Literature goes beyond the borders. A book informs, entertains, comforts, and educates people. They say language and nationality shouldn’t be a bar for a well-written story. A good book can overcome the geographical and cultural distance and win the race against the mighty time. Thankfully, India doesn’t lack in this section. Any genre, any style of writing, any concept, you name it and there are amazing Indian books written on it. While there are a number of great books by Indian authors, we picked fifteen books of different taste which should be on every book lover’s must-read list. The list includes books written in Indian English as well as works of translation.
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- Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik
Jaya is a modern day retelling of ‘Mahabharata’, an Indian epic originally written in Sanskrit. You will find numerous translations of the epic in the bookstores. Anyway, if you are completely new to the world of Hindu mythology and have no idea about ‘Mahabharata’, ‘Jaya’ is the perfect book to start with. Devdutt Pattanaik has accumulated stories from all over India which he has incorporated in his book. It is amazing, to say the least.
2. Mrityunjaya, the death conqueror by Shivaji Sawant
One of the gems of Marathi literature, which was later translated into several languages, revolves around Karna from the Mahabharata. Karna, an excellent archer never got his due respect he deserved as a warrior for being a lowborn. Despite being the closest confidante of the epic’s prime antagonist, Karna’s tragedy has caught the fancy of numerous Indian writers. Sawant is one of them. The award-winning novel is one of the most humane books written on Indian epics.
3. Galpoguccha – Short Stories by Rabindranath Tagore
The Noble laureate poet, philosopher, novelist, and storyteller Rabindranath Tagore is the prime pillar of Bengali as well as Indian literature. He was one of the first men to write short stories in an Indian language. Being timeless, his short stories reflect the time and often go ahead of it. Unlike Tagore’s novels, these are quite simple, down-to-earth tales soaked in the essence of life. They capture a fraction of human lives and leave the readers craving for more.
4. Malgudi Days by R.K. Narayan
A list of the books by Indian authors is incomplete without this one. R.K. Narayan looked out of the window, got inspired by random people thus created ‘Malgudi Days’. It contains 32 stories about the daily life of people living in Malgudi, a fictional city located in South India. By the time you finish the book, you will fall in love with the town. Filled with the pure spirit of India, this book should be on every book reader’s bookshelf.
5. The Palace of Illusion by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Another modern rendition of ‘Mahabharata’, this one is written from Draupadi’s point of view. The fire born woman, who was destined to marry five brothers, narrates her tale. The author brought a female perspective of the epic for the first time. Divakaruni’s vivid writing makes it one of the finest fictional accounts of Mahabharata. Even a person clueless about the epic will be able to enjoy the narrative and venture through the lanes of the Hindu mythology effortlessly.
6. It Does Not Die (Nahanyte in Bengali) by Maitreyi Devi
Are you aware of the French novel ‘La Nuit Bengali‘ (Bengal Nights)? If you are, then you already know the male protagonist of the book – Mircea Eliade, the author of ‘La Nuit Bengali’. While Mircea’s book was a fictionalized account of the love story between Eliade and Maitreyi, ‘Nahanyate’ or ‘It Does Not Die’ tells Maitreyi Devi’s side of the story. A cerebral and passionate love story between two incredibly talented people, a tragic tale written in an enchanting language, it’s a must-read for all literature enthusiasts across the globe.
7. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Arundhati Roy’s debut novel has been considered as a gem of Indian literature. The story revolves around two fraternal twins Rahel and Esha as they grow up in Kerala, India. It walks you through the human lives dealing with the caste system, Keralite Syrian Christian way of living, social stigmas, political pressure at every step. The book is about how the small things affect people’s behavior and change their lives. It won the Booker Prize in 1997.
8. Rusty Series by Ruskin Bond
This is an absolute reader’s delight. The tales of Rusty, an imaginative and inquisitive boy is something you would love to read in a beautiful day with a cup of coffee. Rusty’s childhood and early teenage are full of exciting adventures. Ruskin Bond’s master writing and simple yet profound narration help to relieve the stressed minds and transport us into a fascinating fictional world. A true book lover should have this book (basically, all the books by Bond) on his must-read list.
9. Train To Pakistan by Khuswant Singh
Set in August 1947, ‘Train to Pakistan’ is a social account of India-Pakistan participation. Brutally honest and uncompromising, this one is certainly not for the faint-hearted people. Khuswant’s description brings the terrible days of the partition into life when vulnerable humans were becoming pawns of the political scenario and getting slaughtered by the religious frenzy. Anyone interested to know about the partition, the time of unrest and annihilation shall read ‘Train to Pakistan’ now.
10. Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi
One of the most loved books by Indian authors, Amish Tripathi’s best seller is a fantasy tale with its root into Hindu mythologies. Set in the backdrop of 1900 BC, the trilogy depicts the journey of a young man named Shiva, who would turn into a God eventually. The author perfectly blended Indian myths, history, philosophy, and fantasy in his debut series and presented a book which is extremely intriguing. The book is ideal for the readers, who seek thrill, adventure, entertainment, and content at the same time.
11. Shesher Kobita (Farewell My Friend) by Rabindranath Tagore
If there is only one love story that will live until the end of the time, it has to be Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Shesher Kobita’ which has been translated into multiple languages. Translated into English as ‘Farewell My Friend’ or ‘Farewell Song’, the book is a masterpiece of Bengali literature. Published in 1929, the classic novel revolves around an Oxford pass out Amit Ray and a quick-witted Labanya. Challenging the conventional ideas of romance and happily-ever-after, the lovers here chose the separation over the union! The novel ends with a lyrical poetry which resonates in the reader’s mind and memory, forever.
12. English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee
If you have been to any government office in India, you will be able to relate to this comic masterpiece. Even if you have never been there, this book is a must-read for all. Upamanyu Chatterjee’s take on how things work in an Indian office is precise and immensely funny. Agastya Sen, the protagonist has to shift to Madna, a small town in remote India for the government job he got unexpectedly. The author took inspiration from his own experience in the Indian administrative service and served the story garnished with his amazing sense of humor.
13. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
It’s one of the most popular books by Indian authors. ‘The White Tiger’ depicts two Indias struggling and surviving side by side at the same time. The story revolves around Balram, an underprivileged man trying his way out to achieve success, money, and social status. Balaram made his way to his goal, eliminating every obstacle that came in his way. A servant, a murderer, and entrepreneur, Balaram is a man of various layers. A gripping plot and fresh storytelling make this dark comedy an unputdownable one.
14. The Inscrutable Americans by Anurag Mathur
Refreshingly funny and sincere, this novel is a tale of an Indian student studying in the US. The protagonist, with a typical Indian upbringing, gets a cultural shock in his initial days in the United States. Gradually he starts to discover the real America, which helps him to see beyond the stereotyped myths he has grown up believing. The book presents a hilarious take on an immigrant’s life which won’t let you stop before finishing reading it.
15. The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
Amitav Ghosh’s much-acclaimed book is a masterpiece set in Kolkata (then Calcutta) and Sundarban, the vast archipelago of islands in the Bay of Bengal. It’s a fascinating place where every day a large portion of forest disappears only to re-emerge once the tide is gone. The splendid writing captures the dangerous yet beautiful island of mangrove and the lives of its poor and almost forgotten inhabitants. A person with a deep love for books cannot afford to miss this piece of literature.
So, which one you are going to read next?