Praise and Reviews

Winner of:
• The National Book Award
• The Los Angeles Times Book Award
• The American Academy of Arts & Letters Award in Literature
• NYPL Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism
• PEN/Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction
• Book-of-the-Month Club New Visions Award
• Oldie Travel Writer of the Year (UK)

Finalist for:
• The Pulitzer Prize
• National Book Critics Circle Award
• Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award
• The Dayton Literary Peace Prize
• The Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award
• The Duff Cooper Award (UK)
• The Guardian First Book Award (UK)
• The Samuel Johnson Prize (UK)

Named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by:
• The New York Times Book Review
• The Washington Post
• O: The Oprah Magazine
• USA Today
• New York
• The Miami Herald
• San Francisco Chronicle
• Newsday

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by:
• The New Yorker
• People
• Entertainment Weekly
• The Wall Street Journal
• The Boston Globe
• The Economist
• Financial Times
• Newsweek/The Daily Beast
• Foreign Policy
• The Seattle Times
• The Nation
• St. Louis Post-Dispatch
• The Denver Post
• Minneapolis Star Tribune
• Salon
• The Plain Dealer
• The Week
• Kansas City Star
• Slate
• Time Out New York
• Publishers Weekly


“A depiction of despair and dreams in an Indian megacity that is as vivid as great fiction.”

Financial Times

“Must read. Katherine Boo “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”. A Mumbai slum understood and imagined as never before in language of intense beauty.”

Salman Rushdie

“Exquisite in every detail, this book about a slum in India informs the mind, elevates the soul and will leave you invested in the lives chronicled by one of the premier journalists of our time.”

Steve Giegerich, The Daily Gazette

“The even-handedness that stems from Katherine Boo’s natural and abundant empathy is one of the many appeals of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, her gorgeous book on one of Mumbai’s slums, Annawadi…The book contains a particularly important message for those who have monopolised the ear of the Indian government’s key leaders, and who place their hopes for the poor in financial handouts and empowerment through legal rights.”

Arvind Subramanian, Business Standard (Indian publication)

“Boo is a talented storyteller, a dogged journalist, and she has spun an exquisite story, which at times is difficult to believe is reportage…Very much like India, this book is an assault to the senses, at times overbearing, darkly entertaining, tear-jerking, sadistically humorous, cunningly capricious, bewitchingly bewildering and always at every point deeply soulful.”

Ira Trivedi, (author of There is No Love on Wall Street), Deccan Chronicle

“This is recommended reading for all our policy-makers, ministers, legislators, bureaucrats and others who are interested in India, and it should be provided in translation for those who do not understand English. It busts many myths we have held dear and true, and opens up a new world to the reader. And imagine, it had to be written, in a country teeming with journalists, economists, social critics and development experts, by an American.”

Deccan Herald

“Boo’s crucial strength is an empathetic imagination. Her book has the closely observed and artfully constructed quality of high fiction and film.”

Isaac Chotiner, The New Republic

“Boo conveys what happened and didn’t happen in her reporting with such authority that scant room seems left for any other interpretation of the facts. But her authority is earned. We come to know whole people, and even when they deserve a dose of blame for their plight, we feel we understand why they’ve done what they’ve done.”

Monica Potts, American Prospect (blog)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, offers a rebuke to official reports and dry statistics on the global poor… Besides witnessing the official mistreatment of Annawadians, we come away from [Boo’s] book convinced that efforts to help the poor demand a better picture of the obstacle course they navigate daily and the impossible choices they sometimes face. Boo is one of few chroniclers providing this picture. She’s a moral force and, for all her delicacy, an artist of reverberating power.”

The American Prospect

“This is an astonishing book. It is astonishing at several levels: as a worm’s-eye view of the “undercity” of one of the world’s largest metropolises; as an intensely reported, deeply felt account of the lives, hopes and fears of people traditionally excluded from literate narratives; as a story that truly hasn’t been told before, at least not about India and not by a foreigner. But most of all, it is astonishing that it exists at all.”

Shashi Tharoor, Denver Post

“To accomplish this writing, Boo has performed a feat of access and candid reportage that amounts to a devotion.”

Mark Kramer, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The end product is a richly detailed tapestry of tragedy and triumph told by a seemingly omniscient narrator with an attention to detail that reads like fiction while in possession of the urgent humanity of nonfiction.”

Jessica Gelt, Chicago Tribune

“Boo uncovers the human drama amid the squalor, and it’s her diverse characters who hook you…Boo doesn’t just deserve praise for her unflinching look at these difficult lives. Her vital book keeps us from looking away, too.”

Tom Beer, Newsday

“Call Katherine Boo…George Orwell’s greatest living acolyte… Unlike most of the reporting one is likely to read on the disadvantaged…Boo is incapable of pity, paternalism, or canned outrage…Her writing transcends cheap left-isms or right-isms; her deep well of empathy forbids her from rapport,political or otherwise.”

Richard Poplak, National Post

“In Behind the Beautiful Forevers…Katherine Boo sketches characters with Dickensian vividness against the black machinations of communal enmities, caste and ethnic politics, class prejudice, sexism, and corruption.”

Bharati Mukherjee, The Wilson Quarterly

“Katherine Boo has managed something extraordinary in her first book… She has written a “Big India Book” that is anything but…In Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Boo’s canvas is small. Her story is small, her cast of characters is small, her setting is small… And yet, in focusing on the minute details of life in a tiny Mumbai slum, Boo has crafted a compelling portrait of the lives – and deaths – of the vast majority of modern Indians.”

