Gandhi Before India
‘Perhaps the best among India’s non-fiction writers’—New York Times
‘That rarest of species, a genuinely independent-minded Indian intellectual’—Times of India
‘Indian democracy’s pre-eminent chronicler’—Time
The Mouse Merchant
Sub title: Money in Ancient India
Even in ancient India, money is always a good thing and everyone wants it. The stories in The Mouse Merchant—selected from the Sanskrit universe, from the period of the late Rig Veda to the twelfth century—tell us how money was dealt with in everyday life in ancient and medieval Indian society. At the heart of these tales is the merchant. Sometimes gullible, sometimes greedy; ingenious at some moments, dim-witted at others; and hopelessly in love with courtesans but also loyal to their wives,
our merchant heroes show how innovation in business is sometimes more important than capital. The Mouse Merchant puts these stories into the context of Indian business history, giving not only rare insights into the romance of the ancient seafaring life but also great wisdom about money.
David and Goliath
Sub title: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants
David and Goliath is the dazzling and provocative new book from Malcolm Gladwell, no.1 bestselling author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers and What the Dog Saw
Why do underdogs succeed so much more than we expect? How do the weak outsmart the strong? In David and Goliath Malcolm Gladwell takes us on a scintillating and surprising journey through the hidden dynamics that shape the balance of power between the small and the mighty.
From the conflicts in Northern Ireland through the tactics of civil rights leaders and the problem of privilege, Gladwell demonstrates how we misunderstand the true meaning of advantage and disadvantage. When does a traumatic childhood work in someone's favour? How can a disability leave someone better off? And do you really want your child to go to the best school he or she can get into?
David and Goliath draws on the stories of remarkable underdogs, history, science, psychology and on Malcolm Gladwell's unparalleled ability to make the connections others miss. It's a brilliant, illuminating book that overturns conventional thinking about power and advantage.
An Uncertain Glory
Sub title: India and its Contradictions
Maintaining rapid as well as environmentally sustainable growth is an important and achievable goal for India. In An Uncertain Glory, two of India's leading economists argue that the country's main problems lie elsewhere, particularly in the lack of attention paid to the essential needs of the people, especially the poor.
The deep inequalities in Indian society tend to constrict public discussion in India's vibrant media to the lives and concerns of the relatively affluent. One of the biggest failures has been the very inadequate use of the public resources generated by economic growth to expand India's lagging physical and social infrastructure (in sharp contrast, for example, to what China has done): there is a continued inadequacy both of social services such as schooling, medical care and immunization, and of physical services such as the provision of safe water, electricity, drainage and sanitation. Even as India has overtaken a large number of other countries in the rate of economic growth, it has, because of these inadequacies, fallen behind many of the same countries - often very poor ones – in the progress of quality of life.
Because of the importance of democracy in India, addressing these failures will require not only significant policy rethinking by the government, but also a better public understanding of the abysmal extent of these social and economic deprivations. This book makes a powerful contribution to that understanding.
Sub title: How to Live in a World We Don't Understand
From the bestselling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost thinkers of our time, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a book on how to benefit from disorder.
In The Black Swan Taleb outlined a problem, and his revelatory new book Antifragile offers a definitive solution: how to live in a world that is unpredictable, chaotic, and full of shocks, and how to thrive during periods of disaster. Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner. For what Taleb calls the 'antifragile' is beyond the merely robust; it benefits from shocks, uncertainty and stressors. Antifragile is about what to do when we don't understand. It is a new word because it is a new concept.
Many of the greatest breakthroughs in human endeavour come from the innovation by trial and error that is part of antifragility. And some of the best systems we know of, including natural selection and evolution, have antifragility at their heart. How did the disaster of the sinking of the Titanic bring us closer to safety? Why does the stress on bones make us stronger? Why should you write a resignation letter on your first day in the office?
Why should we detest the lack of accountability at the heart of capitalism? The most successful of us, the most daring and creative will take advantage of disorder and invent new, more powerful opportunities and advantages beyond our expectations. Irreverent and ambitious, Antifragile provides a blueprint for how to live-and thrive-in a world we don't understand, and which is too uncertain for us to even try to predict. Taleb's message is revolutionary: what is not antifragile will surely perish.
• ‘The hottest thinker in the world’ - Bryan Appleyard
• ‘A guru for every would-be Damien Hirst, George Soros and aspirant despot’ - John Cornwell, Sunday Times
Sub title: British Gardens in India
A deeply researched yet wonderfully readable history of Britain’s ‘garden imperialism’ in India
In this deeply researched yet wonderfully readable history of Britain’s ‘garden imperialism’ in India, Eugenia W. Herbert draws on a wealth of personal accounts and period illustrations, many of them little known, to track the evolution of imperial ideas of governance through colonial gardens.
