Scattered throughout India one can find ancient synagogues, sometimes just remnants, that date back almost 3000 years. In Growing Up Jewish in India: Synagogues, Customs, and Communities from the Bene Israel to the Art of Siona Benjamin the diverse stories of Indian Jews is showcased through essays, photos, and a memoir of artist Siona Benjamin, perhaps the best known Jewish Indian in the United States.

Sikhs, at least Sikh men, are conspicuous among Indians by their ever-present turbans and their less noticeable but similarly ever-present daggers. Mistaken for, and sometimes attached as Aghani Muslims after 9/11, they can also be misunderstood in their native India, mocked as dim-wits in the Sardarji jokes and, followingt the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguard, targeted by state-sponsored propaganda and violence. Sikhism itself is, to non-adherents, obscure relative to Hinduism or Buddhism.

Here are two indispensable and beautifully-written guidebooks designed to lead readers through essential Buddhist thought. One is an ancient guide in verse by the western Indian sage Shantideva (c 685-763) to becoming a bodhisattva, someone who seeks enlightenment in order to pass it on to everyone else. The other is a modern bilingual guide by Alex Kerr using the Japanese version of the Heart Sutra, a Mahayana Buddhist text whose mere 56 lines of poetry are regarded by many as the key to all Buddhist wisdom.

To some extent, all one needs to know about The Java Enigma is that it has been called, more than once, “Da Vinci Code”-like. This will either intrigue or repel, depending on how one feels about Dan Brown’s genre-creating blockbuster. Neither reaction would however be entirely warranted, for—while there are certainly similarities—Erni Salleh’s debut novel is quite a different animal. For one thing, it’s a lot shorter.

In his perennially wonderful (if now dated—the abridged version was issued by its author in 1922 based on the 12-volume full one) Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, Sir James Frazer tells us that magic was the precursor to religion. Van Schaik uses Frazer’s analysis as an example of what has by now become the “conventional” view of the subject, although it refers largely to what Frazer called “sympathetic magic,” which van Schaik says “has dominated much of the discussion of magical practice” since the issue of The Golden Bough. It was “the first primitive stage in mankind’s attempt to understand and control the world,” as Sam van Schaik sums it up, or the belief “that things act on each other through a secret sympathy,” as Frazer himself put it.