Looking back at 2014 in books

  • Saudamini Jain, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Dec 28, 2014 11:32 IST

In the world of literature, a glut of biographies from actors, politicians and sportsmen ensured non-fiction ruled the bestselling charts.

Chetan Bhagat is haunted by Jha

Madhav Jha, the protagonist of Bhagat’s “blockbuster”

Half Girlfriend

is jinxed. Not only does he say ‘Deti hai to de varna kat le,’ he has other problems too. The erstwhile royal family of Dumraon sent a legal notice to Bhagat and the publisher, Rupa, for being portrayed as a family full of “alcoholics” and “gamblers”.

They want an apology, a recall of all uncirculated copies and the removal of their name and references from future copies. Bhagat indignantly declared, “...I have made Dumraon famous.”

Plus, Dr Birbal Jha, a Patna academic, claims that Bhagat got the plot from his play

Englishia Boli

. He said Bhagat met him earlier in the year, and Jha (who shares a last name with Bhagat’s hero) showed him a copy of the play, which is also about a Patna boy falling in love with a Delhi girl.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/12/sports_books_2.jpg The big yawn

Playing It My Way by Sachin Tendulkar and Boria Majumdar:

An autobiography which broke all records even in pre-subscription (1,50,000 copies had been ordered before the book was released) said NOTHING new and turned out to be such a dud. Still, it’s Sachin.

Bookshopping list

* Family Life by Akhil Sharma

: It starts off as a sweet immigrant novel and turns into a harrowing tale of what happens to a family when one child suffers a terrible accident

* No Country by Kalyan Ray:

Spread across two continents over two centuries – potato fields in Ireland, mangrove forests in Bengal, an iceberg in the Atlantic, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Partition – there is murder and love and a search for identity

* The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee:

A big, maladjusted Bengali family – with drama, bitchiness and some sweet moments. And a dark account of Naxalism

* Being Mortal by Atul Gawande:

About life and the end of life, this moving book on medicine was on US President Obama’s reading list

* The Way Things Were by Aatish Taseer:

The story of a broken family, which will also take you through the Emergency, the Sikh riots and the demolition of Babri Masjid right up to the present, and the rise of the Right.

* A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces, edited by David Davidar:

Hands down the most beautiful book of the year – and one you must own.

Also read:

The greatest Indian novels you cannot afford to miss!

In the absence of good film journalism, there are books


Dilip Kumar: The Substance And The Shadow: An Autobiography (written with Udayatara Nayar)

Find out why Dilip Kumar and Madhubala never married (because her father wanted to turn the marriage into a "business venture")

Conversations with Waheeda Rehman

by Nasreen Munni Kabir:

The first book about one of Bollywood’s most beautiful actresses ever. It’s very charming

And Then One Day by Naseeruddin Shah:

Naseer’s life is very inspiring. The memoir makes him sound like a difficult man though. Perhaps to offset that, the man who rarely gives interviews was all over the press

Two books on Rajesh Khanna: Gautam Chintamani’s Dark Star is more about Rajesh Khanna and his films – with an introduction from Sharmila Tagore.

Yasser Usman’s The Untold Story of India’s First Superstar is more about his life with inputs from several people who knew Kaka well – with an introduction from Salim Khan.

But really, if you like Rajesh Khanna, just get both the books. (There’s also a third in the pipeline, we hear)


It began with a penguin and ended with a tiger

February: Penguin India, in an out-of-court settlement, agreed to withdraw Wendy Doniger’s acclaimed book

The Hindus

, and pulp its remaining copies.

Right-wing Hindu group Shiksha Bachao Andolan had filed a lawsuit against Doniger for “hurt[ing] the religious feelings of millions of Hindus” – a violation of the Indian Penal Code.

Apparently, a notice was also served to Aleph Book Company, the publisher of Doniger’s previous book

On Hinduism

, demanding that it be withdrawn too.

It is over this controversy, it was reported, that co-publisher Ravi Singh resigned, because he was “uncomfortable” with the way it was being handled. In June, however, Aleph reprinted

On Hinduism


And by September, Singh started a new publishing house, Speaking Tiger.

Lok sabha Elections = political books = mass indignation



The Accidental Prime Minister
by Sanjaya Baru
About Manmohan Singh by his then media advisor.
Lines: I once jokingly remarked to Dr Singh that in Vajpayee’s time the principal secretary functioned as if he were the PM, while in his case it was being said that the PM functioned like a principal secretary.

One Life is Not Enough
by Natwar Singh:
The autobiography of former External Affairs minister. (But, really, it’s more of an “insider’s account” of the Gandhi family)
Lines: Rahul said that he was prepared to take any possible step to prevent his mother from taking up the prime ministership.

The Election That Changed India
by Rajdeep Sardesai:
Anecdotes from the 2014 elections – politicians and newsrooms by a TV journalist.
Highlight: How and why the Rahul Gandhi TV interview went wrong

NaMo books:
Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times
by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay
was critical and hence, an ‘authorised-turned-unauthorised’ biography.

The NAMO Story by Kingshuk Nag
had interesting bits about the 2002 Gujarat riots. More are set for 2015.


* In My Defence by A Raja:

Self-explanatory. The 2G scam is back.

* Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand:

Biography of an Indian princess and goddaughter of Queen Victoria who turned from a scruffy little child (of a family in disgrace) to a socialite to a suffragette.


RIP: Ravan and Eddie by Kiran Nagarkar:

The last in the trilogy. If you love Mumbai, read the first two.


Gunahon Ka Devta by Dharamvir Bharati (tr. Poonam Saxena):

The best love story ever, translated from Hindi by the editor of your favourite magazine.


Aarushi: Anatomy of a Murder by Avirook Sen:

A journalist’s account of the Aarushi Talwar murder case – and its aftermath.


Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh:

It’s Opium time with the final book of the Ibis trilogy.


The Patna Manual of Style: Stories by Siddharth Chowdhury:

He doesn’t write as often as he should!

From HT Brunch, December 28
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