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Anti-colonialism, corruption dominate weekend bookshelf

New Delhi: The bookshelf this weekend is a mix of critically-acclaimed non-fictions and powerful dramas. Browse on:

Book: "From the Ruins of Empire"; Written by Pankaj Mishra; Published by Penguin-India; Price: Rs.699

The Victorian period, viewed in the West as a time of self-confident progress, was experienced by Asians as a catastrophe. Foreign soldiers and merchants tore apart great empires which had once formed the heart of civilisation. As the British gunned down the last heirs to the Mughal Empire, burned the Summer Palace in Beijing, or humiliated the bankrupt rulers of the Ottoman Empire, it was clear that a vast intellectual effort would be required for Asia to recover. Pankaj Mishra`s new book tells the story of a remarkable group of men from across the continent who met the challenge of the West. Incessantly travelling, questioning and agonising, the group both hated the West and recognised that an Asian renaissance needed to be fuelled in part by engagement with the enemy. Through many setbacks and wrong turns, a powerful, contradictory and ultimately unstoppable series of ideas were created that now lie behind everything from the Chinese Communist Party to al-Qaeda, from Indian nationalism to the Muslim brotherhood.

Book: "Ending Corruption: How to Clean Up India"; Written by N.Vittal; Published by Penguin Books India; Price:Rs.499

The 2010 mega-scams created a crisis of trust in governance and the leadership. Seeking solutions, N. Vittal analyses the record of institutions involved and traces the roots of the growing rot to the decline of accountability in public life and the lack of transparency in governance, besides the general greed and decline in integrity. As a prominent insider in the government for over four decades, he believes that greater transparency and use of technology and ensuring there is no alternative can reform our system. The curb on use of money power in state elections and the 2010 landmark judgment in the case of P.J. Thomas`s appointment as Central Vigilance Commissioner are such steps. Through greater application of the Right to Information, strengthening of watchdog bodies like the judiciary or the Central Election Commission, and choosing people of integrity and commitment to man them, besides an alert civil society and media, the author is optimistic of a clean India.

Book: "Toke"; Written by Jugal Mody; Published by Harper Collins India; Price: Rs.160

So Lord Vishnu showed up one morning when I was really stoned and asked me to save the world from turning undead. How did I save the world? I didn`t. We did. And while saving the world, I got to forcefully kiss the girl of my dreams. Many times. My best friends got to smoke a lot of good shit. A lot more than they would have otherwise smoked in that much time. They also got to crash an airplane into a slum outside Santacruz airport. But don`t worry, there were only zombies around when that happened. We were joined in our quest by two Japanese girls who can kill people with their pinkies, one of whom forcefully kissed Danny. Yes, there was a lot of non-consensual kissing in this adventure. With tongue. Hi. I`m Nikhil. This is my story. And I swear I have a T-shirt to prove it.

Book: "Portrait of a Spy"; Written by Daniel Silva; Published by Harper Collins; Price: Rs.299

Gabriel Allon, master art restorer and assassin, and his beautiful Venetian-born wife, Chiara, was supposed to enjoy a pleasant weekend in London - a visit to an art gallery in St. James`s to authenticate a newly discovered painting by Titian, followed by a quiet lunch at an Italian restaurant along the Strand. But a pair of deadly bombings in Paris and Hamburg has already marred this sparkling autumn day. And while walking along Wellington Street, the ever-vigilant Gabriel notices a man who, he believes, is about to carry out a third attack. The man is exhibiting several traits common to suicide bombers -- traits that Gabriel, one of the world`s most experienced counter-terrorism officers, knows all too well. Armed with a concealed Beretta pistol, he follows the man into the crowded Covent Garden market, determined to prevent the massacre of innocents he fears is about to take place. But before Gabriel can draw his weapon, he is knocked to the pavement by two undercover London police officers. A moment later he looks up to find a scene from his nightmares. Bodies and blood, Baghdad on the Thames...

Book: "Maps for Lost Lovers"; Written by Nadeem Aslam; Published by Random House; Price: Rs.375

Set in a nameless British town that its Pakistani-born immigrants have renamed Dasht-e-Tanhaii, the Desert of Solitude, "Maps for Lost Lovers" is an exploration of cultural tension and religious bigotry played out in the personal breakdown of a single family. As the book begins, Jugnu and Chanda, whose love is both passionate and illicit, have disappeared from their home. Rumours about their disappearance abound, but five months pass before anything certain is known. Finally, on a snow-covered January morning, Chanda`s brothers are arrested for the murder of their sister and Jugnu. "Maps for Lost Lovers" traces the year following the disappearance of Jugnu and Chanda. Seen principally through the eyes of Jugnu`s brother Shamas, the cultured, poetic director of the local Community Relations Council and Commission for Racial Equality, and his wife Kaukab, mother of three increasingly estranged children and devout daughter of a Muslim cleric, the event marks the beginning of the unravelling of all that is sacred to them. It fills Shamas`s own house and life with grief and, in exploring the lovers` disappearance and its aftermath, the author paints an intimate portrait of a community searingly damaged by traditions.

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