Book recommendations, reviews and discussions: fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, romance.... - ForumIAS

Book recommendations, reviews and discussions: fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, romance....

"There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen"-- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Although Lenin did not say it in the context we are interested in, but it aptly captures the predicament of book lovers. When they are not reading, there is a feeling of nothingness. When they are, they travel many journeys through time and space thereby, living a lot of stories.

I intend to create this thread to pull some unique and great recommendations across different genres. Let's grow this thread together with some great recommendations, reviews and intellectually stimulating discussions. 

 

Just_restless,chamomileand25 otherslike this
20.9k views

68 comments

My top 3 Recommendations

1: Six of Crows ( A great heist fantasy novel, something like ocean 11 in game of thrones world. )

2: Born a crime ( Hands down the most funniest autobiography)

3: Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely 

BurtMacklin_FBI,Reticentand2 otherslike this
7.9k views

Thank you for this thread and really look forward to some interesting suggestions and discussions. 

Post mains my first pick was HAMID co-authored by Hamid Ansari and Geeta Mohan. My general interest in India's foreign policy and the crazy sounding story of Hamid Ansari in particular got me choose this book. And what an emotional roller coaster it turned out to be! It is as intense as a thriller, disgustingly evil and 'as real as surreal'. But most importantly Hamid is a celebration of humanity. It also gives an account of general state of affairs in Pakistan, the tribals of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Afghanistan. I was happy to learn that India enjoys much goodwill and affection among common Afghans. As I finished reading this book I could only think of Kulbhushan Jadhav and so many unknown Indians languishing in Pakistan's jails (military and civil). You can well imagine so many things!

If anybody wants to read an authoritative and detailed explanation on the functioning of social media then may I say THE HYPE MACHINE by Sinan Aral is a must-read? Simply put, this book is about the science, sociology, psychology, politics, and economics of social media. Do we need social media regulation? After reading this book I certainly favor a social media regulation for the sake of sanity and civility to say the least.

Another must-read and especially for us UPSC aspirants is LAND OF SEVEN RIVERS by Sanjeev Sanyal. I think Sanyal just knows how to evoke curiosity in readers' minds and with this book one will be rather  compelled to love history and geography. A rich account of India's geographical history, this can be used for value addition in essay paper.

chamomile,AzadHindFauzand7 otherslike this
7.6k views

For days when you'd like to get away from it all for a bit:Master and Margarita(some of the best Russian fiction, the kind of book that stays with you long after you're done) andSandman(not a novel, shoot me, but it's worth a read for the dreamy atmosphere and the incredible art).
I'd also be remiss if I didn't mentionNo Longer Human by Osamu Dazai; it's an incredibly emotional Japanese coming of age novel about a person who's haunted by the realization that he doesn't quite fit in with his peers.


Porus,Silentobserverand3 otherslike this
7.7k views
What a wonderful idea! 

One of the books that had a lasting impact on me was the autobiography Roses in Decemberby Justice MC Chagla. He led a magnificent life occupying several important positions, and the book covers several important events in our history. It was a great read even purely as a literary work. It was one of the earliest inspirations that finally made me decide to throw myself into this preparation.

Would also highly recommend Yuval Noah Harari’s21 Lessons for the 21st Century.He speaks about a wide variety of the most important topics today, and I remember his ideas were quite convincing and innovative.

For anyone trying to relax a bit, anything by PG Wodehouse will be golden. Have never read any other author with such a hilarious and firm grip on comedy. 

If you want to stay closer to preparation,Poor Economicsby Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo is a good read. It’s filled with interesting stories and simple ideas which sometimes aren’t as obvious as they should be. 

Michelle Obama’sBecomingwas also a great book. She’s had a remarkable and inspiring life, and it offers a good look into that. Full of moving paragraphs.

I find myself craving some good literary Indian content, maybe some lesser known work of fiction set unmistakably in India. Anyone have any ideas?
chamomile,Porusand6 otherslike this
7.4k views

Fiction

English- Khaled Hosseini's all three novels- 'The Kite Runner', 'A thousand splendid suns' and 'And the mountains echoed'. There are moments in these books that will stay with you forever. My favourite is 'A thousand splendid suns'. Miriam and Laila are the women one must know. 

