Books of the week: From Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's The Last Queen to Ashish Khetan’s Undercover, our picks

Our weekly roundup of books that should be on your radar.

Aarushi Agrawal January 17, 2021 14:38:18 IST
Books of the week: From Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's The Last Queen to Ashish Khetan’s Undercover, our picks

We love stories, and even in the age of Netflix-and-chill, there's nothing like a good book that promises a couple of hours of absorption — whether curled up in bed, in your favourite coffeehouse, or that long (and tiresome) commute to work. Every Sunday, we'll have a succinct pick of books, across diverse genres, that have been newly made available for your reading pleasure. Get them wherever you get your books — the friendly neighbourhood bookseller, e-retail website, chain store — and in whatever form you prefer. Happy reading!

For more of our weekly book recommendations, click here.

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– FICTION

The Last Queen
By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
HarperCollins India | Rs 599 | 372 pages

Bestselling author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s latest novel tells the story of Rani Jindan, the daughter of the royal kennel keeper who went on to become Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s favourite queen. She soon became regent, protecting her six-year-old son’s heritage, fighting the British to keep them from annexing Punjab, and stepping out of the zenana to conduct state business. She was later imprisoned and exiled, but that still didn’t crush her will.

Read more about the book here.

People on our Roof
By Shefali Tripathi Mehta
Niyogi Books | Rs 450 | 228 pages

Author and poet Shefali Tripathi Mehta’s novel follows Naina, who lives in a south Delhi colony bungalow with her mother, sister, and the stigma of madness running in their family. As memories surface, she sets out in search of the truth behind her father’s disappearance, and soon the past starts unravelling.

Read more about the book and an excerpt from the book here.

– MEMOIRS and BIOGRAPHIES

Bike Ambulance Dada: The Inspiring Story of Karimul Hak: The Man Who Saved 4000 Lives
By Biswajit Jha
Penguin Random House India | Rs 250 | 256 pages

Writer Biswajit Jha presents the authorised biography of Padma Shri awardee Karimul Hak. Several years ago, Hak lost his mother because he couldn’t afford an ambulance, later resolving that history shouldn’t repeat itself. Since then, he’s started a free bike-ambulance service from his village to the nearest hospital, filling the gap in rural healthcare, and saving thousands of lives.

Read more about the book here.

Ghalib: A Wilderness at My Doorstep – A Critical Biography
By Mehr Afshan Farooqi
Penguin Random House India | Rs 799 | 416 pages

Associate professor of Urdu and South Asian Literature at the University of Virginia, Mehr Afshan Farooqi presents a critical biography of Ghalib, exploring his life, works, and philosophy. Born in Agra towards the end of the eighteenth century, he began composing verses at an early age, writing in both Urdu and Persian. With European colonialism’s impact on Indian literature, Ghalib responded with far-sightedness and imagination, producing a complex poetic trajectory.

Read more about the book here.

– NON-FICTION

Undercover: My Journey into the Darkness of Hindutva
By Ashish Khetan
Context | Rs 499 | 332 pages

Journalist and lawyer Ashish Khetan recounts the time he spent undercover in Gujarat, deep in the world of Hindutva, documenting a hate-filled world where stories of rape and murder are exchanged over cups of tea. He secretly filmed men close to power corridors admitting to their part in the 2002 Gujarat riots, who attest that the riots couldn’t have happened without support from the state government. His investigations led to the convictions of Babu Bajrangi, Maya Kodnani, and others.

Locking Down the Poor: The Pandemic and India’s Moral Centre
By Harsh Mander
Speaking Tiger Books | Rs 399 | 240 pages

Author and activist Harsh Mander shows how grave the COVID-19 crisis was and continues to be, and how it’s a direct consequence of the Indian government’s public policy choices, especially of introducing lockdown with a small relief package. He informs of daily-wage workers and those working in the informal sector, overwhelmed by hunger and dread. He also details the callousness of a strategy that forced lockdown in a country where crores live in congested rooms with no possibility of distancing, toilets, or running water.

Read more about the book here.

On Citizenship
By Romila Thapar, N Ram, Gautam Bhatia, and Gautam Patel
Aleph Book Company | Rs 499 | 172 pages

In this volume of essays, four of India’s public intellectuals explore the key aspects of what constitutes citizenship in India. The writers are acclaimed historian Romila Thapar, who explores how citizenship evolved in India and the rest of the world; editor N Ram provides a political history of citizenship; legal scholar Gautam Bhatia explores the constitutional provisions related to citizenship; and jurist Gautam Patel looks at key provisions of the Constitution and more.

Read more about the book here.

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