Review: Bookless in Baghdad

Read: Bookless in Baghdad by Shashi Tharoor
Stars: Four

Drinking: Imperial Acai Blueberry, Teavana

This series of essays on reading, writing, and other writers by one of India’s preeminent authors is perfect for a book lover.  More than that, however, it is Tharoor’s story of being an Indian writer in English and his love for his country. He talks about whether or not Indian writers in English are “Indian enough” or if their culture has been appropriated by the West.  His opinion: India is so diverse, that any idea of “Indianness” probably only applies to a small percentage of the population.  As for the Western appropriation of India and Indian authors, he feels that anyone should be able to appreciate a good piece of literature – a sentiment I heartily share.  

Tharoor was United Nations Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information at the time he wrote these essays, so I feel a particular connection to his views in light of my passion for international affairs.  At times, the essays read like articles and textbooks straight from my international relations courses, particularly those about identity and relating to other cultures in an increasingly globalized world.

The low point in the book for me was Tharoor’s bashing of other writers.  Luckily he did that very little and was primarily positive, particularly about Salman Rushdie, a fellow Indian writer in English.  The other problem I had was that many of the essays covered the same ideas in essentially the same words. Nearly every essay, for example, explained Tharoor’s first book, The Great Indian Novel, and frequently his other works as well.

Despite it’s shortcomings,  Bookless in Baghdad is a wonderful discussion of literature and the world from a different perspective than my own.  That is always something to enjoy.


Author: Lisa M Fry

Freelance writer & copy-editor. Book lover. Feminist. American in London.

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