Aijaz Ahmad’s most celebrated book is In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. It is, somewhat surprisingly, the only book he wrote. He published four other books which are all collections of essays (one of which, Lineages of the Present, appeared in two editions with non-identical tables of contents), three books where he is credited as editor or co-editor, and one book of edited conversations.

Reviewed by: Sudhanva Deshpande
Sumi Madhok

If the challenge is that of ‘theorizing from the global south’ (p. 50), then the question to ask is, to what extent has the author of this book been successful in meeting this call. Madhok’s interest in offering us an empirical account of ‘subaltern struggles and contestations over rights’ (p. 2) from South Asia is to bring to our notice the conceptual vocabulary used in these struggles, pointing to a different notion of human rights.

Reviewed by: Shefali Jha
Bilal A. Baloch

In his debut volume, When Ideas Matter: Democracy and Corruption in India, Bilal A Baloch seeks to underscore the salience of ideology in shaping, dictating, and motivating the political elite’s behaviour. Political analysts have conventionally focused on material motivations behind elite political behaviour during the course of an electoral cycle. However, to what extent executive action is determined by ideational frameworks of those in power has largely remained an under-explored theme.

Reviewed by: Adnan Farooqui
Sudeep Chakravarti

Located in a remote corner of India and, regrettably, the minds of most ‘mainland’ Indians, the North Eastern region has never been an easy site and space to think of, let alone write about. Immensely complex in terms of geography (territory), history, immigration and ethnic composition, economics and politics, the North East, which Sudeep Chakravarti quite correctly rechristens as (India’s) Far East, emerged out of the subcontinental decolonization process

Reviewed by: Nabanipa Bhattacharjee
Sehar Iqbal

One of the arguments put forward for the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) under Article 370 in August 2019 by the Central Government was that it hampered development in the erstwhile State. This ‘underdevelopment’ narrative was stressed vehemently by the ruling party at the centre at that time.

Reviewed by: Waqas Farooq Kuttay
David Jongeward

A story of many sojourns, Kushan Mystique is a narrative of a cultural anthropologist David Jongeward who got attracted to Kushan history and Gandharan art and developed the symptoms of ‘Kushanitis’. Now what is this ‘Kushanitis’? In a delightful foreword, Joe Cribb, formerly of the British Museum, explains this term by saying that it is a condition of mind which afflicts a person and spreads easily when one comes into direct contact with the puzzle of the Kushan kings.

Reviewed by: Suchandra Ghosh
by Eva Orthmann, Anna Kollatz

For quite a long time now, highly interesting fields of research such as the early modern courtly audience, had been disregarded, being considered as a crucial part of classical diplomatic history and hence a flagship of antiquated and Eurocentric historiographical research. But thanks to the development of new theoretical approaches such as global history, postcolonial studies, and the ‘New Diplomatic History’, the courtly audience has emerged as an extremely fruitful field of research, as numerous publications in recent years have shown.

Reviewed by: Tilmann Kulke
Brian A. Hatcher

26th September 2020 marked the 200th birth anniversary of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, one of the prominent figures in Bengal Renaissance. A prolific writer, his works are considered to be ‘classics’ in contemporary times. Vidyasagar’s writings are an important source to discern the evolution of ideas, thoughts, and practices in Bengal.

Reviewed by: Oly Roy
Vinita Damodaran and Rohan D’Souza

The book under review presents a crucial framework to understand environmental issues at a comprehensive and global level. It underlines that it is imperative to reconsider the centrality of the nation-state as the basic unit of studying environmental changes, and it is necessary to move beyond that as the unit of analysis. In other words, the book represents the idea of writing environmental histories as a ‘nature without borders’.

Reviewed by: Kamal Nayan Choubey
Dev Nath Pathak

Dev Nath Pathak’s In Defence of the Ordinary: Everyday Awakenings is an inordinary demonstration of a routine exercise that most sociologists, certainly in their professional lives, claim an association with: sociological imagination. Pathak too informs us about the deep connections between his personal and the public but his concerns are routed in assuringly different ways. Indulging in a polemic against himself, the author invites his readers to undertake a not-so-usual reading of politics and philosophy of knowledge.

Reviewed by: Irfanullah Farooqi
Durba Mitra

There is no gainsaying that violence has been instrumental in creating and shaping societies. Less attention has been paid to shame and guilt—emotions that rarely show up in discussions on politics and society. Durba Mitra places these ideas front and centre in her devastating explication of the history of the linkages between notions of sexuality and their impact on the evolution of social thought in colonial India.

