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What's trending or not in our bookshelves this week

A child learns to make peace with difficult truths, a conman writer meets his comeuppance, and the story of India's largest private dairy company

The front covers of the three books.
The front covers of the three books.

The Plot: By Jean Hanff Korelitz, Faber, 336 pages, $28 (approx. 2,075)

A one-book-wonder writer ends up teaching a creative writing course at a mid-tier American college, where one of his students tells him he has an “unbeatable” plot—the kind that will make any book, even a badly written one, race to the top of best-seller lists and get made into a movie by an A-list Hollywood director. This Stephen King-ish storyline is spun into a wholly original thriller by Hanff Korelitz, who not only gives the reader a highly satisfying book-within-a-book but also provokes questions fundamental to writing. Is anything in the world really original? How much do we build on existing narratives when we set out to tell “our” story? And, finally, to whom does a story really belong?

Aai and I: By Mamta Nainy and Sanket Pethkar, Pickle Yolk Books, 32 pages, 350

Mamta Nainy’s heartwarming picture book, beautifully illustrated by Sanket Pethkar, is about a little girl—the “I” of the title—who can’t wait to welcome her Aai (mother) home after several weeks. Aai had to be hospitalised after doctors found something in her chest “that was growing too big too quickly”. When she comes back, “I” is overjoyed but also puzzled to find Aai’s hair all cropped. All her little life, she had heard she was a mirror image of her Aai, “same to same”—and suddenly she is no longer one. And so, she decides to find a solution at once. It takes the gift of sensitivity and imagination to create haunting stories out of the darkness of life for young readers. Nainy and Pethkar do this with consummate skill, while never overstating the facts. Much recommended for children and also for adults who struggle to talk about difficult subjects with them.

Broke To Break Through: By Harish Damodaran, Penguin Viking, 224 pages, 699

Years before multinational firms realised the potential of “Bharat’s next billion”, a gritty 21-year-old from Tamil Nadu’s semi-arid Virudhunagar district decided to manufacture “ice candies” in rural India. Until his Arun brand came along, ice cream was considered a treat only for city folk, and R. Chandramogan cannily sold this aspiration, branding Arun as “ice cream from Madras” and opening stand-alone parlours. Over the next 50 years, the ice-cream company he started in a 250 sq. ft room with 13,000 in 1970 would grow into Hatsun Agro, valued at over 5,500 crore. This is the story Harish Damodaran tells in Broke To Break Through, explaining Chandramogan’s astute understanding of branding and customers as well as the foresight of his decision to procure directly from farmers. Damodaran provides a clear picture of the company’s growth but more context, situating Hatsun’s growth within the larger picture of the dairy industry and Indian economy, would have made this a richer tale of a company that tapped into the opportunity in rural India.

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