Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2020 Shortlist

Bangalore: The New India Foundation announces the shortlist for the third edition of the ‘Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize’, recognising and celebrating excellence in non-fiction writings on modern/ contemporary India. The 6 shortlisted books are a testimony to the quality and diversity of non-fiction writing in and about India.

The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay Book Prize celebrates high-quality, non-fiction literature by emerging writers from all nationalities, published in the previous calendar year. Established in 2018, the Book Prize carries a cash award of INR 15 lacs and a citation.

This year’s longlist of 12 titles exhibited the incredible breadth and quality of narratives in and about India, and the jury has shortlisted 6 compelling books for the Prize 2020. The shortlist covers a century of modern Indian history and encompasses several genres—biography and investigative reportage, environment histories, anthropology and history—as well as a variety of themes that blend the country‘s complex past to aspirations for the future.

This year’s eminent jury includes political scientist and author Niraja Gopal Jayal (Chair), historian and critically acclaimed author Ramachandra Guha; entrepreneur and author Nandan Nilekani; historian and author Srinath Raghavan; historian and author Nayanjot Lahiri; and Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, Teamlease Services.

According to the Jury ”The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay prize short-list demonstrates the range and quality of non-fiction writing about modern India, from political biography to the sociology of politics, from investigative journalism to the history of ecology and of technology”.

The six books shortlisted for the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2020 are:

Midnight’s Machines: A Political History of Technology in India by Arun Mohan Sukumar (Penguin Random House): A pathbreaking record of historically troubled relationship of India’s political class with technology. The book shows how the ambivalence of India’s leaders on the place of technology in society, inhibited India’s technological advances.

The Unquiet River: A Biography of the Brahmaputra by Arupjyoti Saikia (Oxford University Press) : A work of breath-taking scale, a deeply researched study of the river, from its hydrology and ecology, to its interaction with humans and non-humans, and the way in which it has determined the course of Assam’s history.

A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon by Jairam Ramesh (Penguin Random House) : Based on new archival material, this a brilliant biography of a brilliant, multifaceted, complicated man, who worked relentlessly in Britain for India’s freedom, who became a star in the United Nations in the 1950s; but whose public life came to a rather tragic end.

Bottle of Lies: Ranbaxy and the Dark Side of Indian Pharma by Katherine Eban (Juggernaut): A deftly written, fast-paced work of investigative journalism that tells a cautionary tale.

Wild Himalaya: A Natural History of the Greatest Mountain Range on Earth by Stephen Alter (Aleph): A fascinating book, that weaves together the geology, geography, flora and fauna of the Himalayas, with the midst of folklore, the cultures of peoples that it sustains, through a journey across five countries, that this mountain range traverses.

The Kamaladevi NIF Book Prize builds on the New India Foundation’s mission of sponsoring high-quality research and writing on all aspects of Independent India. The prize was named after Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, the great patriot, and institution-builder who had contributed significantly to the freedom struggle, to the women’s movement, to refugee rehabilitation and to the renewal of handicrafts. Previous winners include Milan Vaishnav for his remarkable debut -When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics (HarperCollins Publishers) in 2018; and Ornit Shani for her scholarly work- How India Became Democratic (Penguin Random House) in 2019.


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