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INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.
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INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.

    CURRENT ISSUE JULY 03, 2006

 

    ANNIVERSARY ISSUE: 30 EVERGREEN BOOKS

 
Prime Page Turners

From epics to experimental autobiographies, from Urdu poems to Hindi classics, from Booker Prize winning works to popular histories, Swagata Sen flips the pages of the 30 books that remain unputdownable.

Bhagavad Gita (300 BC)
VED VYAS

Probably the most widely-read book in India, which still sells at least a copy a day in bookstores. It is part of the Mahabharata, which influences the world even today.

Diwan-e-Ghalib (1841)
MIRZA GHALIB

Kehtey hain Ghalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur (They say Ghalib's style of rendering is unmatched). It's not just the poet who says that about himself, but also the world.

Arthashastra (200 BC)
CHANAKYA

Realpolitik at its best, the book, a treatise on economics and politics during the early years of the Mauryan empire, is a masterpiece in a difficult genre.

Guru Granth Sahib (1705)
DAMDAMA SAHIB

The Sikhs treat the holy book in its final version as a living Guru. Its hymns have inspired a fearless and hardworking race over generations.

The Ramayana (100 AD)
VALMIKI

Undoubtedly one of the most influential books in the world, it presents the teachings of Hindu sages in a narrative with compelling and colourful characters.

Panchatantra (200 BC)
VISHNU SHARMA

India's answer to Aesop's Fables and the Brothers Grimm. Everyone who has grown up in India has read it in some form or the other, whether in textbooks or as comics.

Kama Sutra (400 AD)
VATSYAYANA MALLANAGA

Kama means desire and Sutra means a series of aphorisms. A text on human sexual behaviour, it is one of India's greatest gifts to the world. No other text has come close.

My Experiments with Truth (1927)
MAHATMA GANDHI

Eighty years after it was published, the book even has a 21st century edition. Nothing can be more interesting than Gandhi's life, told candidly.

Gitanjali (1912)
RABINDRANATH TAGORE

This collection of 103 poems was the first Indian book to have won a Nobel prize in 1913. W.B. Yeats defines Tagore as modern India's greatest poet in its introduction.

Devdas (1917)
SARAT CHANDRA CHATTERJEE

The novel is not even considered the writer's best work, but the tradition of romanticism that this one book inspired in Hindi cinema is unmatched by any other.

Godan (1936)
MUNSHI PREMCHAND

Premchand's last novel, dealing with poverty in villages and its stifling effect on people, is considered not only his best but also No. 1 in the entire Hindi literature.

Discovery of India (1946)
JAWAHARLAL NEHRU

As Albert Einstein wrote to India's first prime minister, "It gives an understanding of the glorious intellectual and spiritual tradition of a great (your) country".

The Indian Constitution (1950)
CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

The fundamental reference point for everything Indian.

The Wonder that Was India (1954)
A.L. BASHAM

This book by the late professor Arthur Lewellyn Basham, apart from being insightful, is also one of the greatest history reads.

Kanyasulkam (1892)
GURAJADA APPARAO

Even after 110 years, it is still the best play in Telugu. The evil custom of kanyasulkam (bride price) has long since become extinct but the play refuses to get dated.

From Sex to Superconsciousness (1960)
OSHO

One of the world's best selling books, it established Osho as the most politically incorrect sex guru.

Eight Documents (1965-67)
CHARU MAZUMDAR

These "historic eight documents" inspired an entire generation of educated Bengali students to take up arms and be part of the Naxal movement in 1967.

Raag Darbari (1968)
SRI LAL SHUKLA

What Salman Rushdie is to writing in English, Shukla's book is to Hindi literature. It exposes the helplessness of intellectuals against nexus between politicians and criminals.

Freedom at Midnight (1975)
LARRY COLLINS & DOMINIQUE LAPIERRE

From an account of India's struggle for freedom, Partition, Mountbatten's appointment and Mahatma Gandhi's death, it has everything.

Khasakkinte Ithihaasam (1970)
O.V. VIJAYAN

No other novel in Malayalam has equalled its reach and freshness. A collection of short stories, by a man better known for his cartoons, it has many admirers in its English version too.

Malgudi Days (1982)
R.K. NARAYAN

The magical town of Malgudi is a microcosm of India, down to the last domestic detail. Every sleepy little town of India comes alive in this amazingly readable book.

Midnight's Children (1981)
SALMAN RUSHDIE

An Indian-born author gets his first Booker Prize. And inspires a whole new trend of Indo-Anglian writing. Every subsequent Indian writer is judged by his standard.

Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy (1989)
PRADEEP DALVI

Why would he want to kill the Father of the Nation? The ban and the uproar over the book and the play established how important it was.

The Satanic Verses (1988)
SALMAN RUSHDIE

No other book in English has caused as much of a stir. Despite the ban, many educated Indians have read it.

The Scam (1993)
DEBASHIS BASU & SUCHETA DALAL

One of the best accounts of the Indian stock market when Harshad Mehta scammed investors, it is a must read no matter which way the Sensex goes.

Everybody Loves a Good Drought (1996)
P. SAINATH

A humanist cry from the heart, backed by unassailable facts. It throws light on mismanagement of funds and poverty in India.

Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talaab (1993)
ANUPAM MISHRA

Revolutionising the concept of water harvesting, it is being translated into 13 Indian languages and is a handbook for environmentalists.

The God of Small Things (1997)
ARUNDHATI ROY

First it was the huge advance that the trained architect from Kerala got. Then it was the acclaim. The Booker capped it all for this inimitable book.

You Can Win (1998)
SHIV KHERA

The last word in Indian self-help books, this gospel of doing things differently instead of doing different things may have been vague at first, but millions believe it now.

A Corner of a Foreign Field (2003)
RAMACHANDRA GUHA

Not just a book, it is the history of post-colonial relationships around the nation's biggest passion, cricket.

 

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INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.
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JUlY 03, 2006
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Politics of Identity

Words & Worth

Living On The Margins

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Lost And Found

It Only Takes A Village

Measure For Measure

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Out to Lunch, In India

The Poetry of the Past

A Wider Canvas

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