The Good, the Bad and the Unknown to Orwell, A Man Of Our Time: Books to look forward to in January 2020

Good reads, Jan 2020: A collection of thrilling short stories on crime to a vivid word portrait of George Orwell — the man behind the writings, here is what to read as you usher in the new year.

 |  19-minute read |   27-12-2019
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A Long Petal of the Sea

Author: Isabel Allende

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Victor Dalmau is a young doctor when he is caught up in the Spanish Civil War, a tragedy that leaves his life — and the fate of his country — forever changed. Together with his sister-in-law, the pianist Roser Bruguera, he is forced out of his beloved Barcelona and into exile. They seek refuge in Chile, boarding a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda to the promised ‘long petal of sea and wine and snow’ over the seas. There, they find themselves enmeshed in a rich web of characters that come together in love and tragedy through four generations, destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world.

A Long Petal of the Sea is a love letter to Chile that soars from the Spanish Civil War to the rise and fall of Pinochet.

About the author:

Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of 24 critically acclaimed books, including The House of the Spirits, Daughter of Fortune and City of the Beasts. A Chilean immigrant herself, Allende founded the Isabel Allende Foundation in 1996 and lives in California.


The Apology

Author: Eve Ensler

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Like millions of women, Eve Ensler has been waiting much of her life for an apology. Sexually and physically abused by her father, she has struggled her entire life from this betrayal, longing for an honest reckoning from a man who is long dead. After years of work as an anti-violence activist, she decided she would wait no longer — an apology could be imagined, by her, for her, to her.

The Apology, written by Eve from her father's point of view in the words she longed to hear, attempts to transform the abuse she suffered, with unflinching truthfulness, compassion and an expansive vision for the future.

About the author:

Eve Ensler is a Tony Award-winning playwright, author, performer, and activist based out of New York. Her international phenomenon The Vagina Monologues has been published in 48 languages and performed in more than 140 countries. She is the founder of V-Day, the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls, and One Billion Rising, the largest global mass action to end gender-based violence in over 200 countries.


To The Lions

Author: Holly Watt

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Casey Benedict, a star reporter at the Post, has infiltrated the lives and exposed the lies of countless politicians and power players. Using her network of contacts, Casey is always on the search for the next big story, no matter how much danger this might place her in, no matter what cost emotionally.

Tipped off by an overheard conversation at an exclusive London nightclub, she begins to investigate the apparent suicide of a wealthy young British man, whose death has left his fiancée and family devastated. Casey’s determined hunt for the truth will take her from the glitz of St Tropez to the deserts of Libya and on to the very darkest corners of the human mind.

The book is the winner of the Crime Writers' Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, shortlisted for the 2019 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize and has been chosen as one of the Sunday Times' Thrillers Of The Year.

About the author:

As an award-winning investigative journalist, Holly Watt worked on MPs Expenses and the Panama Papers. She has written for the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. She lives in London.


Lost Connections

Author: Johann Hari

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Depression and anxiety are now at epidemic levels. Why? Across the world, scientists have uncovered evidence for nine different causes. Some are in our biology, but most are in the way we are living today.

Lost Connections offers a radical new way of thinking about this crisis. It shows that once we understand the real causes, we can begin to turn to pioneering new solutions – ones that offer real hope.

About the author:

Johann Hari is the author of New York Times bestsellers Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections. He has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Le Monde and others. He was twice named Newspaper Journalist of the Year by Amnesty International.


Ashoka, the Visionary

Author: Ashok Khanna

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Ungainly in appearance, disliked by his father, the king, but nurtured by his mother, Ashoka worked to elicit his elders’ approval. At the age of 18, his father sent him to quell a rebellion that his brother, the crown prince, had failed to do. His success propelled him to be appointed as viceroy of a province. There he met Devi, a beautiful, devout Buddhist. With the death of his father, supported by the chief minister, Ashoka was crowned the new king.

Ashoka ruled the Indian subcontinent from 269 BCE to 232 BCE. After the Kalinga War, a turning point for in his life, his devotion to Buddha’s teachings became unconditional, and he based his governance on its precepts of non-violence, tolerance and compassion. His support for Buddhism helped it grow from a small sect to a world religion. When it spread to Asia, his model of Dharmaraj was emulated as exemplary kingship by many Asian rulers through history.