Neil Munshi, Financial Times Blog

“Remember the title of Katherine Boo’s new book Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, because you will see it on upcoming nominee lists for the next round of Very Important Literary Prizes… [A]n unforgettable true story, meticulously researched with unblinking honesty … “Beautiful” is pure, astonishing reportage with as unbiased a lens as possible about specific individuals who populate a clearly demarcated section of ever-changing Mumbai.”

Christian Science Monitor

“The words of Boo and the inhabitants of Annawadi rushed through me like a river, cracking open thoughts of how hard this work is, my anger at those who demand simple solutions and expect easy returns; yet, at the sametime, pushing me more urgently to find voice, to speak truth when it hurts. For all of this, I am grateful to the author for her courage, persistence, and openness.”

The Huffington Post

“Boo succeeds where so many reporters have failed because she has given the people of the undercity the same time and attention they would have received had they been residents of the overcity…Her superb sense of detail, her nuanced writing and her considerable empathy make Behind the Beautiful Forevers nothing short of a masterpiece.”

Laila Lalami, The Nation

“She writes like a poet, tells stories like a novelist, and reports like the finest muckraker. If books could raise people from the dead, this one would do it.”

Nicholas Thompson, The New Yorker (blog)

“… Ms. Boo has done something much more interesting and subversive than write a terrific book: Though a product of the Western storytelling apparatus, she has pointed toward a new world in which writing about places is not an act of writing for somebody, but an act of writing from somebody.”

Anand Giridharadas, “Narrative With No Need for Translation,” New York Times (blog)

“Boo’s new book is a welcome exception. An extraordinary work of reportage, Behind the Beautiful Forevers is the single most illuminating portrait of India’s poor, their ambitions, and the monumental labors they perform and sacrifices they make to escape destitution.”

Basharat Peer, Foreign Affairs

“As good a reporter as she is, Boo is an even better storyteller…. Boo’s writing skills are such that she can render even a dirty slum lovely (“The pale sun lent the sewage lake a sparkling silver cast” ), and on a deeper level, extract sublime irony from a seemingly straightforward news story.”

Seattle Times

“This is an astonishing book. It is astonishing on several levels: as a worm’s-eye view of the “undercity” of one of the world’s largest metropolises; as an intensely reported, deeply felt account of the lives, hopes and fears of people traditionally excluded from literate narratives; as a story that truly hasn’t been told before, at least not about India and not by a foreigner. But most of all, it is astonishing that it exists at all…. a searing account, in effective and racy prose, that reads like a thrilling novel but packs a punch Sinclair Lewis might have envied.”

Washington Post

“A richly detailed tapestry of tragedy and triumph told by a seemingly omniscient narrator with an attention to detail that reads like fiction while in possession of the urgent humanity of nonfiction.”

Los Angeles Times

“Character development. An acute ear for dialogue and idiom. A sense of place. These are the essential ingredients of a good novel. So what’s a fiction writer like me supposed to do when Boo employs all these and writes a book of nonfiction so stellar it puts most novels to shame? How can I not envy a work that takes us on harrowing journey into an unfamiliar world of an urban slum and makes us citizens of that world? To add salt to my literary wounds: That slum is located in Mumbai, the city of my birth, one I’ve written about frequently, and until now, claimed to know and understand. It turns out I knew little. And understood even less.”

Thrity Umrigar, Boston Globe

““Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity” is a searing investigation of the ways in which the striving of slum dwellers is stymied by infighting, corruption and economic fluctuations. It is also a brilliant novelistic narration of three years in the life of a slum named Annawadi… [A] vivid account of a self-contained but fragile universe tossed about by the storms of the outside world.”

Wall Street Journal

“There are cult filmmakers and cult novelists, but Katherine Boo may be the world’s only cult journalist. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is the result of intensive, immersive observation over the course of four years in the life of a Mumbai shantytown called Annawadi… [S]eamless and intimate…”

Salon.com

“Extraordinary… Behind the Beautiful Forevers does not descend into a catalog of atrocity… The product of prolonged and risky self-exposure to Annawadi, the book’s narrative stitches, with much skillfully unspoken analysis, some carefully researched individual lives. Its considerable literary power is also derived from Boo’s soberly elegant prose… Perhaps wisely, Boo has absented herself from the narrative… Instead of the faux-na?f explainer or the intrepid adventurer in Asian badlands, you get a reflective sensibility, subtly informing every page with previous experiences of deprivation and striving, and a gentle skepticism about ideological claims.”

New York Times Book Review

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a jaw-dropping achievement, an instant classic of narrative nonfiction…In following these families’ fortunes and misfortunes, Boo transcends and subverts every cliché, cynical or earnest, that we harbor about Indian destitution and gazes directly into the hearts, hopes, and human promise of vibrant people whom you’ll not soon forget.”

Elle Magazine

Tough-minded, inspiring, and irresistible book…Boo’s extraordinary achievement is twofold.  She shows us how people in the most desperate circumstances can find the resilience to hang on to their humanity. Just as importantly, she makes us care.”

People

“[An] exquisitely accomplished first book. Novelists dream of defining characters this swiftly and beautifully, but Ms. Boo is not a novelist. She is one of those rare, deep-digging journalists who can make truth surpass fiction, a documentarian with a superb sense of human drama….Comparisons to Dickens are not unwarranted.”

Janet Maslin, New York Times

“Riveting…[A] stunning piece of narrative nonfiction; it not only reports on some of the world’s poorest people and their dizzying resourcefulness and criminality but portrays them in all their humanity.”

O, The Oprah Magazine

A mind-blowing read.

Redbook