Reviewed by: Sucharita Sengupta
Mary E. John and Meena Gopal

The question of women’s labour has been central to most women’s studies classrooms across the world.The book edited by Mary EJohn and Meena Gopal is pathbreaking because it takes the question of women’s labour out of the confines of traditional women’s studies by adopting an interdisciplinary and intersectional perspective. The book opens with a section that is almost akin to a masterclass on the issues of women and labour in India in specific, accompanied by a very exhaustive discussion of the shifting theoretical paradigms, scholarly debates and literature review. 

Reviewed by: Krishna Menon
Ronki Ram

The book under review focuses on the recent farmers movement that lasted for one and half years and ended only when the Union Government withdrew the three farm laws against which the farmers had put up a peaceful resistance, ensconced on the borders of the national capital territory of Delhi. The movement led the farmers’ unions to form their own party (Samyukt Kisan Morcha) in Punjab and enter into the electoral arena.

Reviewed by: Ashutosh Kumar
Arundhati Bhattacharya. Read by Shivani Vakil Savant

Arundhati Bhattacharya’s memoir has a literary flavour, mixing personal elements with the professional admirably. But it is distinctive in the way her experiences have been articulated from the perspective of a ‘working woman’. And this feat she accomplishes with elan, making her reflections a readable treat and compelling to empathize with.To begin with, it is a story of a girl growing up at Bhilai and Bokaro and then in Kolkata for higher studies before joining the wider world of professional banking.

Reviewed by: Amitabha Bhattacharya
Parul Pandya Dhar

This beautifully produced book brings together twenty diverse essays (including the excellent introduction) on the Ramayana tradition in visual, literary and performance cultures across a broad geographical swathe and across more than a millennium.In her careful examination of Ramayana-themed sculptures in the Chalukya and Hoysala period temples of Karnataka, Parul Pandya Dhar shows that the image of Rama as ideal ruler is seen from inscriptions of the sixth century onwards where kings are compared to the divine hero. Interestingly, the nobler aspects of Ravana are also occasionally represented. 

Reviewed by: Bharati Jagannathan
Bulbul Sharma

Children nowadays are exposed to a wide variety of mythological stories from around the world, and so have become quite familiar with the creatures studding these stories. Whether it is the poisonous basilisk from the Harry Potter stories, the manticore and cyclops from the Percy Jackson books and movies, or dragons from any number of books and movies, children have abundant access to stories about western mythological beasts.

Reviewed by: Sharad Raghavan
Madhavi S. Mahadevan

Madhavi Mahadevan presents to us the tale of Drishadvati, an illegitimate princess born of Yayati, the philandering Suryavanshi king of Hastinapur. She is blessed (or cursed?) with a book—that she would sire four kings. Drishadvati, it was prophesied, was also ‘blessed’ such that she would regain her virginity after every birth. This boon made her the coveted prize of her times.

Reviewed by: Arunima Hakhu
Sophia Naz

In October of 2017 California’s raging wildfires burnt down Sophia Naz’s home, taking everything, heirlooms, paintings, signed books, inter alia treasures, carelessly strewn around homes that bear witness to living—family photographs, handwritten journals, ‘the material history of a lifetime’. Her 2021 collection of poems, Open Zero is less a math of that uncountable loss, or its archiving—for its calculus, as the obliquely eponymous poem ‘After, math’, muses, ‘must be left at memory’s table’. The poems here map the fire’s aftermaths—of all that follows the event of loss.

Reviewed by: Rina Ramdev
Sudeep Sen

With the arrival of his new collection, Anthropocene, a multi-genre book of poetry, literary prose and photography—Sudeep Sen takes a vertical plunge into deep history. From being a poet of Distracted Geographies, he now ventures to be a poet of distracted geologies and its sedimented pasts. If in his earlier major collection Fractals, he could be seen traversing across ravaged war zones from Kargil to Gaza to trace remnants of life—in this latest book, the entire planet with its disoriented seas, skies, seasons and sites, becomes his theatre of concern.