Prime Minister Nehru, in The Discovery of India, described Ashoka as ‘a man who was greater than any king or emperor’. He worked to incorporate Ashoka’s secular approach and considerate administration in India’s Constitution. As a young democracy, India must adopt both Ashoka’s and Nehru’s vision of compassionate governance to mature as a nation. The book takes a fresh look at Ashoka’s life, beliefs and philosophy and its significance for a young democracy like India.

About the author:

Ashok Khanna is a development economist with expertise in industrial, trade, and finance policies and institutions that promote private sector development to countries that are clients of the World Bank. His work exposed him to governance, or the lack of it, in every country he worked in. Ashok lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is his first book.


A Pinch of Salt

Author: Sanjay Jain

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Most of us are competent and equipped to succeed and live a good life. However, we still find ourselves wanting and struggling—there is always a sense of incompleteness, the niggling doubt that perhaps we didn’t live up to our true potential. After all, however great a dish might be, a pinch of salt less, and it’s no more perfect.

The author shows how despite all the odds, life can still be beautiful. A Pinch of Salt talks of 18 such principles of life, which he has gathered and learnt over his lifetime. He has effortlessly blended theory and practice to illustrate lucidly some simple but important facets of life that can make a tremendous impact. The aim is to add that one pinch of salt that can change the balance to make life more palatable.

Easy to appreciate and implement, the book is a charming read with real-life experiences and anecdotes which will change your outlook.

About the author:

Sanjay K. Jain is a qualified company secretary and is currently the Managing Director of TT Limited. He is a double gold medalist from IIM Ahmedabad.

Having headed three national-level textile associations, he is also involved in policymaking at Centre and state levels and is also actively involved in various social projects spanning health and education. He is also the recipient of numerous awards including the Udyog Ratna, Outstanding Businessman and Industrialist Award, and BW GOPIO Global Business Award.


The Good, the Bad and the Unknown

Author: Raj Tilak Roushan

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The collection of thrilling short stories transports you into a distorted and grisly world of crime where police officer Rishi is thrown amid cases which seemingly appear impossible to solve. Be ready to delve into terrible and ugly incidents and encounter murderers and psychopaths at close quarters. Witness the vagaries of human nature affecting criminals, complainants, victims and police officers alike.

Gripping and unputdownable in its storytelling, the collection depicts not only the seedy underbelly of our society but also tries to show what motives people around us and people like us have to take up a life of crime. All the characters in the stories — be it the grandmother who finds a dead body in her house or the farmer whose crops are burnt down or even a petty thief — have layers to their personalities, where truth and fiction can barely be discerned.

About the author:

Raj Tilak Roushan is an IPS officer. Born in a remote village in Bihar, he was trained as an engineer at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, where he received his B. Tech. and M. Tech. degrees. In 2013, he joined the Indian Police Service and is currently an IPS officer in the Maharashtra cadre.

Raj has been awarded Union Home Minister’s Medal for Excellence in Investigation, the FICCI Award for Smart Policing and the IIT KGP Young Alumni Achiever’s Award. A meticulous and methodical police officer, he strives to maintain the human touch with a citizen-centric approach to policing.



Author: Abhijit Saha

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Caperberry is the flagship restaurant Chef-Entrepreneur Abhijit Saha and is one of the most respected fine dining restaurants in India. Established in 2009, Caperberry has won several accolades including the Timeout Award for the Best Restaurant in India in 2012, Conde Nast Traveller’s Top 50 Restaurants in India Award in 2017 and the Times Food Award for Best European Restaurant in Bangalore from 2010 to 2018.

This book showcases the journey of the restaurant — its making and its philosophy. It features an exciting selection of over 100 recipes representing a cross-section of the menu and the unique style of Caperberry's avant-garde approach to cooking. It makes for an engaging story for everyone interested in modern cooking and understanding the nuances of operating a fine dining restaurant with its highs and lows.

About the author:

Chef-Entrepreneur Abhijit Saha has been the coach of team India for Bocuse d’Or AsiaPacific 2018 and a guest judge of MasterChef India 2016. He has 29 years of national and international experience as a chef, restaurateur and F&B consultant.

He has bagged various awards including ‘Chef of the year’ BBC Good Food Awards 2018, ‘Chef of The Year’ Times Food Awards 2016, and ‘Best Chef of India’ Indian Restaurant Congress & Awards 2013. He is a member of the team of chefs who contributed to the ‘World Culinary Arts’ DVD & Podcast by Culinary Institute of America, which has won the ‘James Beard Foundation’ Award in 2008.