Hindi- Premchand's 'Nirmala' and 'Gaban'. While Nirmala traces the story of a young woman married to an old man, a poignant read. Gaban, on the other hand, deals with stories of greed, remorse and values in the society. The prose is exceptional. 

Non fiction: 

1) 'Savarkar- echoes from a forgotten past' by Vikram Sampath. Here, the author presents a meticulous research on the life and times of one of the most controversial figure of contemporary India. This book is an important read to understand the emergence of modern India, the people and the politics. One would come across the forgotten revolutionaries like Chiplunkar, Chapekar brothers among others. I would suggest to read it without presumptions. Difficult, I know. 

2) Karma Yoga - Swami Vivekananda. It is a short book and an absolute treasure trove. The other books in the series are Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga. One must read and reread them. I am doing the same.

3) As mentioned above in this thread-

Born a crime by Trevor Noah. The star of the book is his mother. And the stories are both funny and moving. 

Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. ( I think everyone has already read these :P However, his ideas tend to get repetitive when you read the books back to back. So, skipped his third book. ) 


chamomile,Porusand5 otherslike this
7.3k views

Thanks@AzadHindFauz  for creating this thread. I entered the UPSC race in 2017 summer. My major reading was mostly post Mains all these years. Other times, I'd try my best reading a few pages every other day or so. My book selection was usually non fiction, with utility for UPSC prep as well. I'll try and segment them sectionally and talk more about each. 

I've been off fiction sadly for several years so I'm counting on the enriching discussions here. For fiction aficionados, there's a small YouTube channel,  Chalchitra Talks, which covers quite an eclectic range of fiction books. Do check it out if interested! 


AzadHindFauz,BurtMacklin_FBIand3 otherslike this
7.7k views
@whatonly hey Whatonly. My suggestions are very limited here. I'd read God of Small Things and the Interpreter of Maladies during college. Both were lovely and vivid with the Indian imagery. But both are quite well known so I don't know if it's helpful


Reticent,whatonly
6.8k views
@whatonly  You may read Manu Joseph's 'Serious Men' or 'The illicit happiness of other people'. Works of fiction and rooted in India. His writing style is witty, fresh and based in cynicism. I would recommend the second one. It is woven around suicide of a 17 year old brilliant boy and his father's journey to find the cause. 


Villanelle,Reticentand1 otherslike this
6.4k views
I'll start with my first segment. It covers works/life ofIPS officers- K Vijay Kumar, Hemant Karkare and Julio Ribeiro

1. 'Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand' byK Vijay Kumar
This was the book which piqued my interest in the IPS and made me aspire for the uniform. I can't refresh the book contents because it was a borrowed Prime version on the Kindle and unfortunately expired by now. But from what I can remember, there were interesting insights on the importance of terrain familiarity, the unfortunate ambushes, the cultivation of informer networks, the role of technology in the whole operation etc. Personally, sir's attitude, work ethic and overall personality was very inspiring. 
Interesting trivia: He gave the exam again while being in the IPS just to prove that he could get a top rank for IAS too. The results came while he was in the training academy in Hyderabad, and managed to succeed. His peers and senior faculty expected him to leave the IPS, like most usually do. However, he decided to stay on, and that in itself made an impression on everyone else that this was a driven man, aiming to be the best officer of all time. 
The book is written in a fairly simple language, and is engaging enough to finish in one long sitting! 

2. 'Hemant Karkare: A Daughter's Memoir' byJui Karkare Navare
I'd chosen this book after reading its recommendation from Julio Ribeiro's weekly piece in the Tribune. The memoir covers events relating to the 26/11 night, it's aftermath on the family, the Malegaon investigation issue etc but I was primarily interested in his journey before that. She's done a remarkable job for the reader to piece together his personality and relive the memories. The amazing thing is that Sir had cultivated the habit of diary entry since a young age. So one can trace the evolving personality. I'll cite an instance: 
'We judge ourselves by what we can do while others judge us by what we have already done.' His diary entry when aged 21. 
I personally liked the humanly details- be it keeping a healthy work life balance, his interest in art and wooden sculpting in particular, the empathetic quality which made his juniors and seniors adore him. A strong sense of conviction and duty, which he upheld until his dying breath, makes him a very inspiring person. There are operational bits too, covering the family's experiences while he was posted in a naxal infested district; his time at the ATF etc but the focus is definitely on the humanistic side of Hemant Karkare. 
The book is hardly 230 pages and is light enough to be finished within a day. 

