On the (book)shelf

Titles available at Books n Beans (Lahore) or through www.vanguardbooks.com

On the (book)shelf

India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow
Stephen Markel and Tushara Bindu Gude
DelMonico Books [hardback], 2010
PRs 3,000

This first book to fully explore the opulent art and refined lifestyle of Lucknow showcases cultural diversity at its most magnificent.
Lucknow was a cosmopolitan Indo-Islamic-European capital in northern India that flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Cultural successor to the resplendent Mughal Empire – and fated to succumb to Imperial British expansion – Lucknow fostered some of the most vibrant artistic expressions of its day in a wide range of mediums. It also represented a rare intersection of Eastern and Western traditions, as well as of Islamic and Hindu influences.

This book is the first to present Lucknow’s sophisticated synthesis of styles, histories and beliefs brilliantly melded into its distinctive grand artistry. It includes essays by the authors and nine additional scholars on multiple aspects of Lucknow’s cultural heritage. The book also features 240 sumptuous illustrations, including album paintings, illustrated historical and religious manuscripts, textiles and garments, period photographs and decorative art objects such as ornate metalwork, glassware and jewelry. Together, they offer proof of a rich and dynamic culture, which lives on today by evoking nostalgia for a lost past and serving as a cultural model.


Pax Indica: India and the World of the Twenty-First Century
Shashi Tharoor
Penguin Books [hardback], 2012
PRs 1,725

A definitive account of India’s international relations from an expert in the field.

Indian diplomacy, a veteran told Shashi Tharoor many years ago, is like the lovemaking of an elephant: it is conducted at a very high level, accompanied by much bellowing and the results are not known for two years. In this lively, informative and insightful work, the award-winning author and parliamentarian brilliantly demonstrates how Indian diplomacy has become sprightlier since then and where it needs to focus in the world of the 21st century.

Explaining why foreign policy matters to an India focused on its own domestic transformation, Tharoor surveys India’s major international relationships in detail, evokes the country’s soft power and its global responsibilities, analyses the workings of the Ministry of External Affairs, Parliament and public opinion on the shaping of policy, and offers his thoughts on a contemporary new grand strategy for the nation, arguing that India must move beyond non-alignment to multi-alignment. His book offers a clear-eyed vision of an India that perceives itself as ready to assume new global responsibility in the contemporary world.


Fallen Leaves: Last Words on Life, Love, War and God
Will Durant
Simon & Schuster [hardback], 2014
PRs 1,295

Praised as a “revelatory” book by The Wall Street Journal, this is the last and most personal work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Will Durant, discovered 32 years after his death.

The culmination of Durant’s sixty-plus years spent researching the philosophies, religions, arts, sciences and civilizations from across the world, Fallen Leaves is the distilled wisdom of one of the world’s greatest minds – a man with a renowned talent for rendering the insights of the past accessible. Over the course of Durant’s career, he received numerous letters from “curious readers who have challenged me to speak my mind on the timeless questions of human life and fate.” With Fallen Leaves, his final book, he at last accepted their challenge.

In 22 short chapters, Durant addresses everything from youth and old age to religion, morals, sex, war, politics and art. Fallen Leaves is “a thought-provoking array of opinions” (Publisher’s Weekly), offering elegant prose, deep insight and Durant’s revealing conclusions about the perennial problems and greatest joys we face as a species. In Durant’s singular voice, here is a message of insight for everyone who has ever sought meaning in life or the counsel of a learned friend while navigating life’s journey.


Finders Keepers
Stephen King
Hodder and Stoughton [hardback], 2015
PRs 1,695

For those of you who spent part of last summer being thrilled by Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes, this worthy sequel arrives just in time for autumn 2015. Of course, you can read Finders Keepers on its own if you’re so inclined – King takes time to introduce new characters and new crimes in the first half of the book before carting out some familiar faces from the past.

The story begins with a murder (of an author) and a robbery (of the author’s notebooks, including at least one unpublished manuscript). The crimes will linger in your mind, but what might linger most is when King explores his obsessions with… well, obsessions: obsession with reading, obsession with writers, even the need to get revenge. The book is well plotted, but there remains an organic feel to this series, as though the characters are writing themselves to some extent. As one character in Finders Keepers puts it, “a good novelist does not create events, he watches them happen, then writes down what he sees. A good novelist realizes he is a secretary, not God.”

“Wake up, genius.” So begins the instantly riveting story. The genius is John Rothstein, a Salinger-like icon who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel. Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he is released from prison after 35 years.

Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life – for good, for bad, forever.