Best of Books 2018

(Published in Open Magazine, December 21 2018)

William Dalrymple: We seem to have a small revolution taking place in the genre of well-written narrative Indian history. I loved Ira Mukhoty’s book on Mughal women Daughters of the Sun: Empresses and Begums of the Mughal Empire (Aleph), Ruby Lal’s Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan (Viking) and Manu S Pillai’s minutely researched yet instantly accessible and readable Rebel Sultans(Juggernaut) which will bring the fascinating history of medieval India to a whole new generation of readers…

Aatish TaseerRebel Sultans: The Deccan from Khilji to Shivaji (Juggernaut) by Manu S Pillai: I found this book on the Deccan to be full of interest. Hinduraya Suratrana, or Sultan among Hindu Kings, Pillai tells us, ‘was the first time Indian rulers applied the term “Hindu” to distinguish themselves from Muslims of foreign origins—in other words, a geographical term applied to Indians in general by outsiders was now internalized.’ It is for moments such as these that we must keep returning to the history of the Deccan, for it is one of our truest fault lines. It is a place where one can see, writ small, the Naipaulian observation that ‘to awaken to history was to cease to live instinctively. It was to begin to see oneself and one’s group the way the outside world saw one; and it was to know a kind of rage’….

KR Meera: Rebel Sultans by Manu S Pillai (Juggernaut): As fascinating as his first book The Ivory Throne, this story of the Deccan from the 13th century is as readable as a grand book of fiction.