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Off the Shelf On Books

Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | English Non-fiction

Off the Shelf On Books

This is a book about one life

Full Title: Off the Shelf On Books, Book People and Places

Author: Sridhar Balan
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Publishing

Award Category: English Non-fiction
About the Book: 

This is a book about one life—the author’s—and many other lives—of legendary writers, editors, publishers and booksellers—spent with words: written, printed and bound. Drawing upon years of reading and a long career in publishing, Sridhar Balan gives us stories and facts about some extraordinary people and places related to books. There are accounts of Dean Mahomed, the first Indian author in English, and E.V. Rieu, who set up Oxford University Press (OUP) in Bombay and later initiated the Penguin Classics series, translating Homer’s Odysseyeven as bombs fell around him in London. There are anecdotes about Roy Hawkins—‘Hawk’—who laid the foundation for some fine publishing at OUP, and Ravi Dayal, who carried on Hawk’s legacy. The remarkable career of Ram Advani, the legendary bookseller of Lucknow, is sketched along with that of Dhanesh Jain, an academic who manufactured buttons before he found his true calling and established Ratna Sagar, a pioneer in text-book publishing.

Along the way, Balan gives us delightful accounts of the launch of Jim Corbett’s Man-Eaters of Kumaon in New York and Salim Ali’s The Handbook of Indian Birds at Indira Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi; describes a memorable meeting between Andre Malraux and Nehru in Paris; and reveals how a nun was persuaded to buy an erotic novel at Delhi’s World Book Fair.

About the Author: 

After a few years teaching at a university, Sridhar Balan joined the publishing industry and had long careers with Oxford University Press and Ratna Sagar. He has also been a literary columnist with several Indian newspapers. He is currently a consultant with Ratna Books, an imprint for translations. This is his first book.

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