Books by Indian authors are an entirely different ball game, so it wasn’t easy to pick only 12 masterpieces. But here’s a list we think you shouldn’t miss.
1. The Inscrutable Americans by Anurag Mathur
If you want to laugh out loud then this is the book for you. The cultural reference to an Indian boy’s upbringing is bang on. The letters written by Gopal, the protagonist are hilarious. Mathur’s description of New York City will flash right in front of your eyes. His experiences of cultural shocks and immigrant experience will make it hard to put this book down.
2. Maximum City by Suketu Mehta
Suketu Mehta has given this book a complete insider’s view of Mumbai and that’s what we loved about it. From the shady lanes where lie the stories of the underworld, to the glamorous world of Bollywood, Mehta has managed to give us a little too much in this book. Not only that, he takes you through the life of a poverty stricken prostitute and a million other people who come to Bombay to fulfill their unrealistic dreams. Certainly, one of the best books written on India’s very favorite metropolis.
3. Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
This book was written in 1935 and takes you through a day in the life of Bakha, an 18-year-old sweeper. He has the responsibility of cleaning the public toilets of his city and is an untouchable. The book takes you through some really hard hitting moments and makes you wonder why people were treated such. In the book, Bakha too keeps searching for this answer and reaches an unexpected conclusion at the end.
4. Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh
Based in Manu Majru, Train of Pakistan brings to life every terrible story you’ve heard about the partition. Singh highlights how things surrounding religion are over sensitive in India and probably will always be. Some accounts are unbelievably painful while others are a look inside the hearts of vulnerable and helpless human beings. If you have been intrigued by the partition, this is certainly the best fictional historical account around.
5. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
First things first. You need a lot of patience to read this book because it is really very long. Moving on, Seth’s writing leaves you mesmerized because his characters are ordinary people and his writing is so believable. He gives you a love story nicely woven in post partition India. Some people claim that they did not want these over-1000 pages to end. Need we say more?
6. Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer
The story of Kashmir from a Kashmiri, a reason good enough to pick up this book. This book will change your perception about Kashmir forever. It is tragic and takes away something that you cannot have back. A story of young boy who grew up in war-torn Kashmir and has seen the ugly side of this war for decades. Who is the hero and who is the villain? Peer recently co-wrote Haidar along with filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, so you know what you might be getting into.
7. Jaya by Devdutt Patnaik
A total of 108 chapters, 250 drawing lines and endless variations of Mahabharata, Patnaik has given the greatest epic in Indian mythology a total revamp. The concepts of dharma and justice are explained with extreme clarity. As a reader you will not have any complaints because after reading this book, your plate will be full of all the things you didn’t understand about Mahabharata at first.
8. English, August by Upmanyu Chatterjee
If you have been to a government office and felt things don’t progress there, then you shouldn’t ignore this book. Chatterjee presents a really funny version of how things work in Indian offices and how nothing seems to change in small villages in India. Each character has its own way of entertaining you, and the writing style compliments the story really well. Sadly, it is a lesser known book, but again, very real and very Indian
9. The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Devakurni
Banerjee gets most marks for stepping into Draupadi’s shoes and writing a completely male dominant epic from a female’s point of view. The way she describes emotions like insecurity, jealousy and love leaves you wanting for more. Some people argue that Banerjee makes Draupadi more complicated than required, but all that fails before her master story telling. Certainly, the best written fictional account of Mahabharata, so don’t miss this one
10. Malgudi Days by R.K. Narayan
After reading this book, Malgudi, the fictional town, will become your favorite. This is one book that has to have a place on your book shelf. R.K. Narayan looked out of the window, picked up a character and that’s how he got his stories. The best thing about his stories is that they capture the essence of India just right. Read it if you haven’t already.
11. Em and the big Hoom by Jerry Pinto
This is a semi fictional account written by Pinto where he describes his mother’s mental disorder at length and still makes it humorous. There are parts of the book where you wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry. And you’d probably do both.
12. Valley of Masks by Tarjun Tejpal
This was Tejpal’s second book after The Alchemy of Desire, and he crossed all boundaries of imagination. He has beautifully drawn parallels between various situations in India and has covered the good vs. bad debate in a manner that will compel you to think. The book is unputdownable since you’ll actually be craving to decode the hidden meanings in the book.