On World Book Day, these are the ones we recommend. They smash false narratives, unveil uncomfortable or sometimes delightful truths about the planet’s most wonderfully complex nation.
Immortal India: Young Country, Timeless Civilisation by Amish Tripathi: “Ajanaabhavarsh. Bharat. Hindustan. India. The names may change, but the soul of this great land is immortal,” says a review. Amish explains India through a series of articles, speeches and debates. He employs his comprehensive understanding of religion, mythology, tradition, history and governance to in this book.
India Unbound by Gurcharan Das: Very few books trace the economic journey of our nation so vividly, interestingly and optimistically. It captures the incredibly complex and vibrant socio-cultural nuances on India’s road to economic change from Independence to the era of information technology.
The Man India Missed the Most by Bhuvan Lall: The book on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose describes what the British today acknowledge as the toughest war it has fought. The war in which the Indian National Army led by Bose launched an attack from the north-eastern front and shook the British empire.
The Man Who Saved India by Hindol Sengupta: Hindol brings a contemporary account with fresh, well-researched facts on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the stalwart freedom fighter and our first home minister who brought together this nation state by state after Independence. It is the definitive and accessible biography of Patel, who India fondly remembers as its Iron Man.
Your Prime Minister is Dead by Anuj Dhar: The most trustworthy researcher on Netaji affairs, Dhar moved his gaze lately to Lal Bahadur Shastri, the mystery around whose death still intrigues the nation. As Dhar explained in a MyNation video, the then Congress government not ordering an inquiry into the PM’s death in Tashkent is inexplicable. Read this coupled with The Mitrokhin Archive II: The KGB and the World, which unravels links of the PM Indira Gandhi-led polity with the KGB.
Breaking India by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan: Meticulously researched book on an area which other writers fear to tread. The book exposes deep-rooted western conspiracies and the blueprint to break India by creating fictitious fault lines. It gives the reader an over-arching perspective on global power-struggles focused on India, an emergent nation and a civilization waking from colonial slumber.
Indian Railways: The Weaving of a National Tapestry by Bibek Debroy, Sanjay Chadha and Vidya Krishnamurthy: Debroy and his team embarks on a remarkable journey to explain how the great Indian railway network started, its motives and fallouts. The book is a rewarding peek into the economic, geographical, social and cultural aspects of one of the world’s mightiest transport systems.
Sati: Evangelicals, Baptist Missionaries And the Changing Colonial Discourse by Meenakshi Jain: This is a narrative-busting book on how by cunningly putting undue limelight on a near-extinct custom, our former colonial and evangelist masters managed to discredit the entire Indian/Hindu society and projected themselves as saviours in a dark land.
The India Trilogy by VS Naipaul: The set contains An Area of Darkness, India: A Wounded Civilisation, and India: A Million Mutinies Now. This is Naipaul’s compelling, controversial series in which he throws political correctness to the wind and tells the uncomfortable history of our civilization. In spite of the genius of his writing, he became the target of the Left-liberal intelligentsia for telling the truth as it is.
The Ocean of Churn by Sanjeev Sanyal: This offers a brilliant ocean-side view of history. It tells the story of how an extremely prosperous maritime world order and a vibrant shared culture had spawned around the India Ocean. Sanyal covers the expanse from Africa to Java and beyond and explores fascinating aspects of trade, social exchanges and customs. A delightful departure from land-bound accounts of history.