The best books about India now

Thomas A. Timberg Author Of The Marwaris: From Jagat Seth to the Birlas
By Thomas A. Timberg

The Books I Picked & Why

Age of Pandemics (1817-1920) : How They Shaped India and the World

By Chinmay Tumbe

Age of Pandemics (1817-1920) : How They Shaped India and the World

Why this book?

It manages to leverage the world history of coping with pandemics over the last couple of centuries by focusing on India’s Experience with them. A readable academic book with frequent reference to the author's own life experience. It uses the history of public health to illuminate all aspects of the nation’s history


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When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics

By Milan Vaishnav

When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics

Why this book?

Deals with a phenomenon not limited to India, the extent to which voters support or even prefer candidates who engage in violence and corruption. In India’s case on the supply side, it is the advantage political power gives criminals and on the supply side the need of parties for candidates with deep pockets and for the voters confidence that the criminals can deliver the goods the voters want.


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India Transformed: Twenty-Five Years of Economic Reforms

By Rakesh Mohan

India Transformed: Twenty-Five Years of Economic Reforms

Why this book?

A summary of the dramatic economic transformation of India since 1991 by one of its key economic policymakers. Though abstracting from some of the debate about details, this is a readable presentation especially from the point of view of policymakers. What all of this meant for the general public can be seen in the next volume. Both but especially this volume are one of competing accounts of how it happened.   Success has many fathers.


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How Lives Change: Palanpur, India, and Development Economics

By Himanshu, Peter Lanjouw, Nicholas Stern

How Lives Change: Palanpur, India, and Development Economics

Why this book?

This is ostensibly the third book documenting the history of a North Indian village from 1950 until today, but it also records much of the anthropological literature documenting the development in other villages in India over that period which parallels that in many other villages of South Asia. Viewed in the context of statistical data which is collected on a much broader scale this confirms the remarkable economic evolution India has experienced from basketcase to development model.


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In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler's Tale

By Amitav Ghosh

In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler's Tale

Why this book?

I choose this volume though each of Ghosh’s novels, including his forthcoming Nutmeg’s Secret, I presume might deserve my encomium. He manages to entangle his novels with lively pictures of different social aspects of India over the last two centuries. He emphasizes the interactions of whatever is occurring in India with the broader world. This particular novel draws on an earlier period with an Indian in Egypt with experience based on documentation from the period 1000-1200 found in the discarded book room of a Cairo synagogue— including extensive commercial correspondence covering the trade between India and Egypt.


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