1. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, Rupa Publications. Definitely worth a read.
2. Gandhi and his critics by B. R. Nanda, Oxford publications. Excellent little work on various aspects of Gandhi’s life and refutations of common criticisms levelled against him. An old book but superb nonetheless.
3. Godel’s Proof by Nagel/Newman/Hofstadter. MUST read for anyone who is or pretends to be interested in logic. About Godel’s remarkable work in the field of mathematical logic.
4. Debates in Indian Philosophy : Classical, Colonial and Contemporary by A. Raghuramaraju, Oxford Publications. Excellent work in bringing out the points difference between some important contemporary Indian philosophers. The back-of-chapter notes are as good as the main prose itself!!
5. Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand, Penguin Books. Mulk Raj Anand’s writing style is very detailed and intimate, and this book, like his other , Coolie, gives us an idea of how life was for the lower castes/classes in pre-Independence India.
6. Surely you must be joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman, Vintage Books. I finally got round to reading this one. Reads very easily, but enjoyment quotient kind of petered off at the end. But worth reading!
7. Rajaji : A life by Rajmohan Gandhi, Penguin Books India. Superb work by an admiring grandson. Rajaji is one of the few reasons why one can believe that a highly intellectual form of conservatism can help any political dialogue. Surely a must read for anyone interested in this giant of Indian politics. (Almost all the books that I read seem to be must reads!!)
8. Age of Empire by Eric Hobsbawm, Abacus Books. This was the final book in a trilogy that discusses the ‘long nineteenth century’, from the French Revolution in 1789 to the First World War in 1914. This was a time that completely changed the world, in all its facets. Hobsbawm has a penchant for really long sentences which makes it difficult to follow at times, and his books are the ‘read twice atleast’ type, but even a single read can be quite enlightening. More than a thousand pages, all three put together.
9. Indian Home Rule by Shiv Vishwanathan, Compost Heap publications. The title must be immediately recognizable as that of ‘Hind Swaraj’ by Gandhi. This book tries to construct Hind Swaraj as if it were written in today’s world, i.e, an update of sorts. Somewhat abstract, but highlights the essence of that famous book as well as its relevance to today’s world.
10. A Pedagogue’s Romance: Reflections on Schooling by Krishna Kumar, Oxford Publications. Had my eyes on this book for some time now, and finally ordered it online. Krishna Kumar has been a teacher for 10 years and a teacher’s teacher for another 20 for the NCERT, and has an excellent viewpoint to write about both ideas and the realities of education in our country. This is a collection of his short essays and seems like an excellent introduction to thinking about education in present day India.
11. On Learning and Knowledge by J. Krishnamurti, Penguin Books India. An interesting book, and had to stop reading in the middle since one understands that that is what would have made Krishnamurti happy ;) Anyways, most of the insights he shares in this book are very similar to the views I have been holding for sometime now, so there seemed not much point in reading it all the way. But I would highly recommend it to anyone interested to read Krishnamurti, if you can get over the fact that his viewpoint on the subject is repeatedly put forth (since it is a collection of his talks).
12. India Wins Freedom by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Orient BlackSwan. A very detailed picture of the they years just before Independence and the very act of negotiating terms with the British in the years after the Cripps Mission. Paints an interesting (maybe biased) picture of some of the major leaders of the time including Patel (especially Patel!). Azad was the Congress President during much of the negotiations with the British Government, and this is an insider account of the politics of freedom and partition.
13. The Great Indian Middle Class by Pavan Kumar, Penguin Books. A somewhat (justifiably) angry portrait of the Indian middle class. It traces the formation of the class from colonial times to its present form, looking at the various factors which decided its behavior and outlook. Many insightful things are present in it, even though one may not very easily accept his analyses and conclusions. Concludes by appealing to the self interest of the middle class to think of others as well, since their development depends heavily on the overall development of the country.
14. Hind Swaraj by M. K. Gandhi, Cambridge Publications. This is a particularly good edition of the famous book, with lots of footnotes and historical context and miscellaneous writings. If one is interested to research Hind Swaraj and its ramifications and inspirations, this is an excellent starting point. Hind Swaraj represents some of the most fundamental principles of Gandhi’s ethics. Though some of his views changed quite a bit over the years after this was written, most of his basic ideas remained as such.
15. The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. A booklet which forever changed the course of history and its interpretation. One may not agree with anything that this book has to say, but the fact that it was so popular among the working class in its time shows that their working conditions and life were in no way exaggerated in this work. Definitely worth a glance.
16. We are poor but so many, Ela Bhatt, Oxford Publications. Just the sheer passion that flows out from the prose is worth reading for. The information it provides is invaluable as well. An India most Indians neither know nor care about.
17. Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder, Hachette. This came highly recommended, and is one of the few fiction books that I have read in the recent past. Definitely interesting, the ending is quite, well, interesting!! Gives a very acceptable and accessible introduction to 3000 years of Western Philosophy by the time it ends as well.
18. Chaos – The Making of a New Science, James Gleick, Penguin. Though about a subject that is quite intimidating at first sight (for me at least!!), this book reads like a thriller novel while giving a coherent overview of the various ideas and people that make up what is today known as nonlinear science. If I did not have to study other things, would have read this in one sitting!
19. The Vendor of Sweets, R. K. Narayan. Need I say more!!!
20. Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl, Penguin. Not for the faint of heart!! He is a master at taking apparently trivial things and making something unexpected, macabre and unbelievable out of it. Huge book, best read one short story at a time.
21. Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse, Penguin. Woah. dude. Interesting view into the life of people ‘above the mob’. Problem is, pretty much anyone who reads the book can begin to think themselves superior to the rest ;)
22. The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, Black Swan. Interesting book, always good to read stuff from Brit authors, they are far more enjoyable than the continental ones ;) Dawkins uses too many adverbs and many of his notions I completely disagree with, but worth reading to understand how an atheist views the world.