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Vishakha Desai's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Vishakha Desai recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Vishakha Desai's favorite book recommendations of all time.

These ground-breaking collections offer 200 texts from 11 languages, never before available in English or as a collection, along with a new reading of cultural history that draws on contemporary scholarship on women and on India. This extraordinary body of literature and important documentary resource illuminates the lives of Indian women through 2,600 years of change and extends the historical understanding of literature, feminism, and the making of modern India. The biographical, critical, and bibliographical headnotes in both volumes, supported by an introduction which Anita Desai... more
Recommended by Vishakha Desai, and 1 others.

Vishakha DesaiThe reason I consider this a really important book is that, first of all, until this anthology, we’ve never had anything like it. Secondly, there are just amazing pieces of writing – poetry, narratives, fiction – in it. It’s important just to recover that female voice that none of us ever studies in school. We were given a couple of names [of female writers], but that was about it. I think it’s a... (Source)

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In September 1996, fourteen-year-old Fatima Bhutto shielded her baby brother while shots rang out outside the family home in Karachi. This was the evening that her father, Murtaza, was assassinated. It was the latest in a long line of tragedies for one of the world's best-known political dynasties.Songs of Blood and Sword tells the story of a family of feudal landlords who became power brokers in the newly created state of Pakistan. It is an epic tale of intrigue and the international political elite, the making of modern Pakistan, and, ultimately, tragedy. It is also a book about a... more
Recommended by Vishakha Desai, and 1 others.

Vishakha DesaiThis, again, is a book written from the inside about a family, in this case the Bhutto family. Fatima is Benazir Bhutto’s niece. Both her father and her uncle were killed. What I like about the book is that, again, it’s very well written. It is unflinching in terms of exploring the family dynamic. At the same time, it really gives you an insider’s perspective on, in this case, a very feudal... (Source)

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Recommended by Vishakha Desai, and 1 others.

Vishakha DesaiDear to Behold is a book I read long ago, but I still think about it. It’s a small book. It was written by Indira’s aunt, Krishna Hutheesing [Nehru’s sister]. What’s interesting to me is that it really gets at the psychology of Indira Gandhi. For example, when she’s young – the loneliness, the shyness, how that then plays out. The book was written before the [state of] emergency she declared in... (Source)

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"The most stimulating and thought-provoking book on India in a long time..Bumiller has made India new and immediate again."
In a chronicle rich in diversity, detail, and empathy, Elisabeth Bumiller illuminates the many women's lives she shared--from wealthy sophisticates in New Delhi, to villagers in the dusty northern plains, to movie stars in Bombay, intellectuals in Calcutta, and health workers in the south--and the contradictions she encountered, during her three and a half years in India as a reporter for THE WASHINGTON POST. In their fascinating,...
Recommended by Vishakha Desai, and 1 others.

Vishakha DesaiWhat I find so compelling about it is the way Elisabeth Bumiller creates these personal stories. It’s about women and how they get caught up in being seen as mothers, and especially mothers of sons. This made a big impression on me when I first read it, and I still feel that it’s a very important issue. Even when you’re looking at corporate India today, there’s a huge number of educated women who... (Source)

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Three remarkable women--grandmother, mother, and daughter--struggle to survive in a true-life saga that spans 20th-century China with all its violence: wars, invasions, revolution, and continuing upheaval. A thrilling adventure story, Wild Swans is an important work of history, and a breathtaking testimony to the human spirit. 16 pages of photographs. less

Richard BransonToday is World Book Day, a wonderful opportunity to address this #ChallengeRichard sent in by Mike Gonzalez of New Jersey: Make a list of your top 65 books to read in a lifetime. (Source)

Vishakha DesaiTo me Wild Swans is one of those iconic books for understanding the generations of Chinese women. She is from this amazing intellectual family and it’s about what happens to them. The book just has this tremendous power. It’s an amazing journey. It’s about what women do to survive and also how they suffer. (Source)

Harry WuWild Swans is talking about people who are living at the highest level of society but they are still suffering persecution and live in fear. And the peasants in the village became slaves, they became nothing. So what the book does brilliantly is give a real insight into what life was like for ordinary people against the backdrop of the ever-changing China. (Source)

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