The Invisibles: A Tale of The Eunuchs of India
Publisher: Random House
Author: Zia Jaffrey
Genre: Non Fiction / Anthropology / Culture / Gender Studies

It is an outstanding work of non fiction that focuses on the class of people, which have been rightly called 'the invisibles'. The eunuchs, the hijras, the cross-dressers, call what-you-may, are found everywhere - in trains, on roads, visiting homes at the birth of babies, during marriages, etc; and yet they are an 'invisible' lot. The society does not talk about them or their plight. It was a revelation to learn about their hierachies, how these people depend on each other (with their families turning back on them), how society perceives them, how they are forced to earn their living by begging, how some of them have been kidnapped and castrated, and many such pieces of information.

Here's a review of the book. I cannot recommend it enough but it is yet another difficult book to get your hands on. It is out-of-stock on most places.


Title: May You Be The Mother of Hundred Sons: A Journey Among the Women of India
Image Source: amazon.com
Publisher: Penguin India
Author: Elisabeth Bumiller
Genre: Non Fiction / Travel

I read this book really long time back, may be 7 years. But I do remember that this was the first book among many that I read, which showed India from an outsider's perspective, and that is what appeals to me about such books. Many times, several things which happen close to us, start appearing ordinary or mundane, unless an outsider points those out to us. 

Here is a review, and here's another one.


Image Source: flipkart.com
Title: Holy Cow
Publisher: Bantam
Author: Sarah Macdonald
Genre: Non Fiction / Travel

I read this book shortly after 'May you be....' and loved it. In this case also, I don't remember the nitty-gritties. Sarah Macdonald, like several Western tourists before and after her, was enamoured with India, and chronicles her experiences. And like everyone who writes about India, impact of religion on everyday living, widespread poverty and misbehaviour with western women form chunk of her writings. But I loved the book and I would like to read it again now!

I don't have this book because I had taken the book from a library at that time but guess, I will order one for myself. Read a bunch of really good reviews on GoodReads. 

*Update*: I have re-read and reviewed it here.

Image source: fantasticfiction.co.uk
Title: Eleven Hours
Publisher: Harper Collins
Author: Paullina Simons
Genre: Fiction / Thriller

I  have read many thrillers but I have not been able to forget the feeling of reading this fast-paced edge-of-the-seat thriller. It was so good. 
Here's a review to add to my case.