A hundred essential books: Outlook India


1984
George Orwell
1949; Pages: 267

The novel that made ‘Orwellian’ synonymous with oppressive regimes that use surveillance to control its citizens, it had a great opening line: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” The dystopian novel features Win­ston Smith, an emp­loyee of the Ministry of Truth. His doubts lead him to secretly begin a critique of the Party. He also falls in love with Julia, a co-wor­ker, and in an eerie twist they have to betray each other to survive. Smith is re-educated to be filled with unsurpassable love for Big Brother, the supreme leader.


A History Of The World In 100 Objects
Neil MacGregor
2010; Pages: 707

A simple idea—to tell the history of the world through the artefacts and objects collected in the British Museum—touched by the genius of its director Neil MacGregor. It started as a radio series for the BBC, which was later turned into a book. So, for instance, object 33 is a slab from the Ashoka Pillar, 68 is the Shiva and Parvati sculpture and 82 is the miniature of a Mughal prince, telling the history of India in these periods.


A Suitable Boy
Vikram Seth
1993; Pages: 1349

If Rushdie served up a dense, rich, fantasy-laden tale of modern India, Seth aspired to Tolstoyan simplicity and insight. Mrs Rupa Mehta’s quest for a husband for her daughter Lata spirals into a 1,500-page-long perambulation among four large Indian families, and plunges boldly into the political, social and economic life of newly-independent India. In this, it captures the zeitgeist in unusual depth and colour.


A Time To Be Happy
Nayantara Sehgal
1958; Pages: 292

In this book about an elite family in the newly independent India by Nayantara Sehgal, nothing really happens. It’s all about atmosphere and mood. But it captures the time so vividly, full of rich details, it remains undated. Sehgal is a prolific writer, her other books and essays may be more serious but this novel by a woman writing in Eng­lish, one of the very few in the ’50s-60s to do so, captures the social mil­ieu, especially women’s place in an urbane setting.

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