Sunday, November 15, 2009

What I Just Read: On The Grand Trunk Road

Steve Coll and Mr. Staggs (yes I just Googled a High School teachers name and I got his Twitter page in under a minute, the world we live in is bizarre. I also got his blog and Linked in page, as a result I now know pretty much everything about the guy since I last saw him 6 years ago) are the two main reasons why I chose Political Science as my major. Thomas Friedman is another reason but I like to forget about that time in my life.

Anyway, as a result of my love of all things written by Coll it was inevitable that I would stumble across On The Grand Trunk Road at the Derby Square bookstore and therefore force myself to buy a book that was published in 1994. So what if most of the info on India and Pakistan is out of date and the Tamil Rebels are no more, I still enjoyed learning more about India and Pakistan than just Nehru and Jinnah (not to mention learning anything at all about Sri Lanka, for one I had no idea India occupied Sri Lanka for a few years).

My favorite part of the book was Coll's work on the question's surrounding General Zia's death. Besides it being perfectly obvious that Zia was assassinated by his own men it shows exactly to what lengths Coll will go to in order to find the real story. My understanding for what drives Coll is much clearer as a result.

Though I ended up not reading the end of the book because it contained only a fraction of the insight Coll gave in his book Ghost Wars a decade later (10 years works wonders, especially with the help of a research assistant or two), I would say that the book was worth reading even if time has given it quite a beating. His first hand accounts and the present day feel of events that happened 20 years ago make reading the history easier than it would be if I were sitting in a history class.

Like the majority of non-fiction books this book did little for me when it came to the cover. And why should it have? It's is about actual events and not some parallel universe which allows the imagination to do whatever it wants with the cover as long it is remotely linked to the story in some way. He is a journalist not a creative thinker.

In summation: Do I like the cover? Not really. Do I think it could have been better? Certainly. Do I care to spend another line talking about how much better it could have been? No.

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