What We Are Reading Today: Empress – The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

Updated 11 August 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Empress – The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

Acclaimed historian Ruby Lal has written a brilliant and compelling biography of Nur Jahan.
In 1611, 34-year-old Nur Jahan became the 20th and most cherished wife of the Emperor Jahangir.
The author uncovers the rich life and world of Nur Jahan, rescuing this dazzling figure from patriarchal cliches of romance and intrigue, and giving new insight into the lives of women and girls in the Mughal Empire.
In Empress, Nur finally receives her due in a deeply researched and evocative biography that awakens readers to a fascinating history.
“Lal has done a service to readers interested in the Mughal period and the many forgotten or poorly remembered women of Indian history. She has helped shine a little light on an enigmatic character many think they know but few actually understand,” Vikas Bajaj writes in a review published in the New York Times.
“Lal is clearly constrained by the paucity of the material she has to work with. But she seems too reluctant to draw inferences and make analytical deductions,” the review added.


What We Are Reading Today: The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina

Updated 16 September 2019

What We Are Reading Today: The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina

The Outlaw Ocean represents a four-year project, built on a series of deeply reported features for The New York Times that brought Ian Urbina from the Antarctic to Somalia — but most of it takes place in the impenetrable vastness of the high seas, a region that begins 13 miles from shore. 

Each chapter tells a different story, in locations ranging from the City of Lights, a glowing patch of the Atlantic where hundreds of poachers shine light into the water to catch squid, to unmarked pirate ships and even cruise ships, which Urbina calls “a kind of gentrification of the ocean,” said Blair Braverman in a review for The Times. 

He said: “There is no clear solution to the ocean’s problems because our entire world — our economic system, our geography — is the cause. I’d always assumed the greatest threat to the ocean was the greed of the rich, but in fact it’s the desperation of the poor, which is, of course, the flip side of the same coin.” 

Braverman added: “As long as there is desperation, there will be exploitation. And people, good and bad, will always be able to use the ocean to disappear.”