Orwell: A Man Of Our Time

Author: Richard Bradford

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As one of the most enduringly popular and controversial novelists of the last century, the 70th anniversary of George Orwell’s death in 2020 will certainly be marked by conferences, festivals and media events - but more significant than these acts of commemoration is his relevance today.

Despite the commonplace view that Animal Farm was aimed exclusively at Stalinist Russia, it was far more broadly focussed and the similarities between aspects of the novel and Trump’s America are obvious. ‘Doublethink’ features in Nineteen Eighty Four and it is the forerunner to ‘Fake News’.

Aside from Orwell’s importance as a political theorist and novelist, his life in its own right is a beguiling narrative. His family was caught between upper-middle-class complacency and uncertainty, and Orwell’s time at Prep School and as a scholarship boy at Eton caused him to despise the class system that spawned him despite finding himself unable to fully detach himself from it.

His life thereafter mirrored the history of his country; like many from his background he devoted himself to socialism as a salve to his conscience. He died at the point when Britain’s status as an Imperial and world power had waned.

Interest in him endures, principally because it is difficult to differentiate between the man who recorded the terrible events of the depression and the Spanish Civil War as an observer and the fiction writer who used literature to predict grim possibilities and diagnose endemic inclinations. No other British writer of the 20th century has blended ideas, political commentary and literary art in such a manner.

For an author whose work has been regarded as the most important in terms of the turbulent years of the mid-20th century and who eroded the boundaries between literature, journalism and political commentary, there have been relatively few attempts to present a vibrant portrait of the man behind the writings. This book is a vivid portrait of Orwell — the man behind the writings.

About the author:

Richard Bradford is research professor in English at Ulster University and visiting professor at the University of Avignon. He has published over 25 acclaimed books, including a biography of Philip Larkin, which was an Independent Book of the Year, the authorised biography of Alan Sillitoe, a life of Kingsley Amis and a biography of Kingsley's son, Martin.


Such a Fun Age

Author: Kiley Reid

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A striking debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege.

When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for ‘kidnapping’ the white child she’s babysitting, it sets off an explosive chain of events. Her employer Alix, a feminist blogger with the best of intentions, resolves to make things right. But Emira herself is aimless, broke and wary of Alix’s desire to help. When a surprising connection emerges between the two women, it sends them on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know — about themselves, each other, and the messy dynamics of privilege.

About the author:

Kiley Reid earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was awarded the Truman Capote Fellowship and taught undergraduate creative writing workshops with a focus on race and class. Her short stories have been featured in Ploughshares, December, New South, and Lumina.


The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide

Author: Jen Gale

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If you want to save the planet, but your to-do list is already pretty long and remembering your re-usable coffee cup feels like a Herculean task, then this is the book for you. It is an easy, doable, down to earth ideas and suggestions for everyone to help save the planet.

Covering every aspect of our lives from the stuff we buy and the food we eat, to how we travel, work, and celebrate. This book provides stacks of practical, down to earth ideas to slot into your daily life, alongside a gentle kick up the butt to put your newfound knowledge into action.

Practical tips include unsubscribing from all the tempting emails that drop into your inbox with details of the newest clothing range or the latest sale and keeping a mug next to your kettle to work out how much water you actually need to boil each time, as overfilling kettles costs British households £68 million on energy bills each year.

Find out how to fit "sustainable living" into your life, in a way that works for you. Change your impact without radically changing your life and figure out the small steps you can make that will add up to make a big difference (halo not included).

About the author:

Jen Gale is an ordinary, knackered mum of two whose life changed when she dragged and cajoled the family into a year buying nothing new. That year changed not only what she buys, but also how she sees her place in the world. Jen recognized the power that we all have as individuals to make a difference to the things we care about, simply through getting informed about the impact of our daily choices and figuring out easy swaps and changes. Jen lives in Wiltshire where she writes and podcasts about all things Sustainable(ish).


Birds of Greece

Author: Rebecca Nason

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From the Hoopoe to the Black-Headed Bunting, Greece is home to a wide range of avifauna, thanks to the richly varied habitats it has to offer.

This book is the perfect guide for nature-loving tourists and travellers to Greece. Pocket-sized and portable, this compact guide provides superb full-colour photographs and detailed descriptions of each bird likely to be seen on a visit to the country.

