Recommended Books and Novels about India
When I travel to a particular country, I try to ready books about that particular country, both non-fiction and fiction. I find that doing so helps to enhance one’s experience and appreciation for the particular culture in question. I had plenty of time to read during those long bus and train journeys, including an 18 hour one from Jaisalmer to Delhi! Here are a few of my favorites, as well as a couple others that I did not get a chance to read, but have been highly recommended. Even if one does not have the opportunity to travel to India, books still remain a valid alternative to immersing yourself in a culture and world different than your own. The following are listed in no particular order:
Life of Pi
By: Yan Martell
This book is extremely popular among adolescents and teenagers, especially with the release of the movie in 2011. It tells the story of a boy from Pondicherry, who embarks on a journey to Canada amidst a big ship, including all of the animals from his father’s zoo. A crash ensures, and Pi soon finds himself on a small lifeboat with an orangutan, zebra, hyena, and tiger. He details the ways he managed to survive these animals over the course of many weeks. There is even some symbolism to the story, where the reader is left to ponder whether the story Pi tells should be taken at face value or if he uses the characters of the animals to represent actual people.
Q & A
By: Vikas Swarup
This novel is the inspiration for the blockbuster movie “Slumdog Millionaire.”. I would argue that the book is much better than its later counterpart. The author does an excellent job of seamlessly weaving the stories of the life of Ram Mohammad Thomas and how the different trials and tribulations gave him the knowledge and life experience to answer each particular question in the quiz show in his effort to win 10,000,000 rupees. A must read for anyone who is a fan of the movie.
By: Gregory David Roberts
This epic novel (seriously, it’s over 900 pages), is based on a true story of an escaped New Zealand convict who makes his way to Bombay (now Mumbai), India in the 1980’s. A thrilling story, Lin undergoes a wild adventure over many years, living in the slums, working with the Indian mafia lords and even fighting alongside the Afghani people against the Russians! It truly is a page turner, and got me through many long bus rides. There has been clamor that some of the story has been embellished, but regardless, it is a much read. He has even penned a sequel to the book, detailing his later adventures.
The God of Small Things
By: Arundhati Roy
It takes place in the Southern state of Kerala. This novel recounts a tale of Rahel and Estha, fraternal six-year-old twins, and a dreadful event that happens on a fateful day twenty years prior that ends in the death of their visiting cousin. This novel provides excellent insight into Indian family life and the cracks that tragedy can strike on a family, as well as class relations and cultural tensions.
By: Aravind Adiga
Winner of the Man Booker Prize (U.K. book award), this masterful novel tells the story of one man’s rise from poor village boy all the way to wealthy business owner in the business hub of Bangalore, India. It is a fascinating story that offers a look at how difficult life is for Indians who are raised in the poor rural villages, and just how far one man will actually go in order to finally become his own master.
By: Salman Rushdie
While I haven’t had a chance to read this book yet, it’s currently on my Kindle. This novel takes place during the transition between British colonial rule to India’s independence as a free nation. The book tells the story of Saleem Sinai, a boy born with telepathic powers. He is born precisely at midnight on August 15, 1947, the same day that India gains its independence. He discovers that all children born between midnight and 1 am have been born with special powers. Saleem sets out to find these children and to bring them together, while attempting to discover the meaning of their gifts.
By: Sarah MacDonald
I also haven’t had a chance to read this one yet, but have heard great things about it. Written from a first person perspective, Sarah details her time backpacking India. She vows to never set foot in the country again, yet finds herself back in New Delhi, India, having moved there to be with the love of her life. Since I had such a love/hate relationship with India, I feel like I could empathize with a lot of her experiences as well!
Does anybody else have any other favorite books or novels about India?