India is amongst the largest and most diverse countries in the world – here are a few authors who have made the most riveting attempts at the impossible task of capturing it. India has a unique literary history and tradition that extends back over 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 books by authors from India that have greatly influenced the course of the country’s literature the best Indian novels
Palace Of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s award-winning novel retells the Hindu mythological epic Mahabharata from the perspective of Draupadi, its lead female character. Draupadi 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.
The White Tiger by Arvind Adiga
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 young man from a poverty-stricken small village who moves to Delhi to work as a chauffeur for the elite.
The great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor
This satirical novel by Shashi Tharoor recreates the Hindu epic Mahabharata 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 book deserves a place in best Indian novels.
In custody by Anita Desai
Anita Desai’s novel, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, 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.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Another epic, this 1,349-page novel probably isn’t for your suitcase – but it is one of the most acclaimed pieces of fiction about India. At its core, the novel is a love story about Lata and her mother’s attempts to find her a husband, set against the backdrop of a newly independent post-partition India.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Set during “The Emergency”, a period of civil unrest when Indira Gandi was Prime Minister, A Fine Balance is written with beautifully controlled prose. The novel interweaves India’s political turmoil into the lives of its four central characters – to devastating effect. Set in 1975 against the backdrop of the central government declared 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 late 20th-century and into its current form. On the 6th place in best Indian novels.
The lives of others by Neel Mukherjee
Neel Mukherjee’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel is set in Kolkata in 1967 and follows the story of several generations of the Ghosh family, who all live in the same house. Headed by an aging couple, the family comprises their five children and grandchildren, each of whom are engulfed in their own highly interesting journeys. Following the various crises that the family faces and their relation to the extremist political activism and unrest present in India at the time, Mukherjee has crafted a unique and epic read.
The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru
Written by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, this comprehensive read traces some of the most important developments in the Indian subcontinent, starting from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization to the early twentieth century. Penned between 1942 and 1946, when Nehru was imprisoned off-and-on by the British for his political activism, this book provides an education unlike no other on the cultural and historical significance of the land that is India. one of India’s best novel to read.
Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh’s historical novel tells the story of the partition of British India into India and Pakistan, but from a highly human perspective, the first of its kind upon its release in 1956. Breaking from the tradition of recounting the partition in terms of its political aspects, Singh tells a tale of human suffering and loss. It is among the most essential reads in Indian literature today.
Shantaram/The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts
The Mountain Shadow, the hotly anticipated follow-up to Roberts’s publishing sensation Shantaram is due out in October, so if you’ve not read the 2003 novel, now is your chance. The page-turning thriller, inspired by the writer’s own experiences living in the Mumbai slums, is one of the few books that manages to capture the overwhelmingly multi-sensory experience of living in India.
The best Indian Novels and their Authors