1. India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha
Perhaps the best book to have ever been written about independent India, India After Gandhi makes for compelling reading for anyone interested about the country. Rather than going overboard with statistics and cultural and social observations, Ramchandra Guha has taken a more anecdotal view while retelling history. The result is a vivid portrait of India with key historical figures standing tall, but all told from the perspective of an objective, yet very interested person on the street. There are no rose tinted views here, or over the top praise or criticism, just elegant, fluent narration that has become the Guha trademark. If there is one book you should read about modern India, this is it, this is it, this is it!
2. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
Many people associate V for Vendetta with the Wachowski brothers film of the same name, starring Hugo Weaving, but the fact is that it is also a graphic novel that was written in the eighties. Based in a fascist Britain, the book is about a revolutionary, “V” who single handedly shakes the foundations of a government that seems to be divorced from the populace it rules. Yes it is dark and brooding, but even today it remains inspiring. Especially when a bullet riddled V tells his assailant “Beneath this mask, there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask, there is an idea…And ideas are bulletproof.”
3. Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson by Randall Sullivan
Was he a paedophile? Was his nose as false as it seemed? Did he really sleep in an oxygen tent? How did he die? He attracted controversy, won awards, sold millions of records…and yet not too much is known about his life and death. Randy Sullivan tries to unravel the man Michael Jackson had become towards the end of his life and the result is perhaps one of the most disturbing reads about the erstwhile King of Pop. This is a book focused on the man than this music, but is nevertheless compelling reading for all those interested in Michael Jackson. And the perils of celebrity.
4. Sunil Gavaskar Omnibus by Sunil Gavaskar
Before people started suspecting him of toeing the BCCI line a bit too frequently, Sunil Gavaskar was one of the most outspoken cricketers of his era. He certainly was the only one who wrote as many as four books during his playing career. This omnibus contains three of them – Sunny Days, Idols and One Day Wonders – and is worth purchasing for the first two, which contain some of the most blunt writing about cricket in the seventies and eighties. Sunny Days remains the best autobiography written by an Indian cricketer, notable for Gavaskar’s no-holds-barred take on Lord’s, the Indian cricket administration and the selectors. Idols is about the players Gavaskar idolised and has some heart warming moments, and even the relatively mundane One Day Wonders, will tell you more about cricket than a dozen celeb columns (including Gavaskar’s own) these days!
5. Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers
A man is poisoned. His lover stands accused of killing him. The case seems an open and shut affair, but there is one little niggle – one of fiction’s best detectives, the irrepressible Lord Peter Wimsey has a soft corner for the accused. This is the first book featuring both Lord Peter Wimsey and the woman he loved, Harriet Vane, and is chock-full of thrills and some very sly humour. No, it does not read like a conventional thriller, but that is because Wimsey is not just rescuing a damsel in distress but also courting her. With a smile and twinkle in his monocled eye.
6. Circle of Innovation by Tom Peters
Why are we recommending a management book written in 1999? Because in our opinion most humble, this is the one management book that every person running a business or working in it should read. Mind you, EVERYONE should read Tom Peters. But never has the management guru been as accessible as in this title, which reads like a bunc of presentations with images and crazy fonts galore. There are no long-winded speeches and yes, some of the statistics and data might seem dated now, but in terms of sheer utility, the book remains one of the best management titles we have read. If only all management books were as easy – and as much fun – to read.
7. I am Spock By Leonard Nimoy
We have read our share of celebrity autobiographies but must confess that none of them has affected us the way as this one. Best known for his role as the pointy-eared Mr Spock in the original Star Trek series, Nimoy walks us through his life. Accompanied by a logical, unemotional Spock! Indeed, the exchanges between the actor and the man who made him famous are the highlight of the book – often humorous and very very readable. Nimoy writes brilliantly about his Star Trek days, his role as a director, on theatre, his family…but you will keep turning the pages for him to talk to Spock. As any Star Trek fan will tell you, it is only…logical.
8. McIlvanney On Football by Hugh McIlvanney
There are sports writers. And then there is Hugh McIlvanney. The man has been writing on a variety of sports for decades, and is one of the few who manages to blend lyrical narration with factual accuracy. This compilation puts together McIlvanney’s best writing on football and is a pretty much a must-read for all those who love the sport, linking the period from the golden fifties and sixties all the way to the nineties and the rise of the new United with the likes of Giggs and Beckham. Pele, George Best, Cryuff, di Stefano…they are all there, as is the emotional narration of Celtic’s European Cup triuph. This is as close as sports writing can get to literature.
9. River Dog By Mark Shand
They talk of mad dogs and Englishmen. What happens when you get an eminently sane dog and a decidedly eccentric Englishman decide to take a trip down the Brahmaputra? Well, River Dog is the tale of exactly such an occurrence and thanks to its narrator, a sheer joy to read. You cannot help but smile as Shand and his dog Pi travel to eastern India, encountering locals, armymen, landmarks, thieves, dangerous cuisine, drugs…and manage to come through not just unscathed, but have a bucketful of fun besides. One of the most entertaining travel books we have read in a while. And yes, it does tell you a whole lot about the river and the regions surrounding it as well.
10. The Holmes Affair by Graham Moore
Take a slice of history, add to it a few legendary characters and top it off with some time-switching, and you will get something like The Holmes Affair. The book actually starts off as a search for one of the missing diaries of the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but acquires a sinister edge as a person dies, and the clues around him hark back to a Holmes mystery. Things get tangled as a Holmes buff tries to sort out matters, while on a parallel track, one is taken back to the nineteenth century where Conan Doyle and his friend Bram Stoker (he who wrote Dracula) try to solve a murder. Well-written and packed with suspense, this is a book for all Holmes fans. Or fans of historical fiction, for that matter.