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How many English novels by Indian authors have you read? I bet not many. Most of our literature courses concentrate on Western writers and a few token Indian writers as part of our syllabus. Most of our young generation are more comfortable reading books in translation from writers like Paulo Coelho than reading the wealth of fiction that exists in their own country. The best novels by Indian authors might be a very long list. But if you want to make a start, you should start by reading these 20 best English novels by Indian authors.
Indian writing in English is now a brand by itself. Indians are self-confessed writers of