In My Hands Today…

Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure – Sarah Macdonald

3858In her twenties, journalist Sarah Macdonald backpacked around India and came away with a lasting impression of heat, pollution and poverty. So when an airport beggar read her palm and told her she would return to India—and for love—she screamed, “Never!” and gave the country, and him, the finger.

But eleven years later, the prophecy comes true. When the love of Sarah’s life is posted to India, she quits her dream job to move to the most polluted city on earth, New Delhi. For Sarah this seems like the ultimate sacrifice for love, and it almost kills her, literally. Just settled, she falls dangerously ill with double pneumonia, an experience that compels her to face some serious questions about her own fragile mortality and inner spiritual void. “I must find peace in the only place possible in India,” she concludes. “Within.” Thus begins her journey of discovery through India in search of the meaning of life and death.

Holy Cow is Macdonald’s often hilarious chronicle of her adventures in a land of chaos and contradiction, of encounters with Hinduism, Islam and Jainism, Sufis, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians and a kaleidoscope of yogis, swamis and Bollywood stars. From spiritual retreats and crumbling nirvanas to war zones and New Delhi nightclubs, it is a journey that only a woman on a mission to save her soul, her love life—and her sanity—can survive.

In My Hands Today…

To The Elephant Graveyard – Tarquin Hall

713076On India’s northeast frontier, a killer elephant is on the rampage, stalking Assam’s paddy fields and murdering dozens of farmers. Local forestry officials, powerless to stop the elephant, call in one of India’s last licensed elephant hunters and issue a warrant for the rogue’s destruction. Reading about the ensuing hunt in a Delhi newspaper, journalist Tarquin Hall flies to Assam to investigate. To the Elephant Graveyard is the compelling account of the search for a killer elephant in the northeast corner of India, and a vivid portrait of the Khasi tribe, who live intimately with the elephants. Though it seems a world of peaceful coexistence between man and beast, Hall begins to see that the elephants are suffering, having lost their natural habitat to the destruction of the forests and modernization. Hungry, confused, and with little forest left to hide in, herds of elephants are slowly adapting to domestication, but many are resolute and furious.

In My Hands Today…

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Freakonomics #1) – Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

1202Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.

Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: freakonomics.

Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of . . . well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Klu Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.

Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.

In My Hands Today…

Delhi By Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller – Raza Rumi

18001385Why, asks Raza Rumi, does the capital of another country feel like home? How is it that a man from Pakistan can cross the border into ‘hostile’ territory and yet not feel ‘foreign’? Is it the geography, the architecture, the food? Or is it the streets, the festivals and the colours of the subcontinent, so familiar and yes, beloved…

As he takes in the sights, from the Sufi shrines in the south to the markets of Old Delhi, from Lutyens’ stately mansions to Ghalib’s crumbling abode, Raza uncovers the many layers of the city. He connects with the richness of the Urdu language, observes the syncretic evolution of mystical Islam in India and its deep connections with Hindustani classical music – so much a part of his own selfhood. And every so often, he returns to the refuge of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, the twelfth-century pir, whose dargah still reverberates with music and prayer every evening.

His wanderings through Delhi lead Raza back in time to recollections of a long-forgotten Hindu ancestry and to comparisons with his own city of Lahore – in many ways a mirror image of Delhi. They also lead to reflections on the nature of the modern city, the inherent conflict between the native and the immigrant and, inevitably, to an inquiry into his own identity as a South Asian Muslim.

Rich with history and anecdote, and conversations with Dilliwalas known and unknown,Delhi By Heart offers an unusual perspective and unexpected insights into the political and cultural capital of India.

In My Hands Today…

I, Phoolan Devi – Phoolan Devi

509631Phoolan Devi was born into a poor, low-caste family in Uttar Pradesh, living in a world that gave more respect to a stray dog than to a woman. At 11, she was married off and endured beatings, rapes and persecution. She survived being kidnapped by bandits and became one of them, learning how to shoot like a man. She also found love for the first time, but her lover was brutally murdered. Without his protection, she was paraded naked through villages and gang-raped; but she survived and for three years claimed retribution for herself and all low-caste women, before negotiating her own surrender. After 11 years in prison, she is now free to tell her own story.

In My Hands Today…

Jim Thompson: The Unsolved Myst – William Warren

118148On Easter Day, 1967, American businessmen and founder of the modern Thai silk industry James H. W. Thompson disappeared while supposedly on a stroll in the jungle-clad Cameron Highlands in Central Malaysia. Neither Jim Thompson nor his remains has ever been found.Some twenty years earlier Jim Thompson had abandoned his former life to embark on an exotic business career in Southeast Asia. After establishing the Thai Silk Company, Thompson built a house and an art collection which are among Bangkok’s top tourist attractions today. After vanishing, he became the subject of a massive search and investigation and a mystery that has never been solved. This definitive account of the life of Jim Thompson, written by a man who knew him well, gives the reader a first-hand glance into his private affairs and his alleged role as an agent for the CIA.

In My Hands Today…

Katherine Howard – Joanna Denny

1145657A riveting new biography of a much neglected Queen – the doomed child-bride of Henry VIII. Joanna Denny, author of Anne Boleyn, reveals another sensational episode in Tudor history – illuminating the true character of Katherine Howard, the young girl caught up in a maelstrom of ambition and conspiracy which led to her execution for high treason while still only seventeen years old.

Who was Katherine, the beautiful young aristocrat who became a bait to catch a king? Was she simply nave and innocent, a victim of her grasping family’s scheming? Or was she brazen and abandoned, recklessly indulging in dissolute games with lovers in contempt of her royal position? Joanna Denny’s enthralling new book once again plunges the reader into the heart of the ruthless intrigues of the Tudor court – and gives a sympathetic and poignant portrait of a girl tragically trapped and betrayed by her own family.