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HT Picks: The Most Interesting Books of the Week

Here’s a selection of good reads

books Updated: Sep 02, 2017 12:08 IST
HT Team
Good reads: A thriller, a look at abject poverty, and a book on what Google reveals about us!
Good reads: A thriller, a look at abject poverty, and a book on what Google reveals about us!(HT Team)

Everybody lies, to friends, lovers, doctors, pollsters - and to themselves. In Internet searches, however, people confess their secrets - about sexless marriages, mental health problems, even racist views. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, an economist and former Google data scientist, shows that this could just be the most important dataset ever collected.

This huge database of secrets - unprecedented in human history - offers astonishing, even revolutionary, insights into humankind. Anxiety, for instance, does not increase after a terrorist attack. Crime levels drop when a violent film is released. And racist searches are no higher in Republican areas than in Democrat ones.

Stephens-Davidowitz reveals information we can use to change our culture and the questions we’re afraid to ask that might be essential to our health - both emotional and physical. Insightful, funny, and always surprising, Everybody Lies exposes the biases and secrets embedded deeply within us, at a time when things are harder to predict than ever.

All of us are touched by big data every day, and its influence is multiplying.

In 2005, starving members of the Bhuiya clan in one of Bihar’s poorest villages dug up a long-buried dead goat, cooked and ate it. Sixteen people died within days, twelve of them children.

Bengali-speaking Muslims who had moved to Rajasthan from West Bengal in the 1970s and 80s were summarily declared Bangladeshi terrorists in the aftermath of the 2008 Jaipur bomb blasts. They remain stateless in their own country.

Landless Lodhas, members of an erstwhile ‘Criminal Tribe’ in Bihar, grapple even today with centuries of shame and dispossession.

These stories - along with those of women with mental and physical disabilities in rural areas, homeless men living in Yamuna Pushta, in New Delhi,and patients in a leprosy colony in Orissa - reveal both stigma and support, harsh lives, an uncaring, corrupt state and moments of resilience.

Drawn from interviews and conversations, part of a study on destitution by the Centre for Equity Studies, Dispossessed; Stories from India’s Margins takes a wide-ranging view of what it means to be destitiute, displaced and marginalized in contemporary India. Equally importantly, thorough these personal accounts of their research, the authors explore their own privileges in comparison.

Written with sensitivity and care, this is an important book that perceptively questions India’s engagement with the people at its margins and should be essential reading for all.

When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in her past, her heart nearly stops.

Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.

Maria Weston has been missing for over 25 years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers’ party and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life with a terrible secret.

As Louise is forced to discover the truth about what really happened, the only thing she knows for sure is that Maria Weston disappeared that night, never to be heard from again, until now...

Watch: Bookstack, where we discuss the week’s most interesting books