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Extended Audio Sample A Free Man, by Aman Sethi Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (302 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Aman Sethi Narrator: Vikas Adam Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Like Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun and Alexander Masters’ Stuart, this is a tour de force of narrative reportage—an intimate portrait of an invisible man.

Mohammed Ashraf studied biology in college, and after college he learned how to repair television sets, cut suit lengths, and slice chicken. He has lived in Mumbai, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Surat, and Patna, but this evening he is stoned on a street in Sadar Bazaar in North Delhi. The morning shall bring hangovers, whiskey breakfasts, and possibly answers to the lingering questions that haunt Ashraf. How did he get here? Why is he the way he is? And is there a way back home?

In this compelling account of the life of an itinerant laborer, Aman Sethi brings Ashraf vividly alive and illuminates the lives of countless others like him. Wry, humorous, and insightful, A Free Man is an unforgettable portrait of an invisible man in his invisible city.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Funny, poignant, and deeply moving, A Free Man is an extraordinary vignette into an extraordinary life.”

    Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies

  • “A deeply moving, funny, and brilliantly written account from one of India’s most original new voices.”

    Katherine Boo, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers

  • A Free Man is a brilliant capturing of the language and bloodstream of a city. Aman Sethi has made a book that’s remarkable in its voice and evocation.”

    Michael Ondaatje, New York Times bestselling author of The English Patient

  • A Free Man is stunning. It reminds me of that Victorian masterpiece of investigative journalism, Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and London Poor. Aman Sethi ‘gets’ modern India better than any other journalist I know. Not only is he a remarkable reporter and storyteller but he possesses a novelist’s ear for language, sense of the absurd, and perfect pitch. I’m bowled over, totally.”

    Sylvia Nasar, New York Times bestselling author of A Beautiful Mind

  • “As a writer, Sethi has a keen eye for detail and a sense of perception that succeeds in drawing the reader into the murky underbelly of Ashraf’s world. Laced with black humor, A Free Man is a clever study of contrasting lives that amuse and perturb in equal measures.”

    The National

  • “A moving and irrepressible work of narrative reporting.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Journalism at its finest. Narrator Vikas Adam tells the story of these men as though they were characters in a novel. Adam brings the dialogue to the listener with the cadence and liveliness of authentic speech. He uses a heavy, affected South Asian accent to render the English speech of the masdoor, or building laborers. But the listener is given a break from this style in the narrative, which is delivered with a much lighter touch. In this contemporary story of migration, economics, and socialization, these invisible workers come alive.”


  • “Alternately sad, defiant, carefree, and understated, this journey into a world hidden in plain sight is well worth taking.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “A darkly comical and eminently readable work of narrative journalism that brings readers into the heart and soul of old Delhi.”


  • “[Aman Sethi’s] compassion and humor is matched by a fierce determination to tell the stories of ordinary Indians.”

    Hari Kunzru, award-winning author

  • One of the 2012 Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books: Biography
  • Selected for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title” for Nonfiction, October 2012

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Abha | 2/17/2014

    " I loved this powerful book written in a very engaging manner about the life story of a mazdoor (day laborer) in Delhi. It is a brilliant narration and an eye-opener. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Supriya | 2/11/2014

    " It's just that good. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Sidd H | 2/6/2014

    " Read this book. Reflect on what you've read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Manish | 2/4/2014

    " Armed with a Sarai CSDS Fellowship, Sethi ventured into the labour market of Sadr Bazaar and befriends Ashraf. What follows is a series of conversations and journeys of discovery which expose the underbelly of Delhi, or any metro for that matter. But all said and done, I somehow didn't find the book riveting or engaging. The only lasting memory is probably going to be the various deals that happen in Sadr Bazaar day in and day out. Now on, a painter or a mason will no longer be just a painter or a mason for me, thanks to this book. "

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