India is said to be the country with the most English speakers in the world. The wannabes aside, there are people who genuinely aren’t well-versed with their native tongue, but can converse in English with ease. Nearly all schools have English as their first, second or third language.
Keeping these facts in mind, it isn’t a surprise that we have a whole set of globally acclaimed Indian authors that have written stories in English that cater to Indian readers but have managed to resonate with Indians and foreigners alike.
List of Best Books by Indian Authors
These books are one of the top-rated titles from Indian authors which should be in your ‘To-Read’ List ⬇︎
Disclaimer: The below list is not in any particular order and should not be considered as such.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
It may come as a surprise to many that this was the author’s debut novel. It was critically acclaimed and shot to fame when it won the 40th Man Booker Prize. It is a storyline that appeals to foreigners and feeds them the stereotypes about India they crave for. It is the rags to riches story of a young village boy and how he survives against all odds. It talks about class struggle, poverty, limited opportunities, and other issues that plague Indians of all strata of society.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Yet another debut novel that won the Booker Prize, “The God of Small Things” has managed gathering readers even today. It is rather complicated to read and has quite a dismal plot. However, it is not the typical Indian narrative of suffering and struggle. It is a story of the uphill battle we call life and how casteism, forbidden love, and other aspects play a part in it. Through her book, Arundhati Roy has not just told a moving story but also showcased how talented an author she is.
The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Published in 2008, the book has gained popularity thanks to its reception and relevant storyline. It is a retelling of the Mahabharata with a twist. Here the narrator is Dhraupadi and she narrates her tale of surviving in a patriarchal society. It details how she was treated as a mere pawn for others to have their way. Like the empowered Indian Nari, she doesn’t make an excuse for her plight and emerges a hero(ine?) at the end of this rendition. It is a bold and honest narrative and is especially relevant in today’s time as it shows the evolving role of women.
Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh
Like other acclaimed works of literature, “Train to Pakistan” offers its readers an unconventional perspective. It recounts the partition of India and Pakistan, but unlike most books of similar storylines, the partition and the animosity between the two communities aren’t all the book is about. The readers get to know the characters more deeply. It is a moving story not a mere political commentary regarding the social tensions between the two countries.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Midnight’s Children is probably the most acclaimed of all books in this list. It has many international accolades to boast of, but ironically, (like the author himself) was embroiled in a controversy in India. However, it is a story of colonialism and India post-British Raj. Salman Rushdie is one of the few Indian authors to delve into the genre of magic realism. This takes the book to a whole new level as the reader is given a chance to explore many aspects of a finite storyline.
The Guide by R.K. Narayan
‘The Guide’ is like many other works by R.K. Narayan, it is funny, light-hearted, and easy to read. However, despite these features that are characteristic of children’s books, “The Guide” is suitable for readers of all ages. It takes us through the journey of Raju, his struggles and how he constantly goes through a metamorphosis, evolving. The book was so well received in the country, that it was adapted into a movie – Guide (1965).
The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor’s tweets have gotten a lot of attention for his use of big, complicated words that amuse and educate all of us. However, his novel, unlike his tweets, uses relatively simple language the average English speaker should understand. Like many bestsellers, it is sort of a retelling of the Mahabharata but in the context of independence of India and the period after it. It is a satire, so it uses humour and sarcasm without being explicit. Like other books on this list, it garnered national and international acclaim.
The Blue Umbrella by Ruskin Bond
Like most of Ruskin Bond’s writing, the Blue Umbrella is a children’s book. However, through simple and basic characters and emotions, Ruskin Bond has managed to make the story mature for all kinds of readers. Because of how successful it was as a book, it was adapted into a movie and even a comic. While it is not intense and moving, like many great books, it will tug on your heartstrings without being too depressing.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Rohinton Mistry’s second novel is a work of fiction that is set in the last few decades of the 20th century in India. It talks of the post-independence era and the emergency period. It has a storyline which is one of my favourite kinds – that of a few people from different walks of life coming together owing to circumstances. It got a lot of international acclaims and rightly so. It is deep, moving, and engage from beginning to end.
In Custody by Anita Desai
In Custody was shortlisted for a Booker Prize. It is one of the few acclaimed books that doesn’t have a plot that is very hard to follow. It is basically the story of A Hindi teacher (whose true love is Urdu) who jumps at the opportunity to interview a fading Urdu poet. However, the whole experience is far from what he expected. It has themes of existentialism and the constant gap between expectations and reality.
Over To You
Like any such list, the choice of books is arbitrary. There must be other Indian gems that I’ve missed out. Which is why we’ve taken the oath to bring forward the best books and authors to the upfront. Feel free to let us know your favourite books and novels by Indian authors in the comments below ⬇︎