Books Magazine

India in {Ten}ish Books

Posted on the 23 October 2013 by Cheekymeeky

Savidge from Savidge Reads has put up an interesting meme challenge on his blog. He’s challenged us readers to list top ten books that define our country, and while it is difficult to define India as a whole through books, I”ll do my best and you can chip in with your thoughts and rebuttals in the comments.

The task of compiling only 10 books is doubly difficult as so much of our literature is in our native languages and since I can’t read even a single local language properly (hides head in shame), I am only going to include English language books/translations. Also, I am only including the books I have actually read. You are not going to get a comprehensive list here. Yes, Mark Tully and William Dalrymple have written books about India. Both authors are incredibly popular, but I haven’t read any of these books and so consequently they are not on my list. Another book about India that is supposed to be a must-read is Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, which again I haven’t read…nor have I read any books on the Gandhi family, or any Tagore, or any…oh, the list is endless


However, let’s move on to the top {ten}ish books that I have read and which I feel define Indian to me…

Note: I have tried to keep local geography and culture in mind and tried hard to include books from all parts of India, but of course that didn’t work so well, and so I have just listed my favorites here.

A Political Map of India

A (not the latest)Political Map of India

  1. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie: This is a book that talks about the tumultuous times pre-and post-independence. One of the best books (but not easy to read, I grant you that) on India that I have read.
  2. The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga: And this is the seminal book about India post our economic liberalization in the 90s. A lot of issues that are featured in our newspaper headlines today (economic and social divisions as the root of brutal crimes) are dealt with powerfully in this book. And this book is readable and accessible. Highly recommend!
  3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy: This is another great book – a story about caste and love, grief and guilt all rolled into one. This is quieter and a lot more personal than the first two books I have mentioned, but it is one of the top Indian books all the same.
  4. But of course, India is not just the modern India, it is also the land of mythology and we have to mention the two great epics – Ramayana and Mahabharatha. Both these tomes define our national culture and heritage in ways we sometimes don’t even realize. So many modern stories of today (and not just Indian ones) have been inspired by the tales in these epics.
  5. How about some colonial authors who made India the home of their stories? I loved A Passage to India by E.M.Forster, which was one of the few books of that time to look critically at colonialism through the view of a single incident. And of course, there is Rudyard Kipling who wrote The Jungle Book and Kim, and so many other short stories that I read when I was a kid and loved. Sadly, I think these books are going out of fashion these days
  6. The Cartoons of R.K.Laxman and Amar Chitra Katha: Both these are comics. While Amar Chitra Katha was the medium through which I educated myself on Indian history and mythology, R.K.Laxman is a great cartoonist and satirist who chronicled the chaos of a more modern India.
  7. If you are interested in a fictional book based on the troubles in Kashmir, one great book to explore is Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie. After the slow start, it’s a wonderful read that takes you into the heart and soul of Kashmir
  8. Explore Indian (actually Delhi/Punjabi) humor through the eyes of an Englishman by reading The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall.
  9. Let’s explore a few lesser known gems, shall we? Try Bangalore Calling by Brinda S.Narayan – an excellent series of vignettes about life in Bangalore’s call centers. Or, if you want to know about a quieter India, try A River Sutra by Gita Mehta – another series of shorts set in the Narmada valley.
  10. I don’t exactly recommend this book, but considering the popularity of the film Slumdog Millionaire that is based on Q and A by Vikas Swarup, I feel obliged to include it in this list. My personal recommendation: skip the book and go straight to the film.

What books have you read that define your country for you? Why don’t you include your favorites in the comments? Or respond to this meme in your own post and link to me and Savidge Reads. It would be great to get some book recommendations


Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog