New Yorker Julie Powell often weeps on her way home from work. One night, through her mascara-smudged eyes, she notices that the few items she’s picked up from her neighbourhood Korean grocery store are the ingredients for Potage Parmentier, described in Julia Childs’ legendary cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And a project is born. Julie begins to cook—every one of the 524 recipes in the book—in just one year. This is Julie’s story, as gradually from Oufs en cocotte and Bifstek saute au beurre to ‘Bitch Rice’ and lobsters, she realizes that this deranged project was changing her life. She finds the joie de vivre that had been missing for years.
Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously:
By Julie Powell,
Little, Brown and Company,
320 pages, Rs411.
Eye on the East
Our idea of world history is still dominated by the view from the West—that of Europe’s imperial expansion. Much of the 600 years that this book covers are about Asia’s great empires. Tamerlane was the last of the “world conquerors”. His armies looted and killed from the shores of the Mediterranean to the frontier of China. Nomad horsemen from the Steppes had been the terror of Europe and Asia for centuries, but with Tamerlane’s death in 1405, an epoch of history came to an end. The future belonged to the great dynastic empires—Chinese, Mughal, Iranian and Ottoman—where most of Eurasia’s culture and wealth was to be found.
By John Darwin,
592 pages, Rs971.
Children of midnight
This is the first well-researched book on contemporary Indian history. Ramachandra Guha offers an epic account of the world’s largest and least-likely democracy. As he points out, India may sometimes be the most exasperating country in the world, but it is always the most interesting. He writes on the protests and conflicts that have peppered the history of independent India, and the factors and processes that have kept the country together. India After Gandhi has many fascinating characters—from prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi to peasants, tribals, women, workers and musicians.
India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy:
By Ramachandra Guha,
Picador, 688 pages,
Rebel with a cause
This biography of Albert Einstein explains how his scientific imagination was fuelled by his rebellious personality. The story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom. Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein to friends and colleagues, it explores how an imaginative patent clerk became the interpreter of the mysteries of the atom and the universe.
His success came from constantly questioning conventional wisdom and marvelling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, and that’s why, this book, written in racy, conversational prose, is relevant to our times.
Einstein: His Life and Universe:
By Walter Isaacson,
Simon & Schuster, 640 pages,
War and peace
This is an intimate, disturbing account of a boy’s experiences in the civil war in Sierra Leone in 1991. The government and rebel forces enrolled boys into the war, handing them guns and giving them cocaine to keep them alert. Author Ismael Beah was 13 when the war broke out. He had a talent for singing English rap songs, but the war changed his life. One benefit of reading children’s perspectives of horrific events is the degree to which readers can relive their childhood innocence. Beah, who now works with Human Rights Watch, writes about the war’s gory details.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier:
By Ismael Beah,
Farrar, Straus & Giroux,
240 pages, Rs295.
Courtesy: Landmark Bookstore