Book Reviews: Adult Non-Fiction

Click on the title to access the full review.

Books are listed alphabetically by author.

Fantasies of a Bollywood Love Thief by Stephen Alter • Hooray for Bollywood! • Writing about Hindi cinema, novelist Stephen Alter offers an insider’s view of the making of Omkara–the Indianization of Shakespeare’s Othello–in Fantasies of a Bollywood Love Thief. Originally introduced into the Hindi film industry by his cousin, actor Tom Alter, the author understands and depicts the magic of moviemaking at its most intense. From pre-production to premiere, Alter consults with Director Vishal Bhardwaj and his team and chronicles how Shakespeare takes on a decidedly mirchi flavor in a modern retelling for a culturally-dissimilar audience.

Sophia – Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand • The Princess Doth Protest • Exhumed from obscurity, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh (1876-1948) is celebrated in Anita Anand’s ambitious but often-didactic biography. The youngest daughter of Maharajah Duleep Singh—robbed of his kingdom when he was a child and brought to England at age 15—and the granddaughter of the “Lion of Punjab,” Maharajah Ranjit Singh, Sophia was born and raised in exiled English comfort and royal lavishness.

Eating India by Chitrita Banerji • Food for Thought • This book should carry a warning: Caution! Do not read while hungry! It hardly matters, however, because even if you aren’t hungry, you will be once you sink your teeth into Chitrita Banerji’s latest offering, Eating India: An Odyssey into the Food and Culture of the Land of Spices. Starting from her native Bengal, U.S.-based Banerji documents her journey to find the meaning of “authenticity” in Indian food. This proves to be futile, for the author encounters innumerable exceptions to each culture-identifying rule as she travels through India, quizzing local food critics, chefs, friends, and natives who happily educate her about their food.

America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility by Rajika Bhandari • A Ph.D.’s Memoir Champions a U.S. Education • Each fall, thousands of students arrive with dreams and two suitcases each, ready to study in colleges and universities all across America. They are international students that add $45 billion to the country’s economy annually. Then, surviving the peculiarities of American life, untangling the red tape, and managing the wait, many remain, often contributing to the country through job creation, innovation, and research. Dr. Rajika Bhandari was one of those students, and as she argues in her must-read book, America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility, the impact of international students on America is as substantial as the obstacles they face.

The Second-Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played by Drew Bridges • Stretching for Home • The 7th game of the 1955 World Series is considered the greatest baseball game ever played. Less than two years later, 10-year-old Drew Bridges played in his first baseball game, a tossed-together affair that is the foundation of his memoir, “The Second-Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played.” Drew’s brother, Mills, was on the team, and his father, Charlie, served as coach. Along with a handful of other baseball hopefuls from town, that one game helped to pave the way for organized sports in the Burke County town of Hildebran, North Carolina.

King of Bollywood by Anupama Chopra • Hooray for Bollywood! • Film critic and author Anupama Chopra’s latest labor of love is one that boldly attempts to define Hindi films through a new twist. In King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema, Chopra examines three converging forces as they come together in the last decade of the twentieth century and into the new millennium: the rise of a superstar; the growth of and changes in contemporary India; and the modernization of Hindi cinema. While the title may deceive a reader into believing the book is yet another biography of dynamic actor and personality Shah Rukh Khan, it is, in truth, as much an assessment of the changing social and economic conditions in India that enabled Khan to become a box-office giant without star parents and facilitated the development of the industry’s increasing global stature. The actor, the country, and the industry are placed into context, one to the other, in a way that even the uninitiated will understand and appreciate.

Karma Gone Bad by Jenny Feldon • Embracing the Difference • When Jenny Feldon learns she and her new husband would be moving to India for two years, her imagination runs wild. Exotic locales! Fabulous food! Colorful experiences perfect for posting on her blog, Karma in the City! Her life’s rhythm emanated from the non-stop energy of Manhattan, draped head to toe in designer labels, and she imagines that lifestyle will continue forever. But that’s not how it turned out. With as much self-deprecating and honest humor as hard-learned realizations, her travel memoir, Karma Gone Bad, candidly chronicles her valiant fight as a corporate wife trying to survive life and marriage in India.

Marrying Anita by Anita Jain • What’s Love Got to Do with It? • With a “Sex in the City” strut, Anita Jain’s memoir, Marrying Anita, hurls itself at readers with this desperate realization: “I had become precisely the kind of woman I was determined not to become before I’d come to New York: that proverbial single thirtysomething female propped up at the bar waiting for her ship to come in.” Frustrated with having failed to find romance and a husband through the dating system practiced in the West and the arranged-marriage system attempted by her parents, Jain decided in 2005 that she would uproot herself from New York City and transplant herself in Delhi. There, she thought, she would have an easier time in her search for marital bliss. Three years later, we have the book that records her quest.

