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HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

This week’s interesting reads include a biography of a famous historian, a meditation on the role of medicine to help us live and die well, and a review of how India has fared in the last few years in the most critical dimensions of the nation’s collective life

books Updated: Apr 05, 2019 18:37 IST
HT Team
HT Team
Hindustan Times
Che Guevara,Hitler,Communism
A biography of a famous historian, a meditation on the role of medicine, and looking at how India has fared lately -- all that on HT’s list of good reads this week.(HT Team)

ERIC HOBSBAWM; A LIFE IN HISTORY BY RICHARD J EVANS

785pp, Rs 1299; Hachette

At the time of his death in 2012, at the age of ninety-five, Eric Hobsbawm was the most famous historian in the world. His books were translated into more than fifty languages and he was as well known in Brazil and India as he was in Britain and the United States. His interests stretched across many countries and cultures, ranging from poetry to Jazz, literature to politics. He was a young communist in the Weimar Republic, a radical student in Cambridge, an army conscript, a Soho ‘man about town’, a Hampstead intellectual, a Cambridge don, an influential journalist, a world traveler and, finally, a Grand Old Man of Letters.

In A Life in History, Richard J Evans tells the story of Hobsbawm as an historian and, beyond this, as a witness to history itself. Eric not only wrote and spoke about the great issues of the twentieth century, but participated in many of them too, form communist resistance to Hitler to revolution in Cuba, where he acted as an interpreter for Che Guevara. His writings played a pivotal role in the emergence of New Labour. But this remarkable book is not just an account of the themes and ideas of Eric’s life, it is also an intimate portrait of who he truly was – from insecure teenager to lover, family man and husband.

Based on exclusive and unrestricted access to his papers and using interviews with contemporaries and material from seventeen archives across three continents, this is the first biography of Hobsbawm. Written with both empathy and rigour, painstakingly researched and a joy to read, it is an extraordinary achievement from one of the leading historians in the world today: a unique study of a man and his era, and of an intellectual who changed the way history is written.*

THAT GOOD NIGHT BY SUNITA PURI

301pp, Rs 599; Hachette

As the American-born daughter of immigrants, Dr Sunita Puri knew from a young age that the gulf between her parents’ experiences and her own was impossible to bridge, save for two elements: medicine and spirituality. Between days spent waiting for her mother, an anaesthesiologist, to exit the operating theatre, and evenings spent in conversation with her parents about their faith, Puri witnessed the tension between medicine’s impulse to preserve life at all costs and a spiritual embrace of life’s temporality. And it was that tension that eventually drew Puri, a passionate but unsatisfied medical student, to palliative medicine – a new specialty attempting to translate the border between medical intervention and quality of life care.

Interweaving evocative stories of Puri’s family and the patients she cares for, That Good Night is a stunning meditation on impermanence and the role of medicine in helping us to live and die well, arming readers with information that will transform how we communicate with our doctors about what matters most to us.*


RE-FORMING INDIA; THE NATION TODAY EDITED BY NIRAJA GOPAL JAYAL

639pp, Rs799; Penguin

India’s social and political landscape has, in recent times, witnessed many significant transformations. This book offers a wide-ranging review of how India has, over the last few years, fared on the most critical dimensions of our collective life – politics, economy, governance, development, culture and society.

The project of change entailed processes of both reform and re-formation: if reform was about correcting or improving what was considered unsatisfactory, re-formation was a bolder project that aimed to construct anew, anchored in a fundamental re-visioning of India in social, cultural and even moral terms. In many ways, the programme of re-forming India may have outpaced that of reforming India and even exceeded its own expectations.

WATCH: More interesting books of the week

This volume provides an overview of the prevailing political imaginary of nationalism and of the current trends of public discourse in Indian democracy; it seeks to identify and interpret the transformations in state institutions and the public sphere and evaluate their implications for the future.

Re-forming India brings together reflections from leading commentators in their fields, and some of these transformations – from the promise of economic revival and demonetization to the impact on gender relations, higher education and the media. Has the country been transformed in ways that were promised or indeed in other ways that had not been anticipated?

These essays seek to provide the answers.

*All copy from book flap.

First Published: Apr 05, 2019 18:08 IST