Reviewed by: Akshaya Kumar
Ranu Uniyal

Ranu Uniyal, a teacher of English, is here with her latest anthology of poems, in Hindi. Her poems, which she dismissively says are ‘just things I wrote’, are something of a portfolio of a traditional artist, shy and mild mannered, but with the promise of high artistry and an unfaltering grasp on her material and tools.There are poems about the different stages of womanhood, life in the streets (and within the mind), passing seasons, and of course the landscape of the heart. In her wide sweep of ideas, she reminds one of the nineteenth century Urdu/Rekhta masters who left us literal biographies of their towns—local and universal at the same time. 

Reviewed by: Madhu B Joshi
Gauri Datt. Translated and Annotated with an Introduction by Smita Gandotra and Ulrike Stark

Devrani Jethani ki Kahani, first published in 1870, is often hailed as the first novel in Hindi, and this critical edition, with the first-ever translation into English as A Story of Two Sisters-in-Law, takes full cognizance of the book’s historical significance to bring it to a contemporary reader in all its layered complexity. The family saga marks a tryst with modernity against the backdrop of the colonial encounter, while offering a realist/reformist representation of the textures of Agarwal-Baniya community life around the Meerut region in the 1860s.

Reviewed by: Maya Joshi
Anjali Joseph

Keeping in Touch by award-winning novelist Anjali Joseph is a love story centering Keteki Sharma and Ved Ved, two thirty-something individuals more or less settled in their hectic, jet-set lives. Though it is love at first sight for Ved, when he sees Keteki at Heathrow Airport in casual jeans and shirt, Keteki revels in her relationship with her new lover but takes her time making up her mind about settling down with him. Thus begins a dance of a relationship between two individuals entirely unknown to each other.

Reviewed by: Fatima Rizvi
Nalini Ramachandran. Illustrations by Annushka Hardikar

Trumpet Calls: Epic Tales of Extraordinary Elephants by Nalini Ramachandran is divided into nine chapters beginning with ‘What is an Elephant’ and ending with ‘The Keepers of Memory’.  Each chapter has a short introduction to the theme in focus, a short ‘ele-fact’ i.e., facts about the elephants and additional information which is connected to the main story. The black and white illustrations  are attractive primarily due to sketches and drawings by Annushka Hardikar.

Reviewed by: Mahendra Vyas
Lavanya Karthik

Young readers and budding artists will be entranced by the beautiful illustrations that hit you as soon as you open The Girl who was a Forest: Janaki Ammal by Lavanya Karthik. The words have been chosen with care and are as intense and deep as they are few. It is a book for all age groups with the illustrations being an endearing, additional pull factor.

Reviewed by: Jyothi Malhotra
Divya Arya

These are words from Saumya’s last letter to Duaa in the book Postbox Kashmir. This is a non-fiction book holding sixteen brief yet substantial letters between the two girls. The letters are strung together by Divya Arya giving elaborate historical details of events in and around Kashmir and references related to discussions that happen between the pen pals.

Reviewed by: Manika Kukreja
Chitwan Mittal and Sarita Saraf. Illustrated by Aparajitha Vaasudev

It is not unusual to hear children of all age groups chanting the Hanuman Chalisa. They learn to chant it with ease from their elders because of a magical lilt in the lyrics and a charm about the language known as Awadhi, a dialect of Hindi.In My First Hanuman Chalisa, the authors and the illustrator have remarked in the opening pages that they were taught the 40 verses of the Chalisa by grandparents or parents.

Reviewed by: Indira Ananthakrishnan
Subhadra Sen Gupta. Illustrated by Devashish Verma

The book begins with a comprehensive overview and a strong introduction to why we should understand what went into making our present. Subhadra Sen Gupta, in her inimitable style, takes us on a journey around the world and offers a great many nuggets of information about the world’s earliest civilizations. We read about the Egyptian rulers who built lavish tombs for their afterlife

Reviewed by: Aakangshika Dutta
Nandita Basu

With the onset of adolescence, girls and boys are pressured to conform to socially sanctioned gender roles. They are expected to follow the gender norms and practices that a particular society has set. The problem arises when children develop a gender identity that is set against a society’s expectation. There are cultures that are more fluid but there are many which discriminate against non-binary individuals because of stereotypes and misinformation.

Reviewed by: Sushmita Ghosh
Riva Razdan

Arzu is essentially a coming-of-age story but the beauty of the book lies in the fact that it is able to beautifully capture the process of growth, change and hard work, which can be tremendously difficult to write about in an interesting way. Arzu’s efforts to develop herself and find her place in the world are inspiring, especially for young readers who are trying to figure themselves out.

Reviewed by: Ilika Trivedi