Editor’s note: We feature the brilliant recommendations of our partner, the Champaca Bookstore, in the Read section twice a month. FYI: Champaca is an independent women-run and founded bookstore and children's library in Bangalore.
Let's Get Nerdy
Are you a science nerd or a liberal arts aficionado? Why not be both? At Champaca, we love reading about scientific theories and stories from the arts in equal measure. If you have been revelling in the comfort of the arts for some time now, here is a dose of inspiration via a dive into the fascinating world of science.
Robert Sapolsky wished he was born a mountain gorilla. He spent his childhood writing to primatologists and taught himself Swahili in the hope of joining his primate brethren in Africa. When he was 21, his dream came true—a research grant to study a troop of Savannah baboons in Africa. ‘A Primates’s Memoir’ is a chronicle of Sapolsky’s journey for over twenty years as he slowly observes, infiltrates and befriends the baboons and collects a treasury of incredible lessons both scientific and philosophical.
In ‘Chemistry for Breakfast’, award-winning chemist and scientist Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim gives us a tour of the science behind everyday life—why does the alarm clock annoy us? How does toothpaste work? It also explains space travel in an easy, witty, conversational style.
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us
Are there more than six senses? How do animals perceive the world? Do all animals have their own sensory bubble that is just a sliver of an immense world? In ‘Immense World’ by science journalist Ed Yong, we enter a new dimension—we encounter beetles that are drawn to fires, turtles that can track the Earth's magnetic fields, fish that fill rivers with electrical messages, and discover that a crocodile's scaly face is as sensitive as a lover's. Ed Yong convinces us that to understand the world we don't need to travel to different places, we only need to see through someone else’s eyes.
Why do we add salt to kheer, or sugar to sambar, and why does that balance the taste perfectly? Why did our grandmothers use their index fingers as a form of measurement? Meticulously tested and researched, ‘Masala Lab’ by Krish Ashok is a scientific exploration of Indian cooking. It proves that our grandmothers were not just great cooks, but little scientists too!
If you enjoyed the experience of Pedro Pascal bludgeon fungus-infused zombies in ‘The Last of Us’, you are perhaps officially obsessed and in awe of all things fungi. In ‘Entangled Life’, author and biologist Merlin Sheldrake writes about his quest to understand this vastly understudied field of mycology (the study of fungi). Sheldrake helps us understand that fungi are neither plants nor animals, forming surprising and complex relationships with other life forms. Fungi have shaped human history and continue to influence our societies—think about bread, alcohol and various drugs which we use in our everyday lives—despite us knowing so little about them.
‘Lab Girl’ is the story of Botanist Hope Jahren—her discoveries in the lab, her struggles as a woman in the world of science, her travels around the globe and the underlying theme behind all these, her undying love for her work. Interspersed with scientific facts, musings and philosophy, ‘Lab Girl’ is about how scientific work became a sanctuary for her heart and hands.
For many years now, dominant societies have had the habit of believing their own people to be the best: the more powerful they become, the more power begins to be framed as natural instead of cultural. ‘Superior’ tells the disturbing story of how science has been persistently tainted and used to justify racial prejudice. Angela Saini, a science journalist, (who previously wrote ‘Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story’) writes this meticulously researched and very timely book, when people are again beginning to use bogus race science to justify their prejudices and dominance.
Life at Champaca
The summer has been scorching, but Champaca has been a sanctuary, literally and figuratively for all of us. We got the opportunity to do various things—celebrated India’s Partition last month with a curated collection, storytelling and film screening, and conducted a nature walk for children at Cubbon Park. As Bangalore cools down in May (lucky us!) we look forward to hosting a ‘Make your own comics’ workshop for children and launching Naveen Kishore’s latest poetry collection ‘Mother Muse Quintet’. If you’re in Bangalore, we invite you to come to our lush, leafy store, attend the events and browse through our shelves with cold tender coconut water.