3. 'Bullet for Bullet' byJulio Ribeiro
Ribeiro sir is a legend in police circles, and anyone reading his Tribune op eds would have a brief idea of his life experiences. 2020 was the year of protests, which is why I bit the bullet and picked up his book. One can gain insights about the political pressures and intrigues; the people-oriented focus of policing, particularly his experiences in Maharashtra; the difficulties and tussles in formulating the most effective counter terrorism approach in Punjab (and his differences with KPS Gill's approach); resolving mass protests, communal flare ups and rioting etc. 
For me, the style of writing wasn't captivating and this wasn't a page-turner either. A long autobiography often tends to be overloaded with facts and narrated in a chronological manner. In some case, it can be exhausting and that was my experience with this book. Yet one can take inspiration from his steadfast integrity and courage to take on the political masters. This is also his message: that fresh officers have a choice and it's upto them to make the right one and hold onto it with determination. 
Interesting trivia: To small politicians coming with list of their prefered cops for certain postings, he made it a point that he'd entertain only when the specific cops came in person with the request. Which never usually happened, or if it did, he put them in order. 

I haven't read more books related to the police, butRakesh Maria, Amit Lodhaare other authors whose work seems interesting and I might read them in future. 
Ethereal,Silentobserverand4 otherslike this
7.6k views

Fiction

English- Khaled Hosseini's all three novels- 'The Kite Runner', 'A thousand splendid suns' and 'And the mountains echoed'. There are moments in these books that will stay with you forever. My favourite is 'A thousand splendid suns'. Miriam and Laila are the women one must know. 

Hindi- Premchand's 'Nirmala' and 'Gaban'. While Nirmala traces the story of a young woman married to an old man, a poignant read. Gaban, on the other hand, deals with stories of greed, remorse and values in the society. The prose is exceptional. 

Non fiction: 

1) 'Savarkar- echoes from a forgotten past' by Vikram Sampath. Here, the author presents a meticulous research on the life and times of one of the most controversial figure of contemporary India. This book is an important read to understand the emergence of modern India, the people and the politics. One would come across the forgotten revolutionaries like Chiplunkar, Chapekar brothers among others. I would suggest to read it without presumptions. Difficult, I know. 

2) Karma Yoga - Swami Vivekananda. It is a short book and an absolute treasure trove. The other books in the series are Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga. One must read and reread them. I am doing the same.

3) As mentioned above in this thread-

Born a crime by Trevor Noah. The star of the book is his mother. And the stories are both funny and moving. 

Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. ( I think everyone has already read these :P However, his ideas tend to get repetitive when you read the books back to back. So, skipped his third book. ) 


Khaled Hosseini's works are the first ones I always end up recommending to everyone when it comes to fiction. All three are wonderful, and my favourite too is Thousand Splendid Suns. I do think sometimes I read them too young, but never have I felt so connected to the characters.

Anyone picking these up should keep tissues handy, they make you feel a rollercoaster of emotions. Same goes of Premchand. I remember being made to read Nirmala as a part of  syllabus at school. Terrific works.


Also have been wanting to read Born a Crime for a long while now. Really enjoy watching Trevor Noah. 

chamomile,BurtMacklin_FBIand2 otherslike this
7.3k views

Thanks for the suggestions! @Porus and@Sadhika 

Been meaning to read these for ages now, this is the push I needed. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns was a thousand kinds of splendid. Nothing else touched me in quite the same way.

Would also like to add George Orwell's1984. I know it's well known but just in case. I don't use the phrase "should be made mandatory reading" lightly, but I'll use it here.

Porus,BurtMacklin_FBIand1 otherslike this
6.3k views

+1 for Trevor Noah'sBorn a crime( the book gets even more funny if you read it in Trevor's voice)

Your standard non-fiction: Harari'sSapiens & 21 lessons for 21st century.I really enjoyed reading these books as some of his arguments were very new to me. 

