The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

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Buy it at

The 150-word Review: With Slumdog Millionaire’s explosion into the world’s zeitgeist, modern-day India with its unrestrained energy and its arresting pastiche of colors, textures, and sounds has become a microcosm of globalization.  It’s a bridge between the old world and the new.  Much like Slumdog, Booker-winning The White Tiger captures this same dynamic, but through the idiosyncratic mind of one unforgettable character.

In a series of letters to Wen Jiabao, the Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Balram Halwai describes his life’s journey from a peasant lost in the Darkness of rural India to a chauffeur in Delhi to a successful entrepreneur in Bangalore.  In a remarkably unrepentant voice (reminiscent of Meursault from Camus’ The Stranger), Balram pontificates on the indignities of the caste system, the shackles of the traditional Indian family, and the chasm between the Haves and the Have-nots–and the horrific means he’s taken to control his own destiny.

You will like this book if you’re a fan of: Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, outsourcing, a Honda City, chandeliers, Murder Weekly, political corruption, and moral ambiguity.

Cliff Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Aravind Adiga was formerly a journalist for the Financial Times and TIME magazine.


Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

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The 150-word Review: Cormac McCarthy has become a big deal. The domination of the Coen Brothers’ “No Country for Old Men” at the Oscars highlights his most recent blip in the collective conscious. Before that, McCarthy’s grimly sublime “The Road” won a Pulitzer. The media-shy author even (shockingly) appeared on Oprah’s “Pimp My Book.” Long before all of this, he wrote arguably his best work, “Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West.”

“The Road” unfurled across a post-apocalyptic landscape. In “Blood Meridian,” the primordial volcanic hell of the Texas-Mexico badlands serves as the canvas for a story about the Kid, who joins a gang of scalp hunters and is baptized into the world of violence and suffering. Tennyson once wrote, “Nature (is) red in tooth and claw,” a notion McCarthy personifies best with the seductively fearsome Judge Holden, a seven-foot tall hairless albino, who exists outside of humanity, time, and morality.

You would like this book if you’re a fan of: coming-of-age stories gone awry, long walks in the desert, heroic journeys featuring no heroes, dialogue sans quotations, southern gothic westerns, and every speech by Satan in “Paradise Lost.”

This book would go great with: rotgut whiskey, sunstroke, or mescal.

Cliff Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Hey Norm, did you know that… noted literary critic, Harold Bloom, listed Cormac McCarthy as one of the four greatest living American authors, along with Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, and Philip Roth?

Reading this book would impress: Sam Peckinpah, Dante Alighieri, Gnostics, and Oprah viewers.