The number of books incorporating “the Idea of India” into their title in recent times is indicative that this idea has been in a crisis for a while. Siddhartha Sarma’s Carpenters and Kings is one more response to this crisis of India, dealing with an oft-ignored population group. In an environment where the Hindu Right suggests that Christianity and Islam are foreign to India, this book seeks to “set the record straight” and demonstrate that the history of Christianity in India is a nearly two-millennia-long story of great complexity.

Oba Yozo, the central character and anti-hero of Dazai Osamu’s Ningen Shikkaku, is as familiar to Japanese readers as Holden Caulfield is to English readers. The Catcher in the Rye still sells a million copies per year, in dozens of languages, while in Japanese only a few novels, notably Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro, routinely outsell Ningen Shikkaku. Catcher, however, pales beside Ningen as a literary achievement.

The vast majority of silverware in Thailand does not possess any reign or maker’s mark or other indicator as to date or place of manufacture. Most of the marks found are Chinese “chop marks”, stamped onto the underside of the silver object, perhaps with the aim of validating authenticity. Sometimes, the Chinese characters were transliterated into Thai from the Chaozhou dialect although this never became common practice.

The first time I set foot in the war zone, a Ukrainian soldier chastely kissed my cheek before confiding he was excited to tell his mother that he had kissed a Frenchwoman. A few minutes later, just beside me, his fellow soldiers were perched on a tank, firing shots in the air to disperse residents who were opposed to their presence. The ringing from the shots caused me to lose hearing in one ear for a full 24 hours.

To imagine the Shanghai of the 1930s is to frame art-deco frontages on chiaroscuro streets, behind which noirish figures from a polyglot demi-monde sip whiskies and soda. The city in this era has an imaginative power in the Western mind beyond that of any other place in China, fuelled by an intoxicating cocktail of equal measures myth and reality. Paul French, a long-time resident of the city, now returned to London, offers two complimentary portraits of the place and those westerners pulled inexorably toward it in his new books, City of Devils and Destination Shanghai.