These books from Marg make for rich bite-sized reading for the festive season

We’ve always loved the freedom an anthology affords. To be able to peruse small but complete texts, to luxuriate in crisp writing, snatching glorious moments of reading pleasure, is sublime. An anthology brings diverse points of view, and slices of the world. It whets your curiosity, and satisfies you too. There’s a strange comfort in knowing you’ll finish what you started in one sitting. You can carry an anthology with you for years, or finish reading it in hours. As a bunch of holidays appear on the calendar, perhaps it’s a good time to find yourself with a collection of essays, reading between meals, meetings, and assorted shenanigans.

The festive season is also a good excuse to focus on India. Literature on the subcontinent can be daunting, but of the many illustrious publication houses set up in modern India, Mulk Raj Anand’s Marg offers a distinguished selection. These are magazines and books about art, culture, architecture, craft and traditions of the Indian subcontinent, with an occasional foray abroad. Content is often eclectic and surprising, as Marg routinely appoints leading professionals to be editors, and each volume has a specialist at the helm. Profuse illustrations and a wide range of topics make Marg publications a must-have for anyone interested in the cultural landscape of India.

We went through Marg’s robust catalogue to curate the list below—each comes with free-standing chapters that you can read quickly, but all are worthy of a spot on your shelf.

20th Century Compulsions: Modern Indian Architecture from the Marg Archives (2016)
Edited by Mustansir Dalvi

MARG is an acronym for Modern Architectural Research Group. This book annotates archival essays that reflect on the development of Indian architecture. It’s an important resource for studying this development, and in turn society itself. The anthology has a facsimile of Anand’s manifesto for modern India, along with essays by Patrick Geddes, Le Corbusier, Durga Bajpai, and BV Doshi (among others). While the tone may feel a tad academic, these essays are an opportunity to revisit the philosophy and principles in the creation of independent India, dealing with all its myriad challenges and complexities. | BUY

Best for: Design enthusiasts, architecture appreciators

Water Design: Environment and Histories (2016)
Edited by Jutta Jain-Neubauer

Wars have been waged over water—it has shaped cities, politics and architecture. This book dives into the history of water and its impact on Indian history, design, architecture and religious practice. Full of interesting tales, it also inspires travel to stepwells, gardens and reservoirs. Noted historians explore the subcontinent through accounts of the harnessing of river flow in Sultanate Delhi, Mughal Emperor Babur’s engagement with water, and the water landscape and traditional water harvesting in Jaipur. Along with its historical treatment of water, the book also pays attention to the engineering involved, as well as the cultural and religious impact with Jain, Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic interventions in cave excavations, temple sites, gardens and palace complexes. | BUY

Best for: History buffs, curious travellers, engineers

Rembrandt and the Inspiration of India (2018)
Edited by Stephanie Schrader. Published in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum

While books have examined the impact of Europe and the Renaissance on the rest of the world, this volume explores the influence of Mughal art on Rembrandt. The Dutch master artist was interested in the art of the Mughal court, from Shah Jahan to Dara Shukoh’s atelier. The essays contextualise Rembrandt’s engagement with Mughal art, their impact on his practice and the copies he made of the images he saw. The book also looks at the global reach of Mughal artists, who while they’re famous for their finesse, were making copies of Christian imagery. The book is captivating—it juxtaposes Rembrandt and the drawings he was looking at, engendering a fresh look at two of the most glorious periods of history of art! | BUY

Best for: Art enthusiasts, history buffs

Scent upon a Southern Breeze (2018)
Edited by Kavita Singh

If the poetic title catches your eye, the gorgeous illustrations in the book won’t disappoint either. The book examines the arts of the Deccan, and features some of the finest Deccani paintings from collections across the world. When you get your hands on the book, at first flip through to appreciate its beauty alone. Publishing papers from the 2015 symposium and exhibition Nauras: The Many Arts of the Deccan, which took place in Delhi, the book addresses all your senses. Expect essays on music, art, the role of perfume, textile and object, and one on ceremony, sociality and the history of pleasure. It’s as much a treat for the mind as it is for the eyes. | BUY

Best for: Art and design enthusiasts, curious travellers

Aparna Andhare is a curator at a museum in Jaipur and spends all her money on books and coffee. She tweets @a_appy and is on Instagram as @brattybaisaa.