Further reading on IndiaFurther reading: India
is a bibliography of books on India
and its culture. It is intended for the benefit and elucidation of those interested in India, but for whatever reason cannot actually visit the sub-continent.
Since there are obviously more books on India than any one person could read in a lifetime, this list should spotlight those volumes (a) that are well-known; (b) are eminently readable by the layman; (c) are superior in scholarship and accuracy; or (d) focus on subjects that are otherwise too seldom written about.
This bibliography will very likely contain spoilers.
1. Works written by Indians
India's epics are, of course, the foundation of India's written traditions.
is an extremely prolific Indian novelist. He wrote most of his work based around a fictional town called "Malgudi". This quaint village captures the essence of India in all its multi-cultured hues and shades. He takes you on a slow and deliberate journey, spanning more than 30 novels and numerous short stories, into the character of the town and its people; delving into their lives, and exposing the queer strain of human thought. A note: not all his novels are based on the town "Malgudi", but the quintessential quest for the human spirit shows through his entire work.
- Swami and Friends (1935)
- Mr. Sampath - The printer of Malgudi (1949)
- The Financial Expert (1952)
- The Guide (1958)
- The Man Eater of Malgudi (1961)
- The Painter of Signs (1976)
- and more...
is an Indian novelist.
- The God of Small Things (1997) is a novel that won the Booker prize. It is the story of a family torn apart by cruelty, divorce, class and caste difference, time, family jealousies and rivalries, and everything else that forces a dysfunctional family, eastern or western, apart. At the center of the tragic tale are Estha and Rahel, twins, and their mother who dared divorce, and then dared love a Dalit, or untouchable, the lowest of India's castes.
is an Indian novelist and poet.
- A Suitable Boy (1993) is a vast, Dickensian novel that tells the story of Lata Mehra, an girl who is told she will marry "a suitable boy" by her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra (who looms over the whole novel and its four large extended families like a big banyan tree). The main questions of the book are, then, Will she, and Who. There are a dozen other minor plots besides, of course, and Seth passes over no detail of Indian life: family, sex, religion, being Anglicized, cricket, parliament, democracy, corruption, caste, food, holy days, holidays, religious strife, clothing, and so forth. Some interpret the end of the work to be an apologia for India's custom of arranged marriage.
Vikram Chandra is an Indian novelist.
- Red Earth Pouring Rain (1995) was a winner of the David Higham Prize for Fiction and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Published Book. The book is a magnanimous fictional work, or rather a treatise, on India, its history, trends, culture, and religion. It is told through the mouth of an 18th century warrior/poet who is re-incarnated in the form of a monkey. The book leads the reader via an enthralling route through quests, and battles, and good and evil, and redemption and retribution, and the trials and tribulations of generations across the vastness of India.
is an Anglo-Indian novelist and poet. He has been perhaps one of the most prolific of writers on the contemporary Indian theme. His masterful command over the English language coupled with his exuberant, albeit sometimes complex, style of writing has made his books essential reading for anybody treading on the Indian vastland.
- Midnight's Children (1981) was a winner of the Booker Prize. It is an allegorical description of India's journey from Independence to the present. His usage of vivid imagery in describing the beautiful locales of Kashmir to the grim and urban bylanes of Mumbai leave a trail of desolation and a feeling of emptiness inside. It revolves around the life of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the eve of the Indian Independence alongwith a 1000 others like him. Each of these 'newborns' are gifted with a magical power. The story has a life of its own as it weaves around the life of India as it was awakening from the shackles of bondage and dominance. Needless to say, it paints a very unflattering picture.
2. Works written by foreigners
George MacDonald Fraser
- George Bruce's The Stranglers: The Cult Of Thugee and Its Overthrow In British India is not an extremely well-known book, but it's one of the only thorough looks at the murderous, Kali-worshipping cult of thuggee in English. It's an informative overview of William Sleeman's efforts to destroy Thuggee, from the time when few foreigners concerned thewmselves with it, to his (overdue, some might say) promotion to Major-General. The book is most helpful, perhaps, in its use of long excerpts from Sleeman's writings and transcriptions of actual conversations with captured Thugs. Besides describing the Thugee dialect, philosophy, superstitions and customs, the book portrays Sleeman as a selfless, tireless man who always put duty first: ahead of his health, his wealth, even his desire to be with his children. At times, the narrative might leave the reader wanting more detail (explaining how a specific gang was captured, for instance, instead of just mentioning that it was "luckily" done). All in all, however, this is the most valuable resource in English on this subject as of yet.
is a Scottish
writer of historical fiction
, a sometime Hollywood
scriptwriter, and a veteran of the campaign in Burma
in World War II
- Flashman In the Great Game (1975) is, yes, fiction, and it is told from the point of view of Fraser's bluff, vehemently un-PC character, Flashman. But Fraser is an accurate and erudite historian for a writer of fiction, and his take on the Indian Mutiny is certainly informative, not to mention readable, for the layman.
A great lover of India is British
writer John Keay.
- Into India is a non-fiction book of "discovery," wherein the writer immerses himself in Indian culture and comes to believe that it outshines the "sameness" and "gracelessness" of the West.
One of the most controversial takes on India is that by Hindu
British novelist V.S. Naipaul
- India: A Wounded Civilization (1997) is a vitriolic look at the supposed backwardness of Indian civilization, containing sections with such rubrics as "A Defect Of Vision" and comparing the national mindset to that of children's.
- India: A Million Mutinies Now ....
Eric Newby is a British travel writer.
- Slowly Down the Ganges is a document of Newby's journey with his wife, ostensibly down the Ganges in a boat. Although this turns out to be something more akin to "Slowly along the basic course of the Ganges in a variety of buses and trains," it's still an informative look at the holy river's place in India's culture.