Some titles are outright offensive, and that makes them stand out in the lot, making you pick them up to read the fineprint. This book is one such: An Indian Citizen’s Guide on How to Avoid A Nation of Idiots. When we got a review request on Instagram (because apparently that’s where the entire world is, including three-fourths of Meraki Post), I was intrigued by the profile picture. After a few days, I had the book with me. I dug in, started with a page titled CAUTION.
Something that I found interesting about the book was that I received two copies. I thought it was a mistake, but no. There was a letter enclosed, that said (among other things):
On the other hand, what we did include is what we consider our best item: Another book. Why? Well, because this could go one of the two ways:
- You like the book, in which case you can gift one to someone, because people take your copy and then don’t return it, or return it smelling of fingertips.
- Or you don’t like the book, in which case you now have two books to gift, because we know how political gifting can get.
The cover is simple with white title on a red background (with the caricatures repeating). This is a cover hard to miss, even though I would argue on the typographical aspect of it. Also, black text on red is a bad idea for a book cover—it’s only good for *conditions apply. Quite some room for improvement.
This is a non-fiction title. Therefore, the characters are real people with their names changed. The characters have been described well, and given the nature of the book itself, the characters are almost people-next-door. Most of the characters chosen are interesting ones, including the author himself.
The book is full of stories and anecdotes, with statements that would make you step back for a second and think. The author picks up episodes from his (or others’) experiences and ties them to the aspects of the society that they exemplify. He then adds what he thinks, or puts across a question to the reader.
The book starts with his experience and observations during the demonetisation of high-denomination notes that happened in 2016: the different ways people dealt with it, the opportunities people saw during the time, and really how the Indian brains worked (including that of the government, of course). Then, he moves on to talk about what makes an ideal Indian man, how Indian women deal with their lives, how our society raises kids, and goes on to inheritance, sexuality, politics, religion, media, and then talks about how we became a country ruled by a public listed company (a particularly interesting read), and finally, how to defuse an idiot.
The author is rather smooth in his accusations and pinches. I liked it.
This book would read like a blog post. And I mean it in a good way. The flow was smooth through the entire book. You would complete the book and not even realise going through two hundred pages.
I would not call the language that of some distinct literary quality—far from it. But again, this is not a Chetan Bhagat title. Given the audience the book targets, I feel that the language the book uses is apt for the context of that non-reader Indian.
One aspect of the book that irked me was the punctuation. At some places, it seems arbitrary. And this I say by Indian, British and American English standards. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but something that gives you a bad impression of the quality. I have seen this with indie authors, and the trend is not good.
The flow. It has been long since I read a book that read so well. Not one paragraph of the book is dry.
Another good point is the satirical value. The author glides through some topics with great political correctness. I would be rather surprised if this book got stuck in a controversy.
At the start of every chapter, you have a short note that gives you a taste of what lies ahead, and sometimes, hits you at the right spot.
The author has also exploited some of the writing elements in a good way. You would come out of some of those sections amused.
Another trend I see with indie authors is disregard for typography. It seems as though the author/printer/publisher simply fired up Microsoft Word with the defaults, added content and printed it to make a book. This riles me up. The paragraph spacing plus the first line indent, the leading, justification with no hyphenation causing horrendously inconsistent inter-word spacing, Word-controlled “widow” and “orphan” avoidance, and the list goes on. The typeface used is bad as well. If Word was the only option, there still are decent typefaces that come pre-packaged with it; Sitka, for example.
Again, not a deal-breaker, and far better than the Kindle, but some simple steps could have made a lot of difference.
Overall, I liked the book. We hear a lot of criticism for the way our society works, but saying those things out loud makes the “protectors” of the society more defensive. The author navigates the lanes smoothly, and puts across some basic but important questions that make you stop for a moment to think.
Besides, this is among the best non-dry non-fiction I read in a long time.
But no, it isn’t “life altering” like this Amazon review claims it to be. Does it have facts? Yes. Is it entertaining with a sting? Yes. Is it good satire? Yes. Would I recommend the book? Yes. Is it life-altering? No.
Whom do I recommend this to?
Every Indian. Especially every Indian Millennial (also those that prefer Ola and Uber over buying a car). Plus, those who are staunch “bhakts”, and the real desh-bhakts who want to prevent the exploitation of every Indian citizen. Of course, this book is no Bible, but a pretty good starting point.
This book has witty stuff. But in the interest of not giving out spoilers, I shall limit the quotes to the more normal.
… how society embraces these absurd practices had puzzled me. And it threw me off—the conversation—a woman validating and preaching male chauvinism.
But he forgets; he can question.
Women experience our country quite different than men.
If a state does not exist, they first create it, and then declare the killing open.
I assumed I got carried away. The question was, by whom?
Political parties across the spectrum, across religions, came together …
But you keep voting on religion.
Just my opinion. Don’t go burning things just yet.
Go ahead, grab yourself a copy of A Nation of Idiots and tell us what you think about the book! If you are a Kindle person, ensure to select the Kindle edition of the book.
Looking to buy a Kindle?
The frontlit, high-resolution Kindle Paperwhite seems to be the officially preferred Kindle at Meraki Post; Veena, Gazala and Ram have one each. And while Pooja may claim she is more of the “Love the new book smell” kind of person, she may be secretly deciding between the premium Kindle Oasis and the simple and efficient Good Ol’ Kindle.
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