Tuesday, April 5, 2011

DK Publishing's "India": Book Review

This visually stunned me. It opens with panoramic vistas and fills pages with imagery. Its text packs lots of learning. While a heavy book in size and contents, it enriches readers and it's surprisingly affordable.

DK lavishes graphics in all its publications, and this approach matches well the wonders of landscape art, architecture, daily life, occupations, sights, religious and mythical tales, and travel highlights that cram these large pages. Evocative verse excerpts top double-page spreads of beautiful photography to open the volume, and alongside such as the Taj Mahal and Khajuraho, the colorful wares of a dye seller, a Ladakh Tibetan Buddhist monastery, a bridal dinner, the makeup worn by a dancer, or the inlay of a Mughal archway gain impact from the enlarged illustrations.
Also, the text, credited to Abraham Eraly, Yasmin Khan, George Michell, and Mitali Saran, explores such topics as the early cities of the Indus, a train driver's day, or a "dabbawallah" who somehow delivers tiffin lunchboxes each day in Mumbai, clearly. The Bhagavad-Gita, for instance, earns excerpts from its second chapter that use Krishna's encouragement to Arjuna to fight in battle that sum up the whole Hindu mindset skillfully.

This relates to one small shortcoming. Lacking a reading list, I am not sure where to turn next to find out more. The translation of the B-G is noted in the acknowledgments along with a couple of the poems earlier cited, and there's an index and photo credits, but a supplemental guide to films, books, or other media could have been inserted. The travel guide at the end whets one's appetite to visit, but the illustrated maps can be hard to read, drawn engagingly though they may be with art and color in a style that reminds me of lush coffee-table tomes of my childhood of faraway places. The binding, as earlier reviewers on Amazon mention, is noteworthy, but the book might be scuffed or dented easily-- so I'd keep it away from the coffee under the table. But I'd also take it out and read it from cover to cover, for browsing the art will lure you into the print quickly. (Posted to Amazon US 3-20-10. May be hard to find by the generic title, so see my permalink.)

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