15 Indian novels everyone should read in their lifetime

Written by Girishkumar Kumaran. Last updated at 2022-08-06 12:18:27

It's no secret that there are some fantastic Indian novels out there. However, many people don't know about them because they're less popular than some Western classics. To help you discover new excellent books by Indian authors, I've compiled a list of 25 of my favorite books by Indian authors:

1. The Augmentative Indian by Amartya Sen

The Augmentative Indian is a book that delves into the life of an ordinary Indian citizen living in Calcutta. The story revolves around a young boy named Santosh, a Nava Nalanda High School student. He lives in a slum with his parents and his sister. Santosh’s family is poor, and he can’t afford to buy new clothes, so he has to do what he has and learn to live without anything.

It becomes difficult for him when others were given new dresses and shoes while they were always left out of this opportunity because they did not have enough money to buy them at the time. But Santosh was not discouraged by this fact; instead, he tried his best by working hard before school hours so that he could serve his family well after returning home from school every day -

2. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy, is a novel about life in the town of Ayemenem in Kerala, India. It centers around two children named Estha and Rahel, who separated from their mother at a young age. To grow up with a sense of belonging and identity, they explore the world around them—both physical and metaphorical.

Estha and Rahel's childhood is painted with plenty of imagination: they create imaginary friends out of furniture and use these invented characters to tell stories; they enter an abandoned house where they believe they can fly; they play games that involve using their bodies as weapons or makeshift tools. Their youth is also challenged by other aspects of life—such as death—that complicate their understanding of relationships with others (particularly those involving family members).

3. The Legends of Khasak by OV Vijayan

The Legends of Khasak is a novel written by OV Vijayan. It was first published in Malayalam in 1976. The story was translated into English by A. K. Ramanujan and published in 1989 by Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd., New Delhi, India. The book revolves around the story of a young teacher named Ravi and his experiences as he arrives in the village of Khasak for the first time to teach at its government school.

The book is considered one of India's most significant literary works of the 20th century. It has been described as a "postmodern" work that draws upon traditional storytelling techniques and nontraditional elements such as flashbacks, multiple narrators, realistic dialogue, and an unreliable narrator.

4. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Midnight's Children is a novel by Salman Rushdie. The book won the Booker Prize and is considered one of the best Indian novels were ever written. It is set in India during the partition, when India became independent from Britain, and tells the story of Saleem Sinai and his journey as an individual with special powers.

In Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie demonstrates how it feels like to be born into a country at this crucial point in history; he describes not only his protagonist but also all characters around him according to their birth date: they are either children of midnight or children of dawn; they have different destinies as well as different lives ahead of them.

Midnight's Children won the Booker Prize in 1981 and was chosen by Time magazine as one of its 100 best English-language novels since 1923

5. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake is an award-winning novel by Jhumpa Lahiri and was published in 2003. The story follows Gogol Ganguli, a young man who struggles to reconcile his Indian culture with American life. He wants to have an American name, rejecting the traditional name that his parents gave him. The book also explores immigration and identity issues through the characters' experiences.

The movie is based on this novel and was released in 2006, featuring Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle) as Gogol Ganguli alongside Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire), Tabu (Black Friday), Raima Sen (Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India) and Bollywood star Konkona Sen Sharma as Ashima Ganguli. It was directed by Mira Nair, who also directed Monsoon Wedding and Salaam Bombay!

6. The Guide by R.K. Narayan

In the novel The Guide by R.K. Narayan, a young man named Raju becomes a tour guide in a small town in India. He is sent to prison for killing his wife but escapes and finds refuge with an older woman named Rosie, who soon dies. Raju then travels back to his home village, where he meets up with Prabhu, who helps him find work as a tour guide. While on one of these tours, Raju realizes that he can make more money by taking people into dangerous places than by showing them sites of historical importance, so he decides to give up being honest to make more money and become prosperous again.

The book was adapted into an Indian film directed by Satyajit Ray (known as "the father" of Indian cinema), which won several awards at the Cannes Film Festival when it premiered in 1960.[1] It also inspired several musical plays, such as one by Alan Ayckbourn that opened at London's Lyric Theatre in 1963.[2]

7. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

Narcopolis is a novel that captures the drug-infested streets of Mumbai. The story is set in the 1980s and tells the story of a group of people addicted to drugs. The novel is not only about drug addiction but also about how it affects their lives and those around them. It’s more than just a story about drugs; it talks about depression, loneliness, and despair, making this book one of the most interesting reads for anyone who wants to understand addiction better.

The book is written from an Indian perspective. Still, its themes are universal, so it does not matter where you live or what nationality you are: everyone can relate to these characters by being human beings ourselves!

8. The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru

"The Discovery of India," written in 1936 and published in 1957, is a personal account of Jawaharlal Nehru's life. The book began as an autobiography after becoming Prime Minister of India but became a historical overview of Indian culture. This makes it an exciting read because it covers two genres: biography and history.

