My Seven Favourite Books From 2022

Aravindan Neelakandan

Dec 27, 2022, 04:36 PM | Updated 05:27 PM IST

Seven books for 2022
Seven books for 2022
  • Ranging across genres from history, science, culture, to nation-building, here are the seven books I most enjoyed reading in 2022, along with a few words about each.
  • History and National Narrative

    1. Towards a Nationalist Narrative of India’s Ancient Past. Dr Dilip K Chakrabarti. Aryan Books International. 250 pages. Rs 679.

    Dr. Dilip K. Chakrabarti's latest, 'Towards a Nationalist Narrative of India’s Ancient Past'
    Dr. Dilip K. Chakrabarti's latest, 'Towards a Nationalist Narrative of India’s Ancient Past'

    What can be a nationalist narrative to archaeology and ancient history of India? Is such an approach even desirable? Has not the world seen enough damage because of 'nationalist-oriented' historiography?

    If you have these questions with respect to Indian history then this book should be a must read for you.

    The author is a veteran archaeologist, Dr Dilip K Chakrabarti. He is also one of the best scholars in the field today. His earlier works have taken a rigorous academic approach towards the subject.

    The book addresses a peculiar situation in India. The civilisational continuity of India is well attested in archaeology. Yet we have for the past seven decades handed over the construction of historiography to elements that have intentionally and/or ignorantly denied this continuity. This book serves as a remedy and a roadmap.

    The book, as the author himself points out, is a sequel to his earlier book, Nationalism in the Study of Ancient Indian History (2021). It has been reviewed in Swarajya (Read here: Nationalism Is Not Hindrance To Study Of Ancient Indian History But A Necessary Condition For It).

    Just as the previous book, this book is also information-packed, well researched, intellectually engaging and also disturbing in parts, for all the right reasons.

    This book is a must read for every Indian who wants to have a historical understanding of India as a continuing nation and transmit that heritage to posterity.

    Review Link: Do We Need A 'Nationalist' Narrative For India's Past?

    2. Bravehearts Of Bharat: Vignettes from Indian History. Vikram Sampath. India Viking. 2022. Pages 512. Price 655.

    The cover of Vikram Sampath's 'Bravehearts of Bharat'
    The cover of Vikram Sampath's 'Bravehearts of Bharat'

    This is a book that takes heroism from all over India to all Indians.

    The book contains the histories of the lives of 16 great warriors of India. Starting with Lalitaditya Muktapida of Kashmir to Begum Hazrat Mahal of Awadh, each chapter brings out a hero or heroine whom the dominant colonial-Nehruvian-Marxist historical narrative has chosen to forget.

    Each chapter is well researched and presented in an interesting flow. Valour and patriotism are part of a grand matrix that permeate entire Bharat Varsha. No single ideology, and not a single family or a couple of names alone can claim monopoly to the freedom we have today.

    The book shows how every province throughout every age has produced heroes and heroines who fought impressive battles against aggressors and did wonderful accomplishments for the people in a way that was far advanced for their time. The National life of India flows through the book.

    Every Indian, particularly youngsters should read this book. Like Uncle Pai in the previous generation for children, Dr Vikram Sampath is becoming the chronicler of the victorious and brave India for the youth of this generation.

    Review link: 'Bravehearts Of Bharat' Review: This Book Retells The Stories Which 'Establishment Historians' Would Rather Make You Forget

    Science and History of Science

    3. Unsung Genius: A Life of Jagadish Chandra Bose. Kunal Ghosh. Aleph Book Company. Pages 490. Hard cover Rs 750. Kindle Rs 712.50

    The cover of 'Unsung Genius'
    The cover of 'Unsung Genius'

    Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858-1937) a scintillating phenomenon in the history of modern science broke quite a lot of barriers and revealed new grounds.

    He not only broke the barriers of colonialism but more importantly he broke the barrier between physiology and physics. He broke the barriers between the animate and the inanimate through empirical demonstrations.

    There have been at least two well-written biographies of Acharya Bose – one is by the Scottish polymath Patrick Geddes and the other is by Vishwapriya Mukherjee, for the Publications Division. The former is a detailed biography.

    But this biography published in 2022 by Kunal Ghosh, is perhaps the most comprehensive biography of Bose. Dedicated to Sarah Chapman Bull, who Swami Vivekananda considered as his American mother, the book brings out the man, his science, his philosophy, his times and the extraordinary team of people who worked with him.

    Acharya Bose was a genius and his works are relevant even today to many scientific explorations. He should be considered as the father of indepth interdisciplinary investigation into biology.

