In spite of the gods

My favorite non-fiction about India so far.

In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India, by Edward Luce.

I’ve just finished reading this excellent 2006 book by Edward Luce, a journalist who lived in India for five years as the South Asia bureau chief for Financial Times, and who is married to an Indian.  His prose is wonderful, his insights fascinating, and his anecdotes amusing.  Definitely my favorite non-fiction about India so far [though I still recommend Nilekani’s more recent book Imagining India.]  It is a must-read for anyone who wants to begin to understand India.

In his conclusion, Luce cites four major challenges that India must face in order to thrive:

  • “Lifting 300 million people out of poverty and providing the remainder with a more secure standard of living…,
  • “Overcoming the dangers of rapid environmental degradation…,
  • “Heading off the spectre of an HIV-Aids epidemic…,
  • “Protecting and strengthening India’s system of liberal democracy….”

Indeed, he quotes Vijay Kelkar in noting that “The twenty-first century is India’s to lose.” Huge challenges, and huge opportunity.

For a more extensive (and professional) review of the book, see the NYT reviews [MacintyreGrimes]; the NPR interview with the author is also very interesting. The book is available on Amazon.


This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2021, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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