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Archive for September, 2012


No One Had A Tongue to Speak
Utpal Sandesara & Tom Wooten | Rain Tree | Rs 495

This is one book you could thank the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi for. He gave the authors an access to state archives that others refused to share. The book stitches together the narrative on one of India’s worst manmade disasters – the collapse of Gujarat’s Machhu Dam in 1979 and the subsequent floods that according to official records claimed 25,000 lives and destroyed the many small towns and villages, including the industrial town of Morbi. It’s a valuable addition to debate on large dams, even though the narrative barely stops to take a breath and analyse and instead, gushes through, like a flood.

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It’s Your Life!
Vinita Dawra Nangia | Times Group Books | Rs 250

Billed as reflections on contemporary life, Nangia, a columnist with a national daily, now offers a book comprising some of her best O-Zone columns. Nangia’s strength lies in her unabashed middle-class conservatism. Today’s young adults are sexually active she tells us. She mentions the condom but she’s delighted that some parents send bodyguards with their daughters to prevent a ‘backseat canoodle’. Eating at a restaurant, she is taken aback by youngsters downing beers, after all this was no ‘seedy joint’. Matronly and patronizing, Nangia’s insights are more of a commentary on 1980s puppy generation than modern day India she ostensibly writes on.

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Will There Be Donuts?
David Pearl | Harper Collins | Rs 399

In 2011 the author’s agent called some of the most hardened publishing professionals from Harper Collins for a meeting. Pearl wondered, why would they come, it they did at all? Had they seen the manuscript? Did the subject interest them? Were they convinced of its irrefutable logic? Or maybe they liked his prose? “I told them I’d bring donuts,” said his agent. If the donuts are the most interesting thing about your meetings, if it’s the first thing that pops into your head when being asked to attend a conference, a seminar or a presentation, this book is for you.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 26 August 2012)

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The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty
Dan Ariely | Harper Collins | Rs 399

Most people cheat. Ask insurance companies. When people are faced with loss of property due to robbery many exaggerate their loss by 10 to 15 per cent: A 32-inch TV becomes 40-inches and an 18k necklace becomes 22k. You are visiting your dentist. He tells you that you have a miniscule crack in tooth enamel. He can repair it with the state-of-the art machine he’s just bought. You agree to it. A few months later you have to have your tooth out. But the fact of the matter is, there was no need to treat the tooth fissure in the first place. Would you fault the dentist? Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University, provides the answers as to why we act the way we do and what we can do to avoid it.

(The above review appeared in the Saturday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 25 August 2012)

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The Kiss of Death
Jeffery Deaver | Hodder & Stoughton | Rs 695

In this ticking-clock thriller, Deaver looks at what it means to be a female celebrity singer being pursued by a stalker who believes that every song the singer has sung has been specially written for him. The price of fame in the modern world of invasive TV coverage and multimedia is much more than in the years Beatles came to India. In 1960s they could have stayed at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Rishikesh ashram, today that is unimaginable. The price of fame in Deaver’s book comes with dead bodies, social media, the internet and a smart ass detective, Kathryn Dance. Deaver is an author of 29 novels, his latest is a James Bond novel, Carte Blanche published in May 2011.

(The above review appeared in the Saturday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 18 August 2012)

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United Breaks Guitars
Dave Carrol | Hay House | Rs 299

It’s every travelling musician’s worst nightmare. How to make sure airline staff does not damage his/her expensive music instrument. In March 2008, Dave Carrol faced just that, while travelling from Canada to US on a music tour. The United Airlines ground staff mishandled his guitar case causing irreparable damage to his guitar. Of course, they refused to compensate. So Carrol did what no one had done before, he used the social media to bring the corporation to its knees. He did this by posting a video ‘United Breaks Guitars’ on youtube and proved, that at least in America, customer is always king.

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The Governor’s Wife
Mark Gimenez | Sphere | Rs 350

Gimenz opens his tale with a quote from Edna Faber’s book Giant that hits close to home. “We really stole Texas, didn’t we? I mean. Away from Mexico” she wrote. Gimez follows in the footsteps of the quote and creates a chilling politico-legal thriller in which a wife of Texas governor takes on her husband and the political establishment in an attempt to save a life of a young Mexican criminal caught in a no man’s land between Rio Grande and the US. Gimenez’s ability to replicate the vernacular idiom and slang has many readers hooked. Question now is will Gimenez upstage John Grisham? He just may.

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Wings of Silence
Shriram Iyer | Westland | Rs 199

What strikes one about this debut novel, is not the story or its terrible prose, but the depiction of a parent – in particular an authoritarian father figure who treats his grown up children as minions. Sadly, the author’s focus is on telling a story about two aspiring sportsmen. One wants to make it to Olympics, the other to the Wimbledon. What to say? Indians generally speaking, like to dream big, even if they don’t have it in them to make it to the top. Much like the author of this book who aspires to be a writer without even attempting to deliver a grammatically correct sentence.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, dated 12 August 2012)

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Rabbit Rap
Musharraf Ali Farooqi & Michelle Farooqi | Penguin Viking | Rs 499

Readers of promoted fiction, identify Farooqi as the author of the recently released Between Clay and Dust, but few know that the author has many other books to his credit, including a masterful translation of 19th century fable The Adventures of Amir Hamza that appeared in 2007. The New York Times hailed it as a challenge to Homer. In India the book sank without a trace. Farooqi’s latest, Rabbit Rap is a satirical fable that explores the issues facing the developing world as it comes to terms with genetic engineering, corporate social responsibility and the political and social climate in which it thrives. It’s a gem of a book. Read it.

(This review appeared in the Saturday edition of the Mail Today, dated 11 August 2012)

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