A LITTLE FLIGHT READING
PlanetIndia Mira Kamdar (Scribner, $45) TWENTY-NINE per cent of India’s one billionplus residents speak English, and the welleducated and ambitious middle-class population is larger than that of the entire US. Whoever reckons China will be the powerhouse economy of the 21st century needs to read this fact-packed book on the new, go-ahead India.
From the Bollywood assembly line of song-and-dance epics to the booming information technology industry, India appears to be virtually unstoppable as a global force. Unlike China (and such comparisons underpin many of author Mira Kamdar’s observations), with its one-child policy and dormant population, India’s qualified graduates and general workforce are growing with such vigour that it will be the most populous country by 2034. Already India has the youngest population: a cool 600 million under 25.
It’s not all good news, though. Kamdar— a US-based academic of Indian extraction — points out that hundreds of millions of India’s residents live in unacceptable poverty. A testy relationship with neighbouring Pakistan and its status as the biggest purchaser of arms further mean India cannot be dismissed as a key player on the world stage. Susan Kurosawa
EyewitnessTravel: Vietnam&AngkorWat (Dorling Kindersley, $29.95) YOU can spot Eyewitness guides in a travel crowd. It’s the way they’re laid out with lots of little pictures, most of the information in bite-size chunks. The publishers obviously feel they’ve found a winning formula and they’re sticking with it. And why not?
This title is typical: it’s thorough yet concise and covers all obvious bases, from shopping and eating to entertainment and accommodation. If you run into trouble, a survival guide comes to the rescue. Areas are colour-coded for easy reference, which is a neat device.
But for me it’s missing one vital ingredient: the personal touch. There’s no feeling you’re being fed insider secrets; no revelations and no sense of discovery.
The writers — four are credited at the front but they don’t use the ‘‘ I’’ word— could have written much of this without stepping foot into the country (though I’m sure they did). But I quibble: if what you want is the unadorned facts, this guide’s for you. Barry Oliver
HongKongChic Sofia A. Suarez and Zoe Jaques (Archipelago Press, $35) SCAN through this book and you’ll be straight on the net to line up your airline ticket. As with Archipelago’s other Chic titles (from Shanghai to the Caribbean, at least 10 modish destinations), this is a highly visual directory, the hip traveller’s Eyewitness guide (with a focus on consumption rather than art history).
It begins with 30-odd pages of Hong Kong background, with great images, then plunges into fashion, food, clubs and hotels. Divided into sections on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, the page index is organised largely by the names of hotels, restaurants and shopping precincts. It’s great for accommodation spotting and the hottest places to be are all here, but so is the giant Buddha statue sitting high amid the clouds on Lantau Island.
Alluring images range from designer boutiques and glistening market food to horseracing in Happy Valley and a Cantonese opera singer sitting at her makeup table. Judith Elen