Also Malcolm Gladwell'sOutliers: the story of successis an interesting read. He emphasizes the role of non-traditional factors that make high-achievers different. This is the book that popularized the famous 10,000 hours rule. All in all, this book reaffirms the need for greater equity.

I'm halfway through@BarackYomama'sA Promised Land.His self-critical style of writing is really humbling. Also the book is filled with a lot of self-deprecating humour. It reminds you to take yourself less seriously.

For the people who cook (or self-proclaimed MasterChef's like me), I found Krish Ashok'sMasala lab: the science of Indian cooking a fun read. He tried to explain Indian cooking using basic 12th class science. In the end, he provides a scientific recipe to cook the perfect Hyderabadi biryani (I'm already drooling).

@whatonly I'm surprised you didn't mention your own bookPawnee: the greatest town in America :P

Villanelle,Porusand3 otherslike this
7.4k views
@BurtMacklin_FBI Apologies. In my defence I do have a copy of Amy Poehler'sYes Pleasesitting pretty on my desk waiting to be read :)


BurtMacklin_FBI,
6.3k views

Porussaid

I'll start with my first segment. It covers works/life ofIPS officers- K Vijay Kumar, Hemant Karkare and Julio Ribeiro

1. 'Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand' byK Vijay Kumar
This was the book which piqued my interest in the IPS and made me aspire for the uniform. I can't refresh the book contents because it was a borrowed Prime version on the Kindle and unfortunately expired by now. But from what I can remember, there were interesting insights on the importance of terrain familiarity, the unfortunate ambushes, the cultivation of informer networks, the role of technology in the whole operation etc. Personally, sir's attitude, work ethic and overall personality was very inspiring. 
Interesting trivia: He gave the exam again while being in the IPS just to prove that he could get a top rank for IAS too. The results came while he was in the training academy in Hyderabad, and managed to succeed. His peers and senior faculty expected him to leave the IPS, like most usually do. However, he decided to stay on, and that in itself made an impression on everyone else that this was a driven man, aiming to be the best officer of all time. 
The book is written in a fairly simple language, and is engaging enough to finish in one long sitting! 

2. 'Hemant Karkare: A Daughter's Memoir' byJui Karkare Navare
I'd chosen this book after reading its recommendation from Julio Ribeiro's weekly piece in the Tribune. The memoir covers events relating to the 26/11 night, it's aftermath on the family, the Malegaon investigation issue etc but I was primarily interested in his journey before that. She's done a remarkable job for the reader to piece together his personality and relive the memories. The amazing thing is that Sir had cultivated the habit of diary entry since a young age. So one can trace the evolving personality. I'll cite an instance: 
'We judge ourselves by what we can do while others judge us by what we have already done.' His diary entry when aged 21. 
I personally liked the humanly details- be it keeping a healthy work life balance, his interest in art and wooden sculpting in particular, the empathetic quality which made his juniors and seniors adore him. A strong sense of conviction and duty, which he upheld until his dying breath, makes him a very inspiring person. There are operational bits too, covering the family's experiences while he was posted in a naxal infested district; his time at the ATF etc but the focus is definitely on the humanistic side of Hemant Karkare. 
The book is hardly 230 pages and is light enough to be finished within a day. 

3. 'Bullet for Bullet' byJulio Ribeiro
Ribeiro sir is a legend in police circles, and anyone reading his Tribune op eds would have a brief idea of his life experiences. 2020 was the year of protests, which is why I bit the bullet and picked up his book. One can gain insights about the political pressures and intrigues; the people-oriented focus of policing, particularly his experiences in Maharashtra; the difficulties and tussles in formulating the most effective counter terrorism approach in Punjab (and his differences with KPS Gill's approach); resolving mass protests, communal flare ups and rioting etc. 
For me, the style of writing wasn't captivating and this wasn't a page-turner either. A long autobiography often tends to be overloaded with facts and narrated in a chronological manner. In some case, it can be exhausting and that was my experience with this book. Yet one can take inspiration from his steadfast integrity and courage to take on the political masters. This is also his message: that fresh officers have a choice and it's upto them to make the right one and hold onto it with determination. 
Interesting trivia: To small politicians coming with list of their prefered cops for certain postings, he made it a point that he'd entertain only when the specific cops came in person with the request. Which never usually happened, or if it did, he put them in order. 

