Thursday, June 10, 2004

on my shelf

I’ve always thought it would be good to have a record of the books I’m reading, some kind of “reader’s journal” that records the time and place I read a particular book and a few observations about it. That may or may not happen here, but for now I’m optimistic. I’m going to start by going through the books on my shelf—an abbreviated list, I’m afraid, here in Delhi—once a week or so until I’ve caught up and can start with new acquisitions. (Full disclosure: if you click on these little “buy the book” blurbs, you’ll help me get some store credits with

Empire by Niall Ferguson—Sadly, unread. The idea was to review this doorstopper, which made Ferguson the pundit of the moment for his baldface support of imperialism. But neither of us was able to strike while the iron was hot. Frankly now it’s just there to impress people. Buy the book?

Myths & Legends of India edited by William Radice—An interesting collection. I dip into this one now and again. Be warned, though, there aren’t too many stories here that you’ll really enjoy. It’s more like a textbook for cultural enthusiasts than a book of wonderful fairy tales. If that’s what you’re looking for, I don’t think you can do better than Aleksandr Afanas’ev’s Russian Fairy Tales (1945). I must have read every story in that collection a dozen times, and even managed to force my parents to buy a second copy when our original went missing for a few years after we moved from Birmingham to Chelsea, Michigan. Buy the book?

Orientalism by Edward Said—A classic work of scholarship. Best known for his role as Palestinian activist, Said was a fantastic literary critic. In this, his most famous book, he argues that the “Orientalists” of the 19th century used scholarship, with its rubrics and definitions, to circumscribe, codify and control the cultures conquered by the West. Imminently readable, like all Said’s work, this book was one of the most important foundation stones of the multiculturalism movement (if that’s an appropriate name). Buy the book?

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