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Home / Books / HT Picks

HT Picks

Reddit, Gurgaon and Jallianwala Bagh, 1919 feature on the HT list of recommended reads this week 

books Updated: Nov 02, 2018 21:44 IST
HT Team
HT Team
Hindustan Times
Millennium cities, massacres and “the front page of the Internet” on this edition of HT Picks.
Millennium cities, massacres and “the front page of the Internet” on this edition of HT Picks.(HT Team)

WE ARE THE NERDS BY CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN

492pp, Rs 699; Hachette
492pp, Rs 699; Hachette

Reddit hails itself as ‘the front page of the internet’. It’s the sixth most-visited website in the world, yet millions have no idea what it is. They should be paying attention.

We Are the Nerds takes readers inside this captivating, maddening enterprise, whose army of obsessed users have been credited with everything from solving crimes and raising millions in charitable donations, to inciting alt-right fury and even landing Donald Trump in the White House.

This is the gripping story of how Reddit’s founders, Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, transformed themselves from student video-gamers into Silicon Valley millionaires as they turned their creation into an icon of the digital age. Reddit has become a mirror of the internet itself: it has dark trenches, shiny memes, malicious trolls and a heart-warming ability to connect people across cultures, oceans and ideological divides.

In a time when we are increasingly concerned about privacy and manipulation on social platforms, We Are the Nerds reveals Reddit’s central role in the dissemination of culture and information in history’s first fully digital century. Rigorously reported and highly entertaining, We Are the Nerds explores how this unique platform has changed the way we all communicate today.

GURGAON; FROM MYTHIC VILLAGE TO MILLENNIUM CITY BY VEENA TALWAR OLDENBURG

305pp, Rs 699; Harper Collins
305pp, Rs 699; Harper Collins

For the aspirational migrant, rich or poor, Gurgaon is the Millennium City, with its sleek malls, sky-scraping condominiums, safe and gracious gated colonies, tenement housing and life-changing jobs. For corporations, it is the Mecca of opportunity as countless Fortune 500 companies have flocked to its business towers and parks, at once spacious, elegant and convenient for doing business. For its older residents, a more intriguing fate could not have befallen their small town.

For the media it is the city that makes headlines, often for the wrong reasons – brawls in pubs, crimes against women, dubious real estate transactions, mega traffic jams…

But Gurgaon’s existence began as an obscure hamlet, and it has had several hoary incarnations before it acquired its present density, industry, wealth and civic fabric. It is this tangled tale, more thematic than chronological that this book tells.

JALLIANWALA BAGH, 1919; THE REAL STORY BY KISHWAR DESAI

243pp, Rs 699; Westland
243pp, Rs 699; Westland

It has been a century since the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, but Punjab is still to recover from the shock of it. The British Empire never did either – the impact of those bullets fired for ten minutes at an unarmed, peaceful crowd inside a community park with one narrow exit rang through its remaining years in India. Yet, the true horror of the event itself had been forgotten, as also the volatile atmosphere in Punjab at the time.

What was the catalyst for the events of that day and how did it become a turning point in India’s struggle for independence? Why did the British feel the need to impose martial law on Amritsar, which had shown little inclination for violence, despite provocation? What do we know about the individual whose lives spun out of control on 19 April 1919, never to recover? Why did the people of Punjab suffer barbaric punishments, including public flogging, torture and even bombing, unknown to the rest of the world?

These are the questions fuelling the research that eventually gave shape to this meticulous and determined reconstruction of that crucial day, and the events which followed. Based on the reports of the Hunter Committee and the Indian National Congress, as well as other historical documents, Jallianwala Bagh, 1919: The Real Story provides a sharp analysis of General Dyer’s actions and their fallout – the official narrative and the Indian counter-narratives.