It’s been another amazing year for books about India. Alas, Jhumpa Lahiri didn’t win the Booker but that’s for her next book. Here are our top recommendations for the best non fiction books we’ve come across during 2013. If we’ve missed any, which I’m certain we have, do let us know your suggestions and we’ll add to this over the month before Christmas.
The Man Who Knew Infinity: Life of the Genius Ramanujan is really one of the gems of the year, telling the tale which should be made into a film, so fantastical is its premise. In 1913, a young unschooled Indian clerk wrote a letter to G H Hardy, begging the pre-eminent English mathematician’s opinion on several ideas he had about numbers. Realising the letter was the work of a genius, Hardy arranged for Srinivasa Ramanujan to come to England, where he became one of the great mathematicians of the 20’th century.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum – a superb, well researched account of a year spent in a slum by Mumbai airport. This book has won numerous awards, for good reason. Written with a filmic immediacy, Katherine Boo’s book stands represents a major piece of journalism and a stunning addition to the narrative of modern India.
Nobody Can Love You More:: Life in Delhi’s Red Light District – Published by Viking India this haunting book details the lives and loves of those who live on GB road, one of India’s most infamous brothel districts. Mayank Austen Soofi makes no attempt to justify the way of life here, but concentrates on realism, honesty and great journalism, which leaves the reader with a far deeper understanding of the lives of ordinary people. Wonderful.
Dalai Lama: Soldier of Peace – by Vijay Kranti, Difficult to get hold off outside India, this wonderful gem of a comic book depicts how the Tibetan monks search out the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama, the intriguing relationship between Tibet and China; how Tibet was occupied; the thrilling escape of the Dalai Lama into exile and what makes the present Dalai Lama the most celebrated and charming personality in the present era of human history.
Dining with the Maharajas: A Thousand Years of Culinary Tradition – Travelling across the globe to meet surviving members of 10 royal families of India, this is a culinary jaunt into the past to a time when the kitchens carried vast retinues of chefs, and whose budgets were virtually unlimited in the pursuit of creating the ultimate delicacies. A salivating read for Indian food lovers, beautifully cloth bound and a must have on every Indian chef’s christmas list this year.