When I was a kid, I was crazy for Nandan and Champak, their simple mythical tales and animated world painted my childhood with many colors. As I grew up, Tagore and R. K. Narayan replaced the lighter reads, progressing onto Amitav’s lyrical prose and Anita Desai’s heartrending tragedies.
As I think back, I have realized that my book-mania owes a lot to our Indian writers and over the last few years, I have read and reviewed many Indian books on scribbles of soul. And the more I read, the more new books I discover that entice me with the promise of yet another slice of Indian heritage.
So, today I have prepared this list of 30 Indian books that you must read, if only to discover a tiny speck of mountainous gem our Indian Literature has to offer. Some of these books are well known classics, others well received contemporary ones and yet others are lesser known regional ones, I discovered in dusty shelves of my local library. They may differ in genre, style or treatment, but each of them is close to my heart. Read on and let me know how many have you read :-
1. A Fine Balance : An outstanding novel set in Emergency Era, strategically focusing on lives of common man amidst political chaos.
2. A Spoke in the Wheel : A historical fiction set in the times of Emperor Ashoka exposing lesser known facets of Buddhism.
3. Baumgartner’s Bombay : A heartrending story of an over sensitive and extremely unlucky German Jew living in India.
4. Chokher Bali : Ordinary story of a temptress transforms into a thought provoking study of human minds in deft hands of Tagore.
5. Chronicler’s Daughter : An innovative dystopian novel challenging strictness of unjust tyranny and free hand of lenient democracy
6. Dark Afternoons : A poignant tale of two strong women challenging orthodoxy in a subtle manner in this translated novel by Bani Basu.
7. Dawn : An admirable biography of a fictional girl, which is so real that every woman can identify with it.
8. Fasting Feasting : An emotional tale woven around a mentally challenged girl.
9. Gitanjali : A timeless collection of lyrics by Nobel Laureate Tagore.
10. Godan : A realistic rustic novel deftly contrasting two extremes of life – abject poverty and dirty wealth in Premchand’s masterpiece.
11. Gora : A true Tagore novel, rich in philosophical debate on politics and religion with a deep understanding of human emotions.
12. Great Indian Novel : A totally different take on Mahabharata where Indian Freedom Fighters and politicians replace usual mythological characters. Innovative, humorous yet thought provoking.
13. Guide : R. K. Narayan’s most famous novel that challenges moral sanctions and questions blind superstitions.
14. Home : A story of an ordinary Indian family with dark secrets hidden behind careful veils of shame and prestige
15. Hullabaloo in Guava Orchard : Kiran Desai’s insanely funny debut with just the right dose of sarcasm and irony.
16. Hungry Tide : Practical modernity merged with traditional wisdom creating a heady mix of folklores and offbeat rituals in enticing Sunderbans.
17. Long Walk Home : A superbly executed historical fiction exposing truth behind partition and riots.
18. Mahatma vs Gandhi : Focuses on lesser known aspects of Mahatma Gandhi with his wayward son as protagonist.
19. My Experiments with Truth : A must read for every Indian if only to know the true ideals of one of the most revered yet least understood man Mahatma Gandhi.
20. My Sainted Aunts : A rare attempt to bring alive the past of elderly women we take for granted in a short collection of 08 emotionally charged stories.
21. Nirmala : Age-old story of love, jealousy and guilt made extra ordinary by inimitable affable style of the great Premchand.
22. Palace of Illusions : A different take on age old epic Mahabharata, told from Draupadi’s point of view.
23. Queen of Dreams : A story about a simple housewife whose psychic dreams wove a fantastic tale.
24. Sister of my Heart : A beautiful story about two girls who are as diverse as chalk and cheese yet are joined in heart.
25. Srikanta : A slightly lesser known yet epic novel by Sarat Chandra, that would make you laugh, cry and cringe at the same time.
26. Storm : A strong satire from the mighty pen of Kanhu Charan Mohanty, an Oriyan writer, who deserves many accolades.
27. Swami and Friends : Misadventures of Swami in idyllic city of Malgudi makes for an appealing read.
28. Vendor of Sweets : An emotional yet ironic story of an old widower and his son.
29. Vine of Desire : Sequel to Sister of My Heart. Very rich in symbolism and literary techniques.
30. Yogayog : An epic story of a luckless, loveless marriage.
Though, at the end of the day, 30 is just a number, I welcome all your comments, recommendations and criticism to make this list more exhaustive and useful. Happy Reading!