Bibliophilia: Our Loves & Lusts (2007)

India Currents Magazine-December 2007/January 2008 | Ed. by Jeanne E. Fredriksen

Best of this. Best of that. For twenty years, India Currents has re-invented its end-of-year offerings with the hope of bringing the best of everything Indian to our readers. But somehow we never quite got around to having a “Best Books” list. This year the magazine’s regular reviewers decided to look back on the year and share two books each: one that we reviewed in these pages in 2007 and fell in love with, and one from the past twenty-four months that we’ve been lusting over but just haven’t gotten around to reading. As a result, what follows is a “Books We’d Like to Share” list rather than a “Best Books” list. Both kinds of lists are highly subjective, but we’d like to think that the former is a bit more like a gift.

Each of us comes to our books in a very personal way. Some read books recommended by Oprah (of course, there are sure to be subscribers to the New York Times who avoid books recommended by the diva of daytime talk shows). Others have books gifted to them (of course, many of these books go unread). For those who eschew television and are wary of gifts by well-meaning friends and family, there are book clubs—both the online kind that readers pull from, and the old-fashioned Book of the Month Club that pushes off books to readers as regularly as the calendar turns pages. And, yes, there are still readers who wander around bricks-and-mortar bookstores, browsing through stacks, serendipitously bumping into a book, opening it to a random page, reading a paragraph or two for the frisson that only ink on paper can give off, and perhaps taking the writer home for a longer read. We hope our reviews give India Currents readers a taste of what these wonderful books have in store for them.

Happy Reading and Happy Holidays.

The Strike

THE STRIKE by Anand Mahadevan. TSAR Publications. October 2006. Trade paperback, 216 pages. $18.95.

Of the many books I’ve been privileged to review for India Currents in 2007, the one that impressed me the most was The Strike by Anand Mahadevan. Written as a drama of errors that segues into a coming-of-age tale, The Strike is carried off with a sensitivity and empathy not often found in debut novels. Too often adults fail to recall what it was like to be a pre-teen in a decidedly adult world. While 12-year-old Hari’s world 20 years ago has unique history attached to it, the basic confusions and miscommunications of the age remain common to all children. The series of unfortunate events that challenges the charming and curious protagonist carefully and realistically tells a mature story that does not allow the reader to be a remote observer; adolescence and its all-too-familiar growing pains revive memories we may have forgotten and fill our hearts with knowing anticipation.

Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire

TAJ MAHAL: PASSION AND GENIUS AT THE HEART OF THE MOGHUL EMPIRE by Diana Preston and Michael Preston. Walker and Company. March 2007. Hardcover, 336 pages. $25.95.

I love historical narratives because they breathe life into the past, while putting people, places, and events into context with the rest of their contemporary world. Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire by Oxford historians Diana and Michael Preston takes high priority on my reading list because it promises to investigate the complex Mughal saga and integrate it with the architectural icon rightfully named one of the seven wonders of the world.

The authors pledge to convey the intricacy of the empire and the resilience of the people as the back story of the magnificent monument. While parts of the world were first being discovered and explored, the Mughal Empire was reaching the pinnacle of its grandeur and reach, creating a part of world history that is not only passionate but enduring as well.

—Jeanne E. Fredriksen

To access the other book reviewers’ selections, go here. Bibliophilia: Our Loves & Lusts