Here are some top picks from JNU students’ reading list
Books on Zen Buddhism, Indian cricket, studies on subcultures... young scholars have been devouring just about anythingUpdated: Mar 02, 2016, 16:59 IST
“It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.”
– Jacob Bronowski
Bronowski, British mathematician, historian of science, poet and inventor, could not have put it more succinctly. An institute is known for its students. To develop their minds and ensure they turn out to be all-rounders, it is necessary that they value books more than anything else.
On a warm sunny day, when this correspondent visited Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), of late at the centre of a storm over controversies related to freedom of speech, among other things, she found what she had been looking for...A healthy interest in reading.
From Zen Buddhism to Indian cricket, from studies on subcultures to researching ecological soundscapes (sounds made by animals, natural sounds like wind and rain and human-generated sound), the young scholars have been devouring just about anything they can lay their hands on. What, however, was obvious on campus was the students’ reluctance to speak about anything... even their love for reading. In fact, it took quite some time for this correspondent to persuade them to share their thoughts.
Despite all reassurances however, one of the students marked a mail to others with a copy to this writer, which read, “She (writer) has promised that if the story has a negative spin, she will not be using any of our names or affiliations in the story and will just use the info.” Yet another student wrote back: “I kindly request you to share my response as anonymous and not by name irrespective of how your story turns out.”
It’s a diverse mix – and indicative of bright minds still forming. In these times, it’s critical that thoughts and freedoms not be suppressed, as to quote Bronowski once again: Has there ever been a society which has died of dissent? Several have died of conformity in our lifetime.
Top picks from JNU: Are these on your bookshelf too?
Rites of Passage by Sanjoy Hazarika: This book is a serious study of the situation in the Northeast and Bangladesh. What sets the book apart is its focus on migrants not as just numbers but people for whom border crossing is inevitable
The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause: Bernie Krause is the world’s leading expert in natural sound. He has spent the last 40 years recording ecological soundscapes and has archived the sounds of over 15,000 species - half of the wild soundscapes he has on tape don’t exist anymore because of human actions. In this book, Krause argues that human noise is drowning out the sounds of nature.
The Great Animal Orchestra shows why it is critical to preserve what remaining soundscapes we have, and promises to make you hear the world entirely differently.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: The story centres around the life of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old girl living in Germany during World war II. Liesel’s experiences are narrated by Death, who describes both the beauty and destruction of life in this era.
The Last Days of Socrates by Plato: Chronicling the life and death of the father of western philosophy, and charting his influence on the most influential ancient Greek philosophers, Plato’s The Last Days of Socrates is translated from the Greek by Hugh Tredennick, revised with an introduction and notes by Harold Tarrant in Penguin Classics.
The Magic of Indian Cricket by Mihir Bose: This fully updated and revised edition of Mihir Bose’s classic history is a unique account of the Indian cricket phenomenon. Drawing on a combination of extensive research and personal experience, Bose traces the development of the Indian game from its beginnings as a colonial pastime to its coming of age as a national passion and now a global commercial powerhouse.