Rajdeep Sardesai chooses his #BestReads2016

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From a biography of a formidable political leader India has forgotten to a fearless investigation into the crony capitalism that litters India’s power corridors, here are journalist and author Rajdeep Sardesai’s favourite reads of 2016:

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Half-Lion: How P.V. Narasimha Rao Transformed India
Vinay Sitapati

A book that explores the life and times of a prime minister who shepherded the country through one of the most troubled periods in post-independence India. It reveals facets of the Rao persona that brings to life a rather complex political figure. The author at times may be rather charitable to Rao’s foibles – the demolition of  the Babri Masjid and the high tolerance of corruption – but he does use the access he got to archival material to advantage. A good read for a political junkie.

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Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles
Ruchir Sharma

A book which makes it easier to understand what it takes for an emerging market to take the great leap forward. As an emerging markets analyst at Morgan Stanley, Sharma has had a ringside view to a globalizing economy and he peppers the book with personal anecdotes that make it easier to make sense of  dry numbers. That it was written before India decide to demonetise makes it prescient: Sharma warns that too much government tinkering is injurious to an economy’s health.

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Rekha: The Untold Story
Yasser Usman

A riveting portrait of one of the most enigmatic Hindi film stars: beautiful but mysterious; charming but elusive. That Usman didn’t get access to the star may have prevented him from getting Rekha’s side of the story, but there are plenty of little nuggets that make this book eminently readable. The story of  her sudden wedding to a Delhi businessman Mukesh Aggarwal is well told: it reveals a chronic depressive who could swing between elation and sadness in a matter of  hours. We can only hope that one day Rekha will write an authorized biography.

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Mother, Where’s My Country?: Looking for Light in the Darkness of Manipur
Anubha Bhonsle

An interesting work of  reportage on a part of  India that has fallen off the map. Anubha Bhonsle writes on Manipur with empathy and understanding. The central figure in her book, Irom Sharmila, remains a formidable figure who ended her 16-year fast only this year. The author tries to reveal the inner Irom, a woman of  courage but also someone who is seeking liberation from the tortuous world around her. The narrative slows down at times but it still is a worthy subject.

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A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India
Josy Joseph

A book that explores the murky world of crony capitalism and the neta–babu–business links. The strength is that it is based on first-rate investigation by Joseph, who writes without fear or favour. By lifting the veil over the manner in which business is done in Lutyens’ Delhi, the book offers a strong case for changing the rules of the game in India.
 

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