Wednesday the 31st of October–time again for Shelf Control, the last one this month. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

This week my pick is a non-fiction title and a recent acquisition on my Shelf, Coromandel: A Personal History of South India by Charles Allen. This was first published in 2017 and I recently acquired a hardback when it was on sale.

One can I think, describe this one as both a history and a travel book as this isn’t merely the author narrating a history of the Coromandel Coast (the southeastern coast of the subcontinent) but visiting and exploring, “the less well-known, often neglected and very different history and identity of the Dravidian south”. The book explores various facets of the region going into archaeology, religion, linguistics, and anthropology to look at its people, places, and life, and also the influence on the region that came from the North, ultimately showcasing not only the past but also the present. (The final chapter I can see is a commentary on more current events.) The book’s ten chapters, introduction and ‘endnote’ have early illustrations and photographs as well as those taken by the author, besides maps.

I thought this would be an interesting read for me since I haven’t read history or travel books focused on this region. One is familiar with the broader history from more general histories of the country and school lessons but this one being focused on part of the South rather than the region as a whole, and being told from one person (the author’s) personal perspective would I think make it different from an ordinary history book. (Another book I read somewhat on these lines where history is told but with the author’s personal interests, perspective, and story woven in was The First Firangis by Jonathan Gil Harris which I enjoyed very much (review here).) (I also like the cover very much.)

The Author: Charles Allen, British historian and author, has written several works (over 20 books) on India, the country where he was born and where several generations of his family served under the British Raj. Among other subjects, he has written about Kipling, the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, the West’s discovery of Buddhism, and Mount Kailas.

Have you read any history books on India? Which one/s and would you recommend them? Did they change any views/perspective you had based on school lessons or otherwise? Any other books (whether or not focused on India) which are written from the author’s personal perspective that you enjoyed? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Information on the author and book are from the book blurb and Goodreads (here and here).

4 thoughts on “Shelf Control #63: Coromandel by Charles Allen #History #Non-fiction

    1. I meant, before pressing REPLY, to mention that I have a couple of Thubron’s other travel books as well as one or two by William Dalrymple, another enthusiast for the subcontinent — one of these days, even years, I’ll settle down to all those non-fiction books I’ve neglected in favour of my new-found love for novels!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read The White Mughals by Dalrymple which was excellent-the way he pieces the story together made me think of Possession and the characters in that.

        I really enjoy non-fiction when I read it too but like you once I get started on novels, I seem to go on and on and on 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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