Most people know about Jawaharlal Nehru because he was a crucial figure in the Indian independence movement and later became the first Prime Minister after India gained independence from Britain. But did you know that before all that, he was an active socialist politician? He was also one of the founders of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), which later merged with other left-wing parties to form the Congress Socialist Party (CSP). And while these facts may be interesting enough on their merit, this book allows us to take advantage of them by providing insight into how one man went from being just another activist to becoming one of history’s most influential leaders!

9. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance is a novel about four characters who live in a slum in Mumbai. It tells the story of their lives during and after the Emergency when Indira Gandhi declared herself the country's sovereign leader for 21 months. The novel is set against this backdrop but also serves as a critique of the Emergency—and several other things.

A Fine Balance looks at how poverty affects people's lives, particularly when trapped by casteism and corruption within government institutions like hospitals and police stations. This book will give you insight into how difficult it can be to survive without access to essential services or education while living under poor working conditions—and how much more complicated life becomes when armed forces are patrolling your neighborhood with orders not only to crush anyone with dissenting viewpoints but also anyone who might want better representation within society at large (such as women).

10. A House For Mr Biswas by V. S. Naipaul

The novel tells the story of Mr. Biswas, a Trinidadian who traveled to Trinidad from India at 18 and sought to achieve his dream: of owning a house. The novel describes his struggle to make this dream come true while dealing with the limitations set on him by his culture, religion, and family life. In particular, we see Mr. Biswas' marriage to Shama Bibi (later known as Sooka) as one of Naipaul's main themes because Shama Bibi is herself stuck between two cultures; she was born in India but raised in Trinidad since she was eight years old, so both places have shaped her life, but neither truly knows her fully nor understands her as a person until they are forced together by their marriage which brings out their true selves rather than what society wants them to be like...

11. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

A Suitable Boy is one of the best-known Indian novels, comparable in scope and ambition to Pride and Prejudice. Set in 1950s India, it follows the story of Lata Mehra, a young woman whose family is looking for an appropriate suitor for her. As the novel progresses, we see how Lata’s family deals with challenges inside and outside their home as they try to maintain their traditional values while trying to find their place in modern society. The book is divided into 18 parts—each told from a different character’s perspective—and spans decades of history.

In addition to being beautiful prose that brings India's culture into sharp relief against its historical backdrop, A Suitable Boy provides insight into what it means to belong somewhere while also feeling like an outsider there yourself."

12. The Inheritance Of Loss by Kiran Desai

This novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007. It tells the story of a retired judge living in Kalimpong and his relationship with two women - one from India, the other from Nepal. The novel mixes genres, including historical fiction, magic realism, and postcolonial literature.

The Inheritance Of Loss by Kiran Desai is a book you should read if you haven't already done so!

13. The Train to Pakistan by Khuswant Singh

The Train to Pakistan is a novel by Khuswant Singh. It was published in 1956 and became immensely popular with readers of all ages.

In this novel, Khuswant Singh introduces the partition of India into two separate countries: India and Pakistan. This event took place in 1947 after British rule ended in South Asia. In The Train to Pakistan, you'll learn how people felt about this change and how families split apart after being forced to move from their home country based on ethnic origin or religion.

The book follows four characters: Isher Singh, his wife Lajwanti Kaur, Raja Dharmendra Nath, and Shamas Chacha (Lajwanti Kaur's uncle). You follow these characters through their journey from Lahore, where they're living at the start of Partition, to Amritsar, where they hope things might be better for them despite being on opposite sides - one Hindu family versus another Muslim family, respectively.

14. The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions is a historical novel set in the time of the Mahabharata. The story follows Draupadi, wife of five brothers and daughter-in-law to 100 Kauravas. She recalls her childhood when she was born as Panchali or Yajnaseni in Virata's Kingdom on the day after the Dussehra festival, where Lord Krishna had danced with little bells tied on his feet. After her father's death at the hands of Jarasandha, she was brought up by Krishna, who helped her to marry Arjun and become queen of Indraprastha (Delhi).

It highlights Draupadi's journey from being an ordinary girl to one with magical powers through her marriage with the Pandava brothers.

15. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Aravind Adiga is an Indian writer and journalist who won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his first novel, The White Tiger. This story of class struggle and economic differences in modern India was shortlisted for the prestigious award in 2008.

The White Tiger begins with Balram Halwai, the story's narrator and protagonist, telling us how he got his name. “Balram” means strong man; he was named this because he was born with a caul over his face that resembled a tiger’s stripes. “Halwai” means confectioner; his father was a cook at one of Delhi's most luxurious restaurants. He later became a driver at Oxford University in England before returning home to India, where he died suddenly, leaving behind his pregnant wife. She gave birth to their son shortly afterward. Balram is so poor that when he goes into labor, she has no choice but to ask her mother-in-law (who lives next door) for help delivering him—but Balram doesn't mind being born because it means they have access to free food from living off scraps out back!

In short...

Many Indian novels are also considered classics and have been made into movies. A good example would be Shantaram, adapted into the same name film starring Johnny Depp in 2008. Another popular book is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, which was made into an award-winning film by Mira Nair in 1997. The White Tiger is another example of a great Indian novel that has been translated into multiple languages and adapted for both stages and screen!

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