First day of 2014 is here! I thought I should share a list of books I’m going to devour this year, most of them before the Book fair hits the town in Feb where I know I will go crazy, so want to finish up on the existing pile soon as possible. So lets start
1. Genghis Khan- Life Death and Resurrection by John Man
This is what I’m reading at the moment and as the title suggests it’s based on the greatest conqueror the world has ever seen- Genghis or Chengez Khan. He’s considered to be the only man in history to have conquered maximum territory under his rule greater than the Greek–Alexander the Great. Its a 450 page and I’m almost through 1/4th of it, so far its a decent read, more of a travelogue/commentary as the author traces through the great Mongols journey from the birth place and onward. The book references a lot to Secret history of the Mongols which is the original biography on the man commissioned by his son Ogedei Khan.
” Recently managed to go through this one and unfortunately I won’t recommend this book. It’s not very gripping also I felt that the style of alternating between past and present, the authors goes to explore the very places that were prominent during Genghis’ times, is very distracting. I didn’t quite adjust to narrative and hence lost interest in the book altogether. Won’t recommend this one”
2. Elizabeth I by Anne Somerset
Another book based on the life of England’s greatest monarch (who also happens to be a woman)- Elizabeth the One. She as we know was the daughter of fiery and licentious King Henry the VIII and his second wife Ann Boleyn. Quite some years ago there used to be a series called The Tudors produced by HBO, an amazing show with a great script and star cast capturing the stellar life of Henry the VIII and his six wives- apparently this is the only thing that has found him a place in history- anyway the show got me hooked and of course from there on I did a little bit of research on the Tudor dynasty, so this book came up in one of the recommendations. Its been quite a while since I bought this book and unfortunately I never got the time to read this. Definitely I need to finish it in 2014.
3. The Delhi Omnibus by Percivel Spear and Narayani Gupta
This book is a series of articles written around the time of British conquest of India and covers pretty much the entire spectrum of the rule by various eminent historians. I had couple of the articles from this book in my History class in college. Again it’s been sometime since I purchased it and I thought it would be great continuation to my Mughal research which is still a bit shaky after Aurangzeb. This is the last of my unread collection on the dynasty, don’t know why this one got left behind.?
3. Ashoka by Charles Allen
4. Asoka and the decline of the Maurayas by Romila Thapar
This is a combo that I would like to read back to back. Ashoka was a very prominent ruler of the Mauryan dynasty and the first major figure to convert to Buddhism some 200 years after the religion was founded in the country. Legend has it that Asoka’s conquest of Kalinga (today’s Orissa) was so bloody and horrific that after that he decided to renounce everything and commit himself to the Buddhist way of living. The one by Charles Allen is historical fiction while Romila Thapars is more academic in writing style.
5. The Life and Works of Leonardo Da Vinci by Rosalind Ormiston
This one is a beautiful book on Leonardo Da Vinci full of his art works and drawings and what have you. Found this one just recently when I was bitten by the Renaissance bug and again for some weird reason this is the only book left behind from this period. There’s another very curious book by Sigmund Freud called “Leonardo DaVinci” where he decodes the psyche behind his great works. I have put this one aside for the time being but maybe in future will check this one out.
Update ” This one is brilliant read. Full with beautiful images of Da Vinci works, a crisp narrative of his life and style is just what you need to spend an evening with this book in one hand and coffee/tea in another. Thoroughly enjoyable and insightful. Very good read and highly recommended. I think the author has written on Rembrandt, Monet and Cezzane in similar fashion which I might explore.”
6. Lust for Life by Irving Stone
I feel there are few artists who really move you with their work. Like Oscar Wilde said “To reveal the art and conceal the artist is art’s aim” that’s what unveils in Van Gogh’s work. Although my knowledge on art is quite inchoate but from whatever I have been exposed to I connect most with Van Gogh’s art. Now I can’t exactly explain why or elaborate like an art critic, all I can say is it mesmerizes me, the chaos or maybe the noise if I can say is simply hypnotizing. I don’t think I have ever come across any art work that has done that to me . Anyway this is one of the most famous biographical sketch of the man which I’ve been meaning to read for sometime now.
7. Seven Secrets of Shiva by Devdutt Patnaik
This one for me is an entertaining read, a breather perhaps thanks to the uncomplicated writing of Pattnaik. I have read his Jaya: An illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata and found that thoroughly enjoyable, well researched, retold with a wry sense of humour. His book is an out and out entertainer, the way he has taken up prominent figures from Indian Mythology and explained in a riveting manner is definitely worth your money and believe me much much better than the ones that have become so popular lately- Immortals of Meluha anyone? That is a pathetic book in my opinion. If you are casual reader then spend time your time on this book please.
Ok so far the book I’ve listed are more of biographical nature and these are the ones I would like to wrap up before Feb (hopefully). Following are the ones which give I call ‘wholesome’ referral kind of books. They will give a nice overview on the subject, build the context for further exploration.
8. The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold Schonberg
As the title states the book traces the evolution of classical music starting from Monteverdi to the present styles. It covers lives of the most eminent composers like Bach, Schubert, Schumann, Mozart, Beethoven and many more. I will be listening to their compositions simultaneously as I read the book.
9. The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russel
Have read this one before but want to read again for a quick recap. Best book on western philosophy available today, it gives a broad idea on major philosophical works right from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle to Machiavelli, Kant, Rousseau, Marx, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche (my fav) Really well written by Russel and a highly recommended one.
10. World Art- The Essential Illustrated History
This one is a coffee table book full of brilliant artworks across the ages. This one too covers all the eminent artists belonging various art movements right from the Gothic Era to Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionism, Post Impressionism and Modernism.
And Lastly the period I will be most interested in this year will be- the Ancient and Classical Greece. Starting this journey by understanding everything about the Greek Gods and Goddesses, already have been watching some useful videos on Youtube (it’s an excellent resource to do some background work before you go deep into any subject in my opinion) and the first book in this journey I am eagerly waiting for is-
The Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece by Gustav Schwab
After my thorough research on the subject I shall dare to read Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey.
So this is the list and by no means exhaustive. A lot more to come especially after the book fair and I will do a separate post on that very soon until then a very Happy 2014 to all!