The BookWag List 9: 10 Books to Buy/Beg/Borrow and Read This Week

May 10, 2013

And it is Friday again – the day when we come out with our list of ten books that are worth reading. As ever, our list is driven purely by readability – we are talking about books that entertain the reader. There are no confinements of time, author or genre here – if we think a book will entertain the reader, it will be on our list, irrespective of who wrote it and when. For, a good book, we like to think, is timeless. And this week, these ten are the ones that fall into this category:

Terry Pratchett


He has been unusually prolific of late, and has been straying away from the fantasy world he made famous – the Discworld – but few people can tell a tale the way the amazing Terry Pratchett. And he is in his element in this story based in Victorian England which follows the adventures of a character who scrounges for a living in the sewers of London. Until one day he meets Charles Dickens. Amazing word play, awesome narration. Not as good as the Discworld but better than most.

The case of the Deadly Butter Chicken
Tarquin Hall

They might not be as popular as Sherlock Holmes or Inspector Morse, but India has spawned a number of good detectives. And Tarquin Hall has added the inimitable Delhi-based private eye Vishu Puri to the list. A Pakistani cricketer playing in a lucrative cricket league (aha!) dies after being eating a butter chicken. In steps Vishu Puri. And his mum too. No, we are not telling you any more. Read. Enjoy.

The Fight
Norman Mailer

Take one of the world’s greatest journalists and send him to cover one of the most important sporting events of recent times – if you are lucky, you might get something as amazing as The Fight. This is Norman Mailer’s account of the momentous Ali-Foreman bout for the heavyweight title in Zaire. And it is one of the most amazing books ever written on any single event – sporting or otherwise. Journalism at its best, giving you a flavour not just of the fight and the contestants, but the people around them as well.

Managing My Life: My Autobiography
Sir Alex Ferguson

He surprised the football world when he announced his retirement a few days ago. And if you wish to know more about Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in the history of the Premier League (the REAL one, not the IPL), then this certainly is the book to read. This is Ferguson’s story, warts and all, with many a punch thrown at many a notable person. Read it to know more about how he handled the likes of Beckham, Giggs, Keane and Hughes. The book reads a treat, not least because it is co-authored by arguably the best football writer of our times, Hugh McIlvanney.

The World According to Clarkson
Jeremy Clarkson

Love him. Hate him. Criticise him. Idolise him. What one does not have the luxury of doing is ignoring the irrepressible Jeremy Clarkson. This is the first volume of his collection of columns written on a host of topics, not all connected to automobiles. And it finds him at his acidic and outspoken best. You will wonder at times whether anything pleases him at all. And whether he will ever stop complaining. But you will do so with a smile!

History of the Twentieth Century
Martin Gilbert

History is a subject that has been very poorly served by authors. Unless you count the likes of Martin Gilbert, who have a knack of narrating events in a way that infuses them with life. This is his take on the Twentieth Century and is easily the best single book on that subject – the book is filled with amazing characters (Gandhi, Hitler, Churchill, Mandela, et al) and packed with information, ranging from the important to the trivial. This is how history should be written.

HMS Ulysses
Alistair MacLean

Everyone knows Alistair MacLean as an outstanding thriller writer. But not many know that his first book was actually the story of a ship in the Second World War. HMS Ulysses is an armed cruiser that is asked to escort a convoy and tries to battle its way through, even as others sink around it. One of the most moving books about life on a ship that you will ever read, with some amazing descriptions of people and battle. If you finish the book without shedding a tear, congratulate yourself on having a stony heart!

Out of My Comfort Zone
Steve Waugh

He was always an unusual cricketer, making his team visit World War II sites, doing his bit for ophans in Kolkota, and wearing the same battered baggy green cap that he received at the beginning of his career for Australia. They do not make too many like Steve Waugh. And this is his story in his own words. And there are many of them – this is a book rich in detail with no battles or controversies skirted. Waugh writes about his batting struggles, his interest in India, problems with his colleagues (including Shane Warne) and a whole lot more in detail. One of the best autobiographies of a cricketer by far. And what a cricketer.

Manhunt: The 12-day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer
James Swanson

Can the narration of a historical event read like a thriller? Well, if handled by someone like James Swanson, it definitely can. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln was an event that shook the United States, which was recovering from the Civil War. And this book covers not just the assassination itself but the manhunt that followed as the police tried to track down John Wilkes Booth, and the other people involved in the conspiracy to kill Lincoln. An absolute page turner, this.

India: From Curzon to Nehru and After
Durga Das

If you are fed up of the rosy images of the Indian independence movement painted by most Indian historians, this is just the book for you. Written by one of India’s best-known journalists, it literally takes you into the scenes that preceded – and succeeded – India’s independence. And unlike some narratives, this one is very opinionated. Sides are taken and some historical figures take a drubbing as Das narrates the story of how he saw India winning freedom and how it handled it in the two decades that followed. It will ruffle some feathers, but is nevertheless one of the better accounts of the freedom struggle and its immediate aftermath from an Indian author.


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