An immensely readable teaching tool.



A selection of brief biographies of some of the most brilliant minds and personalities over the long course of Indian history.

From Buddha to Dhirubhai Ambani, the self-created celebrity entrepreneur of Reliance Industries, these 50 chronological lives span politics, the arts, academics, and social reform and include a handful of women and a few Westerners by birth, as well. Indian scholar Khilnani (India Institute/King’s Coll. London; The Idea of India, 1998, etc.) takes a soft-pedaling approach, fleshing out the entries with enough historical context to render the narrative accessible for all readers and concluding with a discussion of the subject’s importance in the overall scheme. Mahavira, from the fifth century B.C.E., was the Jainist seeker and teacher whose core principles of many-sidedness, truth, and nonviolence Mohandas Gandhi later incorporated to groundbreaking effect. Early Brahmin thinker Panini (fourth century B.C.E.) set out an early distillation of the sacred language of Sanskrit, and Adi Shankara (eighth century C.E.) organized the plurality and diversity of Hindu scriptures. Lawyer and politician Ambedkar, born an “untouchable" in 1891, challenged the Brahminic hierarchy of class and enshrined rights for Dalits (his term, meaning “broken”) in the new Constitution of 1950. Khilnani also includes a variety of Muslim leaders—e.g., Pakistani founding spirit Muhammad Iqbal (b. 1877), a poet and lawyer who championed a spiritual democracy (the “ultimate aim of Islam”), and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a father of modern Pakistan whose shortsightedness is largely responsible for the disastrous violence following Partition of 1947. Some of the women include ecstatic religious poet Mirabai (1498-1557) and Congress Party leader Indira Gandhi (curiously, Indira's towering father, Nehru, is absent). William Jones and Annie Besant appear as important Westerners who immersed themselves in Indian languages and mores and inculcated the West. Khilnani’s choices are spirited, relevant, and aimed to provoke “pressing contemporary questions.”

An immensely readable teaching tool.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-17549-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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