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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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