Bikram Choudry

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Late into the night, Bikram Choudhury reads from one of his many books about his hero, Subhash Chandra Bose, the Indian freedom fighter who founded the Indian National Army. "He's the greatest man of all time in the history of the world," Choudhury says. "My hair goes up when I talk about him."

Choudhury's favorite account of the Bengali revolutionary's life is Hugh Toye's The Springing Tiger. "If somebody wants to know about India, I tell them to read this book," he says.

Choudhury, originator of the popular yoga system that bears his first name, calls the Hindu epic Mahabharata his lifelong favorite book. "If I didn't read Mahabharata when I was a child," he muses, "who knows if I would be a yogi or not?"

Bikram also recommends the books of Rabindranath Tagore, who many describe as modern India's greatest poet and who Choudhury says wrote "like a god." Tagore is perhaps best known for Gitanjali, the inspirational book of poems that won him a Nobel Prize in 1913.