February Books

Barbara Lane Books — By on February 17, 2012 12:02 pm

My recent trip to India/Sri Lanka was the motivation for much of this month’s reading. I promise lots of stimulation, even for armchair travelers.

Pulitzer Prize winner journalist Katherine Boo’s remarkable Behind the Beautiful Forevers takes us inside the Annawadi slum, which lies adjacent to Mumbai’s gleaming modern airport with its luxury hotels.  A heartbreaking, intimate report of the lives of Annawadi’s residents, a number of whom recycle garbage for a living, this book has won well-deserved superlatives from every major reviewer.  You won’t be able to believe a white American woman pulled it off.
Chetan Bhaghat’s One Night At the Call Center takes us inside the world of outsourcing, telling the stories of a group of friends who work nights at a call center in India, providing technical support for a major U.S. appliance corporation.  Despite being a light, funny read, Bhaghat’s book also gives a revealing look at how Americans are viewed by some of those who work for us abroad.
Alaa Al Aswany was recently profiled in The New Yorker as one of the architects of the Arab spring uprising in Egypt. The Yacoubian Building explores the political corruption, sexual repression and religious extremism in modern Egypt through the lives of the inhabitants of a a once-elegant apartment building in downtown Cairo.  This book proves my theory that great storytelling is often the best way to describe a society.

Michael Ondaatje is the go-to guy for books about Sri Lanka.  Running With My Family is a charming family memoir full of eccentric characters.  And the novel Anil’s Ghost takes us inside the civil war that racked that country for so many years.

Enjoy these books and follow Barbara’s literary escapades on Twitter.

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