The Hindu's top 10 non-fiction books of 2018

The year had something for every reader, from politics, economics, history to science and sport.

Updated - January 09, 2019 02:50 pm IST

Published - December 28, 2018 12:07 pm IST

Polarised politics and state of the economy, an eye on South Asia or life of Dalits — it was a great year for books, with writers reflecting the churn everywhere. The year had something for every reader, from politics, economics, history to science and sport.

Here's our top ten non-fiction books of 2018, in random order, subjective and by no means the last word on it.

‘Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing Their World’ by Snigdha Poonam

Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing Their World

Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing Their World


What is driving the young people of small-town India? What do India's millennials want? A journalist searches for answers and introduces us to an unforgettable set of characters from among India's 600 million youth: entrepreneurs, leaders, followers, gangsters and scamsters, hungry and vulnerable young people with dreams in their eyes. Dreamers shows us that there is much to be concerned about despite the huge human potential.

Read our review here.

‘Ground Down by Growth: Tribe, Class, Caste and Inequality in Twenty-First Century India’ by Alpa Shah, Jens Lerche & Others


Does untrammelled economic growth benefit society through a trickle-down effect as neo-liberals would have us believe? On the ground, the 'growth' factor doesn't appear to be impacting lives of the poor. A group of social researchers travel across the country and explain how caste, class and tribe interact to produce oppression of the marginalised classes, particularly the Dalits and Adivasis.

Read our review here.

‘Why I am a Hindu’ by Shashi Tharoor

Why I Am A Hindu
Shashi Tharoor

Why I Am A HinduShashi TharoorAleph₹699


The parliamentarian and writer walks us through the many "incompatible" strands of Hinduism, including his own devotion, and traces the growth of Hindutva, making an impassionate plea that "this is not my Hinduism". Whether Hindutva can be deactivated by a return to the texts and practices of Hinduism is debatable, because the Hindutva brigade isn't really interested in the complexities of the religion that Tharoor elaborates for us.

Read our review here.

‘Modern South India: A History from the 17th Century to our Times’ by Rajmohan Gandhi


At heart, the story Gandhi tells is one of four powerful cultures — Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu — as well as the cultures, Kodava, Konkani, Marathi, Oriya, Tulu and indigenous tribals that have influenced them. In the introduction, he writes that the four principal cultures are, "unsurprisingly, competitive," but that they are also "complementary". It's rich in detail and gives us a fascinating insight into the region.

Read our review here.

‘The Most Dangerous Place: A History of the United States in South Asia’ by Srinath Raghavan


A historian chronicles the U.S.'s moves in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, mapping its shifts and recording its repetitions. India and Pakistan's circular motion that goes from engagement to conflict to disengagement to engagement again has only complicated matters. Afghanistan, buffeted by powerful neighbours on the one hand, and super powers on the other, also seems to tread a familiar path. The U.S.'s attempt to unravel threads that choke South Asia may have bound it closer to the region.

Read our review here.

‘The Gene Machine’ by Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

The Nobel laureate tracks the race to uncover the ribosome's — the machine in our body that decodes DNA — enormously complex structure, a fundamental breakthrough that resolves an ancient mystery of life itself and could lead to the development of better antibiotics. "The discovery of the ribosome and its role in making proteins is the culmination of one of the great triumphs of modern biology," he writes in this gripping read.

Read our review here.

‘Directorate S: The CIA and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016’ by Steve Coll

Directorate S: The CIA and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016
Steve Coll
Allen Lane

Directorate S: The CIA and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016Steve CollAllen Lane₹799


A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist painstakingly reconstructs America's longest war, in Afghanistan, with all its strategic advances and blunders. After 9/11, from the very beginning of the American intervention, he says Pakistan was a reluctant player. Pakistan did join the American alliance, but Directorate S, a unit of the ISI that was in charge of the agency's secret operations in Afghanistan and India, continued its relationship with the Taliban.

Read our review here.

‘Fear: Trump in the White House’ by Bob Woodward


The Watergate journalist, who had reported on eight U.S. presidencies from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, pieces together a damning account of the chaos that pervades the Trump administration. The fly-on-the-wall account underscores what others had been saying — that there is a frightening degree of randomness behind policy outcomes of the White House. Trump declined to be interviewed for the book, but that is hardly surprising for a President who appears to have a visceral distaste for the media.

Read our review here.

‘281 and Beyond’ by V.V.S. Laxman with R. Kaushik


The wristy batsman from Hyderabad, V.V.S. Laxman, looks back on his cricketing life, starting with the epochal 281 at the Eden Gardens in 2001 that helped script a miracle triumph over Steve Waugh's Aussies. Laxman grew out of the shadow of his stylish predecessor, Mohammed Azharuddin, and created a unique space for himself in a pedigreed Indian batting line-up which included Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag.

Read our review here.

‘Interrogating My Chandal Life’ by Manoranjan Byapari


Manoranjan Byapari, a refugee from East Bengal who had never crossed the threshold of a school, taught himself to read when he was 24 years old. Then a chance meeting with Mahasweta Devi helped him embark on a life as a writer. His powerful, affecting memoir is as much about hunger and deprivation as it is about endurance, struggle and a fierce will to live.

Read our review here.

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