EINSTEIN’S GREATEST MISTAKE: THE LIFE OF A FLAWED GENIUS
By David Bodanis, Little, Brown
This is a portrait of Albert Einstein as a fallible genius rather than the Nobel laureate who was made into the poster boy of science. The title assures the reader that the biographer will not be boringly respectful of the illustrious subject. Bodanis’s respect for Einstein is evident, but it does not muddy his judgment.
AN UNSUITABLE BOY
By Karan Johar (with Poonam Saxena), Penguin
The Bollywood film-maker’s autobiography is an insipid monologue that promises much but delivers little. His careful, distanced voice achieves neither the drama of his films nor the irreverent wit of his public persona. Yet, it unwittingly tells the tragic story of a seller of human emotions who, in his fight to rise above unhappiness, is unable to articulate his own.
KARL MARX: GREATNESS AND ILLUSION
By Gareth Stedman Jones, Allen Lane
This is an excellent work of scholarship in a literary world where biographies of Marx are aplenty. The main strength of the book lies in Jones’s superb analysis of how Marx’s thought process unfolded against the rapidly changing scenario of European history. It is a product of meticulous research based on archival sources and the Marx-Engels complete volumes.
Unstoppable: My life so far
By Maria Sharapova, Penguin
The memoir of one of the most resilient tennis stars in the world is full of astute insights about psychology and strategy, both on and off the tennis court. Sharapova is at her eloquent best when describing her childhood and the doping fiasco that threatened to end her career, but ultimately could not.
BE LIKE THE FOX: MACHIAVELLI’S LIFELONG QUEST FOR FREEDOM
By Erica Benner, Allen Lane
Even though “Machiavellian” has come to mean “cunning” and “unscrupulous”, Niccolò Machiavelli was arguably an idealist. Benner constructs a Machiavelli who, through taxing and confusing times, unfailingly advanced the republican ideal.
WRITER, SAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY: ERNEST HEMINGWAY’S SECRET ADVENTURES, 1935-1961
By Nicholas Reynolds, William Morrow
The author offers an extraordinary portrait of Hemingway. Reynolds, who was a spy himself, attempts a coup in this book by claiming that Hemingway was a “Soviet spy”. Unfortunately, in spite of Reynolds’s scrupulous research, the premise remains shadowy.
Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature
By Jairam Ramesh, Simon & Schuster
Ramesh presents a strong case in favour of Indira Gandhi as an environmentalist first and everything else later. Ramesh is clearly an admirer, but that does not detract from his arguments.