The British created gardens in India not just out of simple nostalgia or homesickness, but also to put a visible stamp of ‘civilization’ on an alien, untamed land. Colonial gardens changed over time, from the ‘garden houses’ of the East India Company’s nabobs modelled on English country estates and the hill station gardens where English flowers could be coaxed into bloom to the neat flowerbeds, gravel walks, well-trimmed lawns and hedges of the Victorian sahibs. Every Government House, Civil Lines bungalow and cantonment was carefully landscaped to reflect current ideals of an ordered society. The British also made India part of the global network of botanical exploration and plant-collecting, and developed tea gardens and opium-poppy plantations to fill the coffers of the Empire.
More than sixty years after the British left, their garden legacy still lives on, reflected in the design of municipal parks and IT campuses, and in the tastes and practices of countless Indian home gardeners who take pride in their green lawns and flowerbeds full of English flowers.
The Origins of Sex:
Sub title: A History of the First Sexual Revolution
Nowadays we believe that consenting adults have the freedom to do what they like with their own bodies. We publicise and celebrate sex; we discuss it endlessly; we are obsessed with the sex lives of celebrities. We think it wrong that in other cultures people suffer for their sexual orientation, that women are treated as second-class citizens, or that adulterers are put to death. Yet until quite recently our own society was like this too. For most of western history, all sex outside marriage was illegal, and the church, the state, and ordinary people all devoted huge efforts to suppressing and punishing it. This was a central feature of Christian civilization, one that had steadily grown in importance since the early middle ages. In this brilliant, ground-breaking book, Faramerz Dabhoiwala describes in dramatic detail how, between 1600 and 1800, this entire world view was shattered by revolutionary new ideas - that sex is a private matter; that morality cannot be imposed by force; that men are more lustful than women. Henceforth, the private lives of both sexes were to be endlessly broadcast and debated, in a rapidly expanding universe of public media: newspapers, pamphlets, journals, novels, poems, and prints. The Origins of Sex shows that the creation of this modern culture of sex was a central part of the Enlightenment, intertwined with the era's major social, political and intellectual trends. It helped create a new model of Western civilization, whose principles of privacy, equality, and freedom of the individual remain distinctive to this day.
Patriots and Partisans
‘I am a person of moderate views’, writes Ramachandra Guha, ‘these sometimes expressed in extreme fashion’. In this wide-ranging and wonderfully readable collection of essays, Guha defends the liberal centre against the dogmas of left and right, and does so with style, depth, and polemical verve. The book begins with a brilliant overview of the major threats to the Indian Republic. Other essays turn a critical eye on Hindutva, the Communist left, and the dynasty-obsessed Congress party. Guha then explores the contemporary relevance of Gandhi’s religious pluralism, and analyzes the fall in Jawaharlal Nehru’s reputation after his death.
The essays in Part 11 of this book focus on writers and scholars. Guha explains why bilingual intellectuals, once so dominant in India, are now thin on the ground. He presents sensitive portraits of a magazine editor, a bookshop owner, a great publishing house and a famous historical archive.
Whether writing about politics or culture, whether profiling individuals or analyzing social trends, Ramachandra Guha displays a masterly touch, confirming his standing as India’s most admired historian and public intellectual.
Sub title: The First 5000 Years
Must we always repay our debts? Wasn’t money invented to replace ancient barter systems? Apparently not, according to Yale-bred anthropologist David Graeber. In a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom, Graeber radically challenges our understanding of debt. He illustrates how, for more than 5000 years—long before the invention of coins or bills—there existed debtors and creditors who used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods. He argues that Madagascar was held to be indebted to France because France invaded it, reminds us that texts from Vedic India included God in credit systems and shows how the dollar changed European society forever in the sixteenth century. He also brilliantly demonstrates how words like ‘guilt’, ‘sin’ and ‘redemption’ derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—of how it has defined the evolution of human society, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.
“One of the year’s most influential books. Graeber situates the emergence of credit within the rise of class society, the destruction of societies based on ‘webs of mutual commitment’ and the constantly implied threat of physical violence that lies behind all social relations based on money.” —Paul Mason, The Guardian
"If you want to get a fresh perspective on the issue, take a look at a fascinating new book called Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber ... not just thought-provoking, but also exceedingly timely." — Gillian Tett, The Financial Times
“The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate... It is a meditation on debt, tribute, gifts, religion and the false history of money. Graeber is a scholarly
researcher, an activist and a public intellectual. His field is the whole history of social and economic transactions.” —Peter Carey, The Observer
India Grows at Night
Sub title: A Liberal Case for a Strong State
Indians wryly admit that ‘India grows at night’. But that is only half the saying; the full expression is: ‘India grows at night… when the government sleeps’, suggesting that the nation may be rising despite the state. India’s is a tale of private success and public failure. Prosperity is, indeed, spreading across the country even as governance failure pervades public life. But how could a nation become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies when it’s governed by a weak, ineffective state? And wouldn’t it be wonderful if India also grew during the day—in other words, if public policy supported private enterprise? What India needs, Gurcharan Das says, is a strong liberal state. Such a state would have the authority to take quick, decisive action; it would have the rule of law to ensure those actions are legitimate; and finally, it would be accountable to the people. But achieving this will not be easy, says Das, because India has historically had a weak state and a strong society.