India is a great source for beautiful and fascinating stories that have inspired numerous writers through the years. Here are some great books that we enjoyed and recommend:
The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2008
The book tells the story of Balram Halwai, a young man who lives and works in a teashop in a small village in Bihar. He dreams of escape and when he hears that a rich landlord needs a chauffeur in New Delhi he takes the opportunity. In Delhi, he learns of the rich life in India and the new morality of modern India. His goal is to integrate the 2 India’s even if it requires him breaking the law. This book is about modern India, the rampant corruption and the caste system prevailing in the country.
Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
This is an autobiography on the Bombay underworld. Many parts of the book are based on real events and others on the author’s imagination. In the early 80s, Roberts is sentenced to prison on charges of armed robbery and drug offenses in Australia. He escapes prison and goes straight to India where he lives in a Bombay slum for eight years. Here he opens a health clinic, joins the mafia and works in the black market of Bombay. The book presents the underworld of India, poverty, and crime and uncovers the exploits of a man’s love for a city. Amazingly Roberts wrote Shantaram three times after the book was destroyed twice by prison guards.
God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Winner of the Booker Prize 1997
Roy, a bestselling Indian author wrote this book over four years. The novel takes place in a small village in Kerala, South India and describes the collapse of a local family who is full of charm amongst the tropical rural small-town life of Kerala. The center of the story is around the events that occurred following the death of a family member. The story is presented from the perspective of Rachel, one of a pair of twins and shows the intricacies of Indian society, communist Kerala and the caste system practiced in the country. It is a story full of anguish but powered by wit and magic.
Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
This novel is one of the most notable creations of the German writer Hermann Hesse published in 1922. The book is written very simply and deals with the spiritual journey of the young boy Siddhartha who was born into a family of Brahmins (The highest cast in Indian society). At the core of events, Siddhartha decides to follow his heart and to seek enlightenment. Siddhartha’s journey passes through various stages including, among others, abandoning the spiritual and physical life and chooses to become a trader and lover. When he sobers up and realizes the existing degeneracy of material life, he returns to seek life’s spiritual meaning. Each of these stages brings him closer to the truth he is looking for and he finally understands the true nature of the world and himself. Although the plot takes place in India, its implications are universal, reflecting the conflict that exists between the mind and body and the constant search for happiness that is relevant to all of us.
A Fine Balance, Robinton Mistry
This is the second novel by Mistry and exposes the changes in Indian society after independence in 1947 to the State of Internal
Emergency called by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The book is set in the mid-1970s and tells the story of four people from diverse backgrounds whose lives come together during political turmoil. It is about both hope and bleakness and is written with compassion, humor, and insight.
Of course, there are many more great books…What is your favorite book about India?