The best non-fiction books, unlike the snacky soundbites offered by Twitter and TV news, offer sustained and sustaining narratives that are true food for thought. One of the glories of non-fiction is the depth of research the author has done on your behalf. Years of detective work, interviews, in-the-field reporting, personal experience, historical analysis and careful editing are crafted into a satisfying story.
Each month, we'll be recommending and giving away copies of the choicest history, memoir, journalism, science, philosophy. biography and everything in between. We will discuss the book throughout the month amongst ourselves, and from time to time there?ll be an emailed Q&A with the author, or a live webchat. We hope that you'll be inspired, intrigued and informed - and if you have any recommendations or authors you'd like us to feature, do please let us know.
We're kicking off with Katherine Boo's remarkable BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS which is our February non-fiction book of the month. Visit the non-fiction book of the month page to apply for one of fifty free copies and read more about this
Delighted to be able to post this emailed message from Katherine Boo to everyone on this thread:
"My husband, Sunil, is Indian, and when we met in 2001, I'd been covering poverty and how people get out of it for many years in my own country, the United States. Suddenly I was spending time in India, where despite immense economic growth, the questions that animate my American work seemed just as pressing. I wanted to know what it took for a low-income person in a city like Mumbai, where more than half of all citizens live in slums, to rise out of poverty and into the middle class.
Though I was reading a lot about India, I wasn't getting the in-depth perspective I was longing for. For instance, many existing reports of slum life focused on men, while the more time I spent in urban slums, the more convinced I became that mothers and children were the real driving forces of economic betterment. While a lot of men had given up hope, the mothers simply refused to despair. They wanted very badly for their children to have at least some of the new opportunity and security made possible by India's growth.
So in 2007, I decided with some trepidation to do in Mumbai what I had often done in the U.S.: settling into one poor community for a long time, getting to know the residents intimately, and using my video camera and other tools to document families as they tried to better their lives. I spent the next years following families wherever they went--from collecting garbage to teaching kindergarten to fighting for their lives in jails, courts, and public hospitals.
As I got to know determined mothers like Asha and Zehrunisa, and remarkable children like Manju and Abdul, I was simultaneously doing investigative reporting: using public documents and other means to try to pin down why so much of the aid to the poor that ostensibly existed wasn't getting to the people in need. And in the end, I wrote the book as much as possible from the perspective of the slumdwellers themselves, because I wanted the reader to sense as I do the intelligence, bravery, and psychological complexity of individuals who are too often written about as passive stereotypes. Everywhere I go, I find people are more the same in their hearts than they are different. And one of my hopes is that, when you read about the difficult choices made by Asha or Sunil or Meena or Abdul, you might also find yourself asking: If these were my dilemmas, what would I do? How would I choose? That's what I'm always asking myself.
But given the amount of human talent currently squandered on this planet, the other thing I hope a few people will ask, reading the book, is this: What can we do now to make sure that the great potential of poor children in communities all over the world gets nurtured and given wing? Its a complex and difficult question, but the more people who take it seriously, the better our answers will ultimately be."
Just finished this book which I got via the giveaway. Thought it was absolutely brilliant. Loved the way it was written from the perspective of the slum dwellers & read almost like a fiction book. Would highly recommend this book to others to give you a true insight in to the real India.