I haven't read more books related to the police, butRakesh Maria, Amit Lodhaare other authors whose work seems interesting and I might read them in future. 

You may read Rakesh Maria's autobiography LET ME SAY IT NOW. It's a light read but gives insight into some of the most dreaded cases in India like 93 blast, 26/11, some most wanted people who had narrow escapes. What an eventful career I must say!

Porus,
6.3k views
@whatonly Ismat Chughtai'sLifting the Veil is a relatively lesser known collection of beautiful short stories that revolve around India's partition/pre-Independence events. Might be worth a look! :')


chamomile,whatonly
6.4k views
@whatonly Ismat Chughtai'sLifting the Veil is a relatively lesser known collection of beautiful short stories that revolve around India's partition/pre-Independence events. Might be worth a look! :')


Can't wait! Thanks so much

Dalinar,
6.2k views
@BurtMacklin_FBI I want to know how you got time to read A Promised Land? Even the audible version is freakin’ 27 hours long. 

Also, I read about Masala Lab in Down To Earth’s february issue...my interest is piqued and now I know that the regular flour at our home is not suitable for baking due to mechanical wear and tear as it’s made in chakki, but due to the same reason it’s perfect for making soft chapatis :)


BurtMacklin_FBI,
6.2k views

@Villanelle Lol!! I'm only halfway through the book. It's freakishly long. Like 700 pages long.

Wow! I didn't knowMasala labhad that kind of reach. Glad to know that Down to Earth covered it.

6.4k views

I used to read a lot during my graduation. Both fiction and non-fiction. Some of the books which are close to my heart were read during that time.

In fact, one book was responsible for drawing me towards the civil service preparation. In my last year of graduation, I had readA Life in Diplomacyby Maharajakrishna Rasgotra. It inspired me to join the Indian Foreign Service. The kind of work that diplomats do and the little-known world of diplomacy fascinated me. I also got to know about the contours of Indian Foreign policy during cold war era through this book. So I would say it is a very fascinating read for those interested in foreign policy.;

I also love to read History books.  One of the recent books that I read wasThe Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynastyby William Dalrymple. It gives a fascinating historical account of the 1857 revolt and the role played by the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II. The book is not a typical history textbook which bores you to death. Rather, it has a very lucid storytelling. At one point, I felt like I was reading a novel. The author has done a remarkable work in collecting relevant and less-known information about the revolt through letters, newspapers, speeches etc. I have also recently picked up his another bookThe Anarchy: The East India Company.

With regards to fiction, I am currently reading the famousA Song of Ice and Fireseries. I recently completed the first book and now moving on to the second. The writing is just fabulous. Dialogues, characters, a fantasy world, court intrigues, narration is a level above. It lives up to its hype for me.

Another fascinating story that I read some time back wasA Time to Killby John Grisham. It has given me my new favourite genre that is Legal Thrillers. He has written many more books but due to Mains prep I could not pick up any of them and now I am wondering whether I should pick one of his books and drop the other two books that I am reading.

chamomile,Porusand2 otherslike this
6.8k views
@whatonlyHey! I would recommendA Fine Balanceby Rohinton Mistry. It is set up in 1975-77. The 'Emergency' period. We have only heard stories of that time period from our parents or grandparents with hazy details. But this book is a clear snapshot of that time. Lifestyle of a common man, the evils that prevailed in society during that time, caste violence, corruption, poverty, an uncertain future, those brutal 'Population control' measures. It is a bit bulky but a very good read. The climax of the story is very good.

If you want to get back in time thenThose Daysby Sunil Gangopadhyay is also a good work of fiction. the story is set up in 19th century Bengal. The period of 'Bengal Renaissance'. Stories of the introduction of the English education, the Company Raj, the Social movements are weaved together in a highly readable work of fiction. It is the best historical fiction that I have read on India.
chamomile,Silentobserverand2 otherslike this
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