    This book is a must read for every student of integral interdisciplinary science as well as every student of Indian culture and history.

    Review link: Why This New Biography Of Jagadish Chandra Bose Is A Must-Read

    4. The Song of The Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and New Man. Siddhartha Mukherjee. Penguin Random House India. Pages 473. Rs 799.

    Siddhartha Mukherjee's latest
    Siddhartha Mukherjee's latest

    This book is a wonderful odyssey in 377 pages of the history of cell-science and medicine from the mid-nineteenth century to the latest cutting-edge explorations.

    It is also a pilgrimage showing how medical science gives hope to patients who are fighting for their lives and the dedication of the physicians who are fighting for their patients as well as for all humanity.

    Once Richard Dawkins wrote that there should be a Nobel Prize for good science writing. Taking science to the society is important. It enriches all walks of life – from art to politics to religion. If such a category in Nobel Prize is created then Siddhartha Mukherjee emerges as a strong contender for that Nobel Prize.

    If you are an artist then you should study this book to get an experience of science that will enhance your art. If you are a student of science then you should read this book to get inspiration to do good science – both as your Sadhana—quest for truth—and Seva—service towards all humanity.

    If you are simply interested in reading good books then make sure you read this – you will never again see any living organism as just another living organism.

    Review link: 'The Song Of The Cell' Review: A Book About Body, Science, Scientists, Life, And So Much More

    Nation Building

    5. Bhārat: India 2.0. Gautam R Desiraju. Vitasta Publishing. 2022. Pages 396. Rs 750.

    Cover of the book 'Bhārat: India 2.0' by Gautam R Desiraju
    Cover of the book 'Bhārat: India 2.0' by Gautam R Desiraju

    Healing the dangerous festering divide between the anciently vibrant civilisational organism that is the nation 'Bharat' and the formidable state machine that is 'India' is a task that needs Bhagirathas.

    Eminent scientist Dr Gautam Radhakrishna Desiraju who was also the former president of the International Union of Crystallography has taken it upon himself, this Bhagirathic task.

    The author accomplishes it with a clarity of mind and a sword-sharp intellectual acumen both fundamental to a good scientist, weaves over 310 pages of text, a narrative that is both holistic and robust, and, needless to say, empirically correct.

    The book does not call for a conflict between the Constitution and the nation. On the other hand, it is a treatise on how both aspects can be made to have a constructive interference so we can reach great civilisational heights, which this nation and civilisation deserve.

    Review link: 'Bharat: India 2.0' Review: A Treatise On Bridging The Divide Between India's Modern State And Ancient Civilisation

    Children's Literature

    6. Venkat and Friends. Sambhavi Ganti. Notion Press, 2022. Pages 90. Rs 175

    Book Cover: Venkat and Friends
    Book Cover: Venkat and Friends

    It is not easy to write a children's book. No. A good book for children should be entertaining and educative. It should be value-based and fun-filled. Today we need such books for children that are rooted in the Indian context but impart universal values that children of the day need.

    If you are searching for such a children’s book—for children in the age group seven to 14—then your search may well end at this book. It deals with the fascination some adults and most children have for stray animals, particularly kittens, and explains the problems and responsibilities that come with taking them in.

    This book will kindle in the child the desire to have parents like the Nanna and Amma of Venkat – who talk to the children and understand their problems and correct them ever so sweetly but firmly, with values and wisdom of the family. Really, this cute little book is a book for complete family.

    Review link: 'Venkat and Friends': A Delightful Book For Both Kids And Parents

    Defending the Cultural Unity of India

    7. Tamilar Panpadu: Kutharkammana Kelvikalum, Thelivana Pathilkalum (Culture of Tamils: Mischievously critical questions and very clear answers). Pa. Inthuvan. Swasam Publications, 2022. Pages 279

    The cover of Pa. Inthuvan's book.
    The cover of Pa. Inthuvan's book.

    This is a book that answers often repeated 28 rhetorical questions that claim separate Tamizh cultural identity distinct from and even opposed to pan-Indian Hindu civilisational and cultural identity.

    The author answers these questions in a detailed manner in 278 pages. Every answer is a detailed essay rich with facts from ancient Tamil literature and then these facts are further substantiated by evidences from inscription and then linked to the current cultural as well as social contexts.

    From ancient Sangam literature through the continuity of Bhakti literature and even using foreign sources, from the Hebrew Bible to 'Indica' of Megasthenes, the author produces the irrefutable evidence of the unity of India. His lucid arguments without getting into the binary trap, makes the book a valuable resource and guide book in Tamizh.

    Review link: Why This Book Is A Must-Read For Tamils

    Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.

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