A patron browses books at the City of Santa Clarita Public Library Valencia branch in California. ( Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg) 

Women Leaders On Books That Shaped Their Success

A collection of stories, words of wisdom, and courage in the face of hopelessness. Some of India’s most successful women speak to BloombergQuint on books and authors that have inspired them.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Award-winning and bestselling author, poet and activist. She’s the author of The Forest Of Enchantments.

Image courtesy: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Image courtesy: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, By Maya Angelou

This memoir traces the childhood of the writer when she and her brother were sent to live with their grandmother in the American South of the 1930s—they were put on a train by their uncaring father with tags on their wrists, as though they were baggage.

“This book left an indelible mark on me because of the vivid picture it paints of childhood adventures and joys, terrifying and baffling racist incidents that leave a scar, and the searing tragedy of families as they try to protect their children from the hatred and violence of adults,” Divakaruni said. “Angelou’s story resonated with me as a writer. It taught me how to delve deep into pain and bring alive emotions so that readers will care.”

Women Leaders On Books That Shaped Their Success

The Liberation Of Sita, By Volga

In these spare yet electrifying stories, Volga forces us to re-think the familiar tales of the women of the Ramayan.

“We enter imagined spaces such as Surpanakha’s garden, where Sita finds an unexpected moment of friendship and peace. We witness Sita’s encounter with Renuka, the mother of Parashuram—who killed his mother because his father ordered him to do so, though later he brings her back to life—an encounter which strengthens Sita’s resolve to refuse to compromise,” Divakaruni said. “This book makes us examine the patriarchal stories that we were given as children in a new, clearer light. As a writer, I learned from this book that there are always stories beneath stories, and it led me to explore Sita’s thoughts and actions more deeply than I had before.”

Women Leaders On Books That Shaped Their Success

Finding Radha, By Namita Gokhale And Malashri Lal

This anthology collects many stories, essays and poems about yet another enigmatic character out of our ancient stories and sacred texts: Radha, the beloved of Krishna, deified yet ultimately left behind.

“The authors have put together well-known interpretations along with modern re-tellings of the Radha story (such as by Tarashankar Bandopadhyay and Indira Goswami), and heartbreaking songs and poems in Radha’s own voice as well as the voices of her women friends,” Divakaruni said. “I learned a great deal about Radha, who comes to life through her joys, her pains, her ultimate tragedy when Krishna leaves her forever to take up the important kingly and leaderly roles for which he became an avatar, and her final dignity and determination. Who knows, maybe this will inspire one of my future novels.”

Tessy Thomas

Tessy Thomas. (Source: Wikemedia Commons) 
Tessy Thomas. (Source: Wikemedia Commons) 

A scientist at the Defence Research and Development Organisation. She served as the project director for the Agni IV and V missiles—the first woman to lead missile teams in India. She is popularly known as the ‘Missile Woman’ of India.

Wise And Otherwise, By Sudha Murty

In this book, Murthy recounts experiences she has of people across the country.

Makashweta, By Sudha Murty

Murty narrates the struggles of a girl suffering from leukoderma—the society ostracised her but she is determined to live her life in the best way possible.

The Old Man And His God, By Sudha Murty

Thomas said all these books narrate real life stories and “human suffering with hidden messages”. The books, she said, give insight on how to overcome problems.

Wings Of Fire: An Autobiography, By APJ Abdul Kalam

This book is about the struggles of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

“All of Dr. Kalam’s books feel like we are going through our own story since we were also a part of his journey, and it is about a person who has influenced our character the most,” Thomas said.

Women Leaders On Books That Shaped Their Success

Introduction To Radar Systems, By Merill Skolnik

This book gives a thorough understanding of the radar system technologies and practices.

“Referring to his book is one of my all time favourites,” Thomas said. “It holds a special place for me because it was my favourite subject while studying engineering, and its applications were learnt during my career as a scientist.”

Guneet Monga

A film producer and founder of Sikhya Entertainment. Monga won an Oscar for her film ‘Period. End of Sentence.’

Image courtesy: official Twitter page of Guneet Monga 
Image courtesy: official Twitter page of Guneet Monga 

Unbound: 2,000 Years Of Women’s Writing, By Annie Zaidi

This book covers everything from the work of Buddhist nuns (called Theris) to Arundhati Roy to Naintara Saigal and Shivani.

Monga said this is a must read because it is ‘deeply spiritual and insightful’.

Women Leaders On Books That Shaped Their Success

Bombay Blues, By Tanuja Desai Hidier

This is the story about a young woman trying to find her place in the world. Monga said this is a “very relatable and an engaging book”.

Women Leaders On Books That Shaped Their Success