A Passage to India, E.M. Forster, 1924
Set against the 1920s Indian independence movement, Forster’s crisp, insightful novel—considered by many one of the top 100 in the English language—tells the story of Adela Quested, a young Englishwoman who enters the Marabar Caves and is changed by the experience.
The Raj Quartet, Paul Scott, 1965–75
The four novels dramatize the waning years of the British Raj in India, beginning in 1942. Granada Television adapted the first, Jewel in the Crown, was made into a popular, and addictive, mini-series.
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Minstry, 1995
The epic Dickensian novel—and Booker Prize finalist—is set in India in 1975–76 during the corrupt and oppressive government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy, 1999
The stunningly beautiful novel about a Kerala family tackles themes of madness, love and death and evokes the super sensuality of India.
Journey to Ithaka, Anita Desai, 1995
A spellbinding novel by a great contemporary writer who deftly unwinds a narrative while illuminating the country where she herself was born.
Kim, Rudyard Kipling, 1901
The Jungle Book author’s famous novel traces the amazing Indian adventures of an impoverished, orphaned son of a British soldier: Kim, a.k.a. Kimball O’Hara.
Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie, 1981
The narrator’s birth at the same time India gained its independence from the British in 1947 launches this major work of magic realism, often compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.
City of Djinns, William Dalrymple, 1993
A travel memoir by a wonderful Scottish writer who manages to weave the history of New Delhi into his engaging adventures in the city.
The Death of Vishnu, Manil Suri, 2001
This debut novel follows the spiritual journey of a handyman in Mumbai and presents vivid glimpses of the modern city.
Shantaram: A Novel, Gregory David Roberts, 2005
A massive, over-the-top, mostly autobiographical novel that’s set largely in Bombay.
Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse, 1922
This classic novel follows Siddhartha in his lifelong search for spirituality in ancient India.
An Autobiography of Gandhi: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Mahatma Gandhi and Mohandas K. Gandhi,1927
Not a literary book, or a fulsome objective biography, but an excellent insight into Gandhi, the man.
Desert Places, Robyn Davidson, 1996
A fascinating travelogue about following nomadic tribes in India on their annual trek across the desert.
Eating India: An Odyssey into the Food and Culture of the Land of Spices, Chitrita Banerji, 2007
In this culinary-cum-cultural history, a talented food writer (and Calcutta native) explores the mingling of old and new in cuisine across the subcontinent.
The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia, Paul Theroux, 1995
The famed travel writer’s descriptive, episodic view of Asia as seen by rail will delight train-addicts as well as travelers to India.
In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India, Edward Luce, 2007
The ex-Financial Times South Asia Bureau Chief address the radical economic changes since 1991, and its roots in Indian culture, with an eye to the country’s future potential to become the globe’s third largest economy.
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure Paperback, Sarah Macdonald, 2004
Australian radio correspondent Macdonald’s memoir recounts the two years she spent in India when her boyfriend, a TV news correspondent, was assigned to New Delhi.
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, Suketu Mehta, 2005
The author, a native of Bombay, writes an insider’s view of this vibrant metropolis.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo, 2012
A look into Mumbai’s Annawadi slum “a stretch where new India and old India collided and made new India late.”
India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking, Anand Giridharadas, 2012
The Indian American author chronicles his journey to his ancestral homeland where he tries to reconcile the old traditions and customs with the country’s new ambitions and dreams.
Haroun and the Sea Of Stories, Salman Rushdie, 1990
An imaginative tale about a storyteller attempting to fend off the dark forces blocking the seas of inspiration from which his stories stem.
Homeless Bird, Gloria Whelan, 2001
The courageous story of Koly, a thirteen-year-old girl who is about to get married until tragedy strikes forcing her to deal with the harsh traditions of her Indian culture.
Story of Divaali, Jatinder Verma, 2007
The children’s version of the Hindu Sanskrit epic the Ramayana follows the adventures of Prince Rama and Princess Sita.
The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling, 1894
The famous collection of stories by R. Kipling based upon his own experiences as a child in the Indian jungle.
The Ramayana for Young Readers, Milly Acharya, 1998
A native Indian author presents a popular Hind legends in unforgettable words and colorful graphics.
Elephant Prince: The Story of Ganesh, Amy Novesky, 2004
The story follows elephant-headed and big-bellied, mischievous god Ganesh through his childhood.