11 Books By Indian Authors You Must Read At Least Once in Your Lifetime
India has a unique literary history and tradition that extends beyond 3,000 years. Indian English literature may have a relatively shorter history, but is nonetheless rich with award-winning and critically acclaimed masterpieces no book lover should miss out on. To get your reading journey started, we’ve rounded up a list of novels by Indian authors that have greatly influenced the course of literature in the country today.
Nectar in a Sieve
Great Indian Novel
Train to Pakistan
Palace of Illusions
God of Small Things
A Fine Balance
Arvind Adiga’s Man Booker Prize winning debut novel was widely acclaimed for its refreshing take on social class disparities and contradictions in contemporary India. The book is a thrilling first person narrative told from the perspective of Balram Halwai, a poor young man from a poverty stricken small village who moves to Delhi to work as a chauffeur for the elite.
Acclaimed author Kamala Markandaya’s debut novel, Nectar in a Sieve, is the story of rapidly changing mid-20th century India, told from the perspective of Rukhmani, a woman from rural and impoverished India. From her arranged to marriage to Nathan, a farmer, to the changes brought about by the advent of a large tannery into their village, the novel covers a rich range of subjects with uniquely gripping prose.
This satirical novel by Shashi Tharoor recreates the Hindu epic, Mahabarata, within the context of the Indian Independence Movement and its following decades, to become one of the most exciting reads in contemporary Indian literature. Recasting figures from India’s freedom struggle and politics, as mythological characters from a 2,000-year-old epic, Tharoor’s work is a powerful read regardless of how familiar you are with the country.
This historical novel by Khushwant Singh was widely revered during its release in 1956, for bringing a human perspective to the partition of British India, into India and Pakistan. While most accounts of the partition at the time primarily focused on political aspects, Singh recounted the event in terms of human loss and horror. Train to Pakistan is an essential read for anyone looking to explore Indian literature or history.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s award-winning novel retells the Hindu mythological epic Mahabharata from the perspective of Draupadi, its lead female character. Draupadi or Panchaali is famous for having married all five of the Pandava brothers – the protagonists of the Mahabharata – and is an ever present, central character through their journey into exile and war. However, little is told from her perspective or about her motives and thoughts in the original epic, which Divakaruni tactfully reclaims in Palace of Illusions.
R.K. Narayan is among the most read and celebrated authors in Indian literature. Based in the famous fictional town of Malgudi in South India, The Guide follows the story of a Railway Raju, a corrupt tour guide and the odd sequence of events which go on to make him a spiritual guide and eventually a revered holy man in the country.
Anita Desai’s Booker Prize shortlisted novel revolves around Deven Sharma, an Urdu scholar in small town India who is caught in an ordinary, mundane life teaching the language to indifferent college students. When he is given a chance to interview Nur, one of the country’s finest Urdu poets, he sees it as a way to channel his love for the language in a more meaningful way.
The Booker Prize winning debut novel by Arundati Roy tells the story of a family in 1960s Kerala. Delving deep into a range of issues from the caste system to the state’s encounters with communism, the story follows two fraternal twins, their parents and extended family as they navigate life in this highly acclaimed work by the famous activist and writer.
Set in 1975, against the backdrop of the central government declaring a State of Emergency throughout India, Rohinton Mistry’s literary masterpiece tells the story of four strangers from different walks of life. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1996, this book is a gripping account of political, social and economic forces that drove India through the later 20th-century to its current form.