1. Comandante: Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela by Rory Carroll
His recent death shocked and delighted people in equal measure. Love him, or hate him, you could not ignore the irrepressible Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. Some would have us believe he was a revolutionary, others that he was a dictator. Rory Carroll tries to tread the middle path, courtesy a series of interviews, and succeeds to a large extent. One of the better books on a multi-faceted man.
2. The Zen of Steve Jobs by Caleb Melby, Forbes and Jess3
Is it possible to capture the essence of Steve Jobs’ amazing sense of design in a slim, eighty page graphic novel? Well, Melby with Forbes and Jess 3 manage to do that. This is not your run of the mill biography-as-a-graphic-novel but instead focuses on Jobs’ relationship with Zen Buddhist priest Kobun Chino Otugawa, starting from Jobs’ exit from Apple in 1985. It is a tale of argument and learning told with minimal conversation and calligraphic panels. No, it won’t make you an expert on Jobs, but it will certainly give you a better insight into his mind that most books three times this one’s size would.
3. The Cage: The Fight for Sri Lanka and the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers by Gordon Weiss
The Indian parliament and indeed, the world, was shocked by the pictures of the execution of a 12-year old child during the Sri Lankan-Tamil Tiger conflict. Gordon Weiss’ book on the brutal and bloody battle gives readers an insight of just how the conflict was fought. It is gritty and at times almost depressing, but needs to be read simply to find out how low humans can fall.
4. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
A different world, dominated by magicians who rule the “ordinary” folk with a tyrannical hand. A word of spells, incantations and Djinns. One in which an orphan tries to rise to power with the help of a Djinni called Bartimaeus who is right out of Disney’s Aladdin in the wise-cracking department. And that lays the foundation to one of the best fantasy series we have read in recent times. Yes, we rate it a tad higher than even Harry Potter for sheer narrative skill, crazy imagination and, of course, the humour.
5. The Great Mutiny by Christopher Hibbert
Call it the first war for independence, an uprising, a mutiny or what you will, but what cannot be denied is that the battle between the British and a large section of their Indian kingdom in 1857 was one of the most significant conflicts of the Empire. And no historian has narrated is as brilliantly and objectively as Hibbert. One of those books that show how history should be written, laced with detail and with more than the odd hint of drama. A must-read for history buffs.
6. The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral
Kiran Manral’s tale of a housewife who stumbles upon a murder is more about humour than mystery, more about the lead character’s hilarious struggles with her family and neighbours than about being a bloodhound on the trail about murder…and is more about pure laugh out loud entertainment than seat of the edge thrills. If laughter is indeed the best medicine, then we would place this slim volume on every sickbed.
7. Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki
He is considered to be one of the most influential management thinkers around and was part of the team that marketed the iconic Macintosh in 1984. And Enchantment is his take on how one can go about winning minds and changing mindsets. As with all his work, it is refreshing free of jargon, stuffed with real life examples and is underlined with that one quality that is getting increasingly rare in marketing circles – common sense. Pretty much one of the best business titles of recent times.
8. The Perfect Murder by HRF Keating
An attempt is made to murder a clerk in the house of wealthy man in Mumbai. The case is assigned to Inspector Ganesh Ghote of the Mumbai police, and so begins the saga of perhaps the most famous Indian detective in English literature. Ghote has to tangle with thugs, politicians, celebrities, superiors, his own family and an enthusiastic but far from efficient colleague from Scandinavia as he tries to solve the case. Rarely has the flavour of India been captured as beautifully in a thriller that is more elegant than exciting.
9. Next Man In by Gerald Brodribb
Can a book about the laws of a book every be entertaining? Yes, it can if the laws are those of the Gentleman’s Game (cricket) and the author is Gerald Brodribb. Next Man In is the tale of how cricket’s laws have evolved and the incidents which led to the evolution – the result is a wealth of detail and stacks of trivia (did you know that women contributed to modern bowling as they had to bowl overhead to avoid getting their hands caught in their Victorian dresses with hoops?). Yes, it might seem dated now and has no reference to DRS and T20, but this is not a history of the laws of the game, but the game itself. Narrated with wit and elegance.
10. Glimpses of World History by Jawaharlal Nehru
We can see people getting surprised at the inclusion of this book in this list but in our opinions most humble, if there ever was a book that showed how entertaining and interesting history can be, it is this one. These are the letters that Nehru wrote (often from prison) to his daughter to educate her about the world she was living in. And it is this that brings to them a delightful element of storytelling that other more erudite and scholarly (read “dry” as per us) tomes on history lack. Do not read it for Nehru or Indira Gandhi. Read it to discover the joy history can be. And perhaps should be.