White Gloves and Collards by Helen Pruden Kaufmann • The Gray Areas of a Southern Childhood • Helen Pruden Kaufmann grew up a happy and privileged white child in Edenton, North Carolina, and her memoir, “White Gloves and Collards”, provides a beautifully-composed snapshot of a girl growing up in the south during the Civil Rights Movement.  It’s also a portrait of a girl concerned about cancer as she loses both parents: her father when she was very young and her mother when she was a teen.

Chronicles of a Yella Dog by Paul A. Kreiling • For the Love of Dog • Who can resist big paws and a bigger personality? Not many people can walk away from that combination, and Paul Kreiling is the biggest fan of one particular set of paws and personality.  In “Chronicles of a Yella’ Dog,” Kreiling shares his collection of down-home stories featuring his yellow Labrador retriever, Moose. The collection resonates with everyone who loves dogs, loves a good story, or loves a tail – oops! tale – that teaches while it entertains.

Greetings from Bury Park by Sarfraz Manzoor  • Hungry Heart • “At the age of thirty I was comfortably British, occasionally Pakistani, and only technically Muslim,” states Sarfraz Manzoor in his memoir, Greetings from Bury Park. Manzoor’s struggle for identity began early and found him straddling various fences: cultural, ethnic, religious, and—interestingly enough—communicational. The author, who was born in Pakistan in 1972 and transplanted to England two years later, is a journalist, an author, and a broadcaster—a man of words. Who would have thought that the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen, American rock’s working class hero, would become the raison d’être and guiding spirit of a Pakistani boy in Luton, England?

An English Made in India by Kalpana Mohan • The Link in the Linguistic Chain • Language is fluid, and anyone who has successfully made it to adulthood has experienced slang growing into accepted usage and accepted usage shifting as new verbal practices infiltrate conversation and the written word. Such is the conundrum India has encountered since the British East India Company carried out the will of its crown.

Yes, My Accent Is Real by Kunal Nayyar • The Last Laugh • Russell Peters, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari. They are comedians and comedic actors of Indian background who have written books. Now, it’s Kunal Nayyar’s turn. The actor who plays astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali on the hit CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory freely and openly takes the reader on a ride – bumps and all – in his collection of over 30 personal essays titled Yes, My Accent Is Real: And Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You.

Radical Spirits: India’s First Woman Doctor and Her American Champions by Nandini Patwardhan • Fierce and Determined: A Pioneering Spirit • Born in March 1865,married at the age of nine, and pregnant as a young teen, Joshee lost a son only 10 days following his birth. Because she had eagerly embraced education under her husband’s tutelage, she reasoned her loss was due to an absolute lack of healthcare for women. This led her to become a doctor.

Choosing Hope: 1 Woman. 3 Cancers by Munira Premji • Fighting Cancer, Choosing Hope • In 2012, Munira Premji was an active woman filled with the joy of life. Her career was satisfying, her marriage was wonderful, and her grown children’s successes filled her with happiness. On February 3 that year, however, her life changed dramatically with a diagnosis of Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma coupled with Stage 3 multiple myeloma. She fought both cancers fiercely, understanding that there is no current cure for multiple myeloma. Then in 2015, just when she felt ready to live the life she had to put on hold, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Now, in her book Choosing Hope: One Woman 3 Cancers, Premji shares her journey as not a victim but as a champion.

Taj Mahal-Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire by Diana Preston and Michael Preston • 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. This book 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 Home Office That Works by Dr. Joseph W. Webb and Richard Romano • So you want to work from home? Read this book first! • Many people dream of working from home, thinking it’s an easy, laid-back way to make a living while wearing pajamas. The Home Office That Works! Make Working at Home a Success – A Guide for Entrepreneurs and Telecommuters by Dr. Joseph W. Webb and Richard Romano hits the brakes on those runaway notions. Written with humor and insight, this book is a must-read for anyone who has a home office or is entertaining the thought of working from home as a small business owner, a freelancer or independent contractor, or telecommuter.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christine Lamb • Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai rejected the notion that females are meant to remain in the home and illiterate. Reared in a rural Pakistani family that encouraged her dreams as if she were a son, she fought for the right to an education. The Taliban, enraged by her conviction and hoping to make their point, shot her in the head at close range. The result? This young girl has become a worldwide symbol of fearless strength and peaceful protest. Her autobiography is a remarkable story of inspiration and empowerment.

Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria • Zakaria dives deep into social, economic, and political lessons we should have learned from previous epidemics/pandemics (but didn’t); how human impact (earth, sky, sea) furthers the chance of larger events; and how politics (worldwide) plays a role in prevention and mitigation. Zakaria’s bottom line is that there is much to do at all levels to understand and prepare, but yes, it can and should be done.

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