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Memoirs & biographies

♦ ASHOKA IN ANCIENT INDIA (Permanent Black & Ashoka University) By Nayanjot Lahiri
An exceptionally bold attempt to reconstruct the personal life and persona of Emperor Ashoka. Lahiri uses a variety of sources, other than the edicts of Ashoka, to bring together biography and history. This book is a landmark in the writings on ancient India.

♦ LOST ADDRESSES: A MEMOIR OF INDIA 1934-1955 (Niyogi) By Krishna Bose 
This is a charming little book that evokes a Calcutta that has disappeared. The book is redolent with memories of growing up in south Calcutta; studying in Presidency College and Calcutta University; and recollections of August 15, 1947 in Delhi and the post-Independence riots there. The family the author was born into, the Chaudhuris — her father was Charu, her uncles Nirad and Khirad — was as eminent as the one she married into. 

♦ FRANCIS BACON IN YOUR BLOOD: A MEMOIR (Bloomsbury) By Michael Peppiatt 
A piece of bravura writing that captures, almost like great cinema, the grandeur, tragedy and, above all, the chilling classicism of what Bacon used to call his “gilded gutter life” of art, love and drink.

♦ THE OUTSIDER: MY LIFE IN INTRIGUE (Corgi) By Frederick Forsyth 
An engaging memoir, the homilies notwithstanding, because of the author’s curiosity, integrity and resilience. Forsyth has the writer’s gift of observation and also with his remarkable prose to gently mock. But all said, Forsyth’s fiction — novels and short stories — are more gripping than his recollections of his own life.

 JOHN LE CARRÉ: THE BIOGRAPHY (Bloomsbury) By Adam Sisman 

A valiant effort on the part of Adam Sisman to write the life of an author who deliberately hides behind many masks. Sisman brings to light his subject’s deeply unhappy childhood — abandoned by the mother and haunted by a conman father. A deeply researched biography. 

♦ KISSINGER: 1923-1968: THE IDEALIST (Penguin) By Niall Ferguson
A biography that is tainted because it is authorized. Nonetheless, it offers a glimpse into the life of a key player in 20th-century international relations. The book is long, nearly 500 pages, and stops short of the time when Kissinger emerges on the world stage. 

♦ STALIN’S ENGLISHMAN: THE LIVES OF GUY BURGESS (Hodder & Stoughton) By Andrew Lownie 
This is perhaps the first full biography of the most charming of the notorious Cambridge Spies — Philby, Blunt and Maclean being the others. The talented Burgess rose through academia, the BBC, the Foreign Office and the MI5 and MI6. From his Cambridge days, his real loyalties were with the Soviet Union. The biography is based on interviews with people who knew Burgess and on files that were previously closed.

♦ AUGUSTINE: CONVERSIONS AND CONFESSIONS (Allen Lane) By Robin Lane Fox 
The author follows Augustine on his journey, enriching it with his deep knowledge of the latest scholarship and recently found letters and sermons of Augustine himself. The result is an exceptional book on a man who continues to excite all who are interested in the world of late antiquity.

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