Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Applied Minds

August 13, 2016

Guru Madhavan’s book on how engineers think is a short, interesting and fairly easy read. Some portions of the book are so great that I wanted to make copies of those few pages and ask my class to read them!



Yann Martel’s High Mountains of Portugal

August 8, 2016

Of the three parts, I liked the last one the best. However, though the book is not uniform, it holds your attention throughout. Recommended.

Moral Disorder of Margaret Atwood

April 30, 2016

Atwood’s prose is always such a pleasure to read; enjoyed it thoroughly. As Ursula Le Guin says:

What the stories do have in common, though, is a clear eye, a fine wit, and a command of language so complete it’s invisible except when it’s dazzling.

A good read and recommended.

Tamil Brahmans of Fuller and Narasimhan

April 12, 2016

Any book with coffee, the Hindu and the computer keyboard on cover is hard to resist. And if it titled Tamil Brahmans, more so. I read it and enjoyed it a lot.

I could identify with many of the anecdotes and opinions described in the book since I have personal experience with similar opinions and people growing up in rural Tamilnadu  in the 1980s (though as a linguistic minority — not as a Tamil Brahman). In any case, the value of books like this is that they help you understand your own experience and attitudes at a broader level; in doing so,  they also give a perspective that is generally missing and is very different from what you would get if you are not exposed these kinds of arguments and viewpoints.

Even though reading the book is not  as great an experience for me as, for example, reading Srinivas’ Remembered village, it is still one of the best books of this type I have read — I liked it better than I remember liking Beteille’s book (though Beteille’s book is a very good one too).

Strongly recommended if you are a South Indian; if not, it might still be an interesting read.

Here is an interview with the authors; here is an opinion piece on the book (with some awesome pictures).

Debating Vivekananda

April 2, 2016

A good read; strongly recommended if you are interested in Vivekananda.

Gandhi’s religion: a home spun shawl

January 20, 2016

The line from Ram Guha’s introduction to the book captures my thoughts (before I read the book) rather well:

Could we not follow Gandhi in his empathy for the poor and his insistence on non-violence while rejecting the religious idiom in which his idead were cloaked?

Guha continues:

Ramu Gandhi argued that the attempt to secularise Gandhi was mistaken. If you take the Mahatma’s faith out of him, he told me, then Gandhi would not be the Mahatma.

After reading the wonderful (and thoroughly gripping) book by JTF Jordens Gandhi’s religion: a homespun shawl, I can see Ramu Gandhi’s point. A great read. Strongly recommended. Here is the Hindu review: the last paragraph of the review summarises the experience of reading the book rather nicely:

The image of Gandhi’s religion as a “bulky homespun shawl” is poetic. “At first it looks very plain to the eye, but we can detect the beauty of the strong patterns and the contrasting shades of folk art. With its knots and unevenness, it feels at first rough to touch; but soon we can experience how effective it is in warming cold and hungry limbs.” We feel that warmth by reading Jordens too.


Linda Hess’ Bodies of Song

January 20, 2016

Linda Hess’ book on Kabir oral traditions called Bodies of Song: Kabir Oral Traditions and Performative Worlds in North India is a great read. I also watched some of (though not all) of the documentaries made by Shabnam Virmani as part of the kabir project while reading the book. Both the book and the documentaries are strongly recommended. In Hess’ book, the fifth chapter on theory of oral tradition, at least for me, did not jell well with the rest of the book. But that is only a minor quibble. I also discovered some great artists such as Kaluram Bamaniya, Prahlad Singh Tipanya and Bheru Singh Chouhan and rediscovered some like Kumar Gandharva, Shubha Mudgal and Madhup Mudgal thanks to the book and documentaries!

Rudranghsu Mukherjee’s Parallel Lives

December 22, 2014

An excellent book; I am almost half-way through. Strongly recommended. Here is Mukul Kesavan on the book; here is Narasaiah.

The Magician’s Land

December 17, 2014

A good read; I agree with this reviewer — this probably is the best of the three books — even though, I found some of the later chapters a tad too lengthy.

Chembai and the Music Academy

December 12, 2014

Sriram’s article on Chembai and the Music Academy is a must-read.  It is very difficult to argue forcefully or fight with Institutions while maintaining no ill-will. Chembai seems to have managed it. When we are on the topic, let me also strongly recommend Lakshmi Subramanian’s From the Tanjore court to the Madras Music Academy: A social history of music in South India. I am yet to complete the book. But I liked whatever I have read so far.