Whether you're a seasoned birdwatcher or a tourist keen to identify the birds you spot on your holiday, Birds of Greece is sure to be helpful.

About the author:

Rebecca Nason has had a passion for natural history and travel since childhood. Hailing from an academic background of geography, environmental studies and conservation, Rebecca worked on remote UK islands as well as bird guiding abroad for over a decade. She now resides in Shetland with her family, running a wildlife boat tour company and B&B alongside her photographic work.


Birds of Cyprus

Authors: Colin Richardson and Richard Porter

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Cyprus is a great place for birding, and one of the most popular places for birders to visit in Europe. It holds populations of a number of regional scarcities that are very hard to see elsewhere, plus several endemic subspecies, and the two jewels in the crown — two full endemics, Cyprus Wheatear and Cyprus Warbler.

Detailed plates are allied to concise identification text, with accurate maps stemming from Colin Richardson's decades-long programme of population-mapping on the island. Together, these elements make this the definitive guide to Cyprus’s birds, one that no visitor to this beautiful island can be without.

About the authors:

Richard Porter is the unquestioned world authority on the birds of the region. The author of Birds of the Middle East, Richard has been active in the conservation of birds throughout the OSME region since the 1960s. His work in Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey remains inspirational to researchers throughout the region.

Colin Richardson is an ornithologist with a particular interest in bird migration in the Middle East. He is on the editorial board of Sandgrouse and is the Cyprus representative for the Ornithological Society of the Middle East (OSME) and the Royal Naval Birdwatching Society. He was a council member of OSME from 2005-2010 and was awarded the Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohammed prize for services to Conservation and Ornithology in the United Arab Emirates in 1995.


A History of New York in 27 Buildings

Author: Sam Roberts

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As New York is poised to celebrate its 400th anniversary, New York Times correspondent Sam Roberts tells the story of the city through bricks, glass, wood, and mortar, revealing why and how it evolved into the nation’s biggest and most influential.

From the seven hundred thousand or so buildings in New York, Roberts selects 27 that, in the past four centuries, have been the most emblematic of the city’s economic, social, and political evolution. He describes not only the buildings and how they came to be but also their enduring impact on the city and its people and how the consequences of the construction often reverberated around the world.

A few structures, such as the Empire State Building, are architectural icons, but Roberts goes beyond the familiar with intriguing stories of the personalities and exploits behind the unrivalled skyscraper’s construction. Some stretch the definition of buildings, to include the city’s oldest bridge and the landmark Coney Island Boardwalk. Others offer surprises: where the United Nations General Assembly first met; a hidden hub of global internet traffic; a nondescript factory that produced billions of dollars of currency in the poorest neighbourhood in the country; and the buildings that triggered the Depression and launched the New Deal.

About the author:

Sam Roberts is the urban affairs correspondent for the New York Times. He was formerly city editor for the New York Daily News. His reporting has bagged awards from the Newspaper Guild of New York and the Peter Kihss Award for the City of New York. His books include Who We Are Now and The Brother and his articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New RepublicNew York Magazine, and Empire State Report. He lives — where else? — in New York City.


Quit Like a Woman

Author: Holly Glenn Whitaker

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Holly's story was that of all the women who try to conform to a life they are told they should want — one that looks good on paper and in movies. She drank green juice and made all the right sounds with men she didn't really like and killed it in the board room and had a yoga-tight body. She did all the right things until all the right things left her prostrate, drunk, on the floor of her apartment.

But when she started to look for a way to recover, the support systems she found for sobriety were archaic and patriarchal. Urging drinkers towards a newfound humility is great if you're a man, but if you're a woman and not in a position to renounce privileges you never had, a whole other approach is needed. Quit Like a Woman is a memoir which is also a call to arms, a revolution against everything we assume is true about alcohol and addiction, and a celebration of learning how to claim everything life has to offer.

About the author:

Holly Whitaker is the founder and CEO of Tempest (formerly Hip Sobriety). With years of experience in the fields of healthcare and tech, she created a human-centred recovery modality and virtual platform offering education, community and support services, in 2014. Holly has been featured in the New York Times, Vogue, and TechCrunch. She was named in Inc’s 2019 Female Founders 100 List. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Mary Katherine.

Also read: My Mother's Lover to Hang Till Death: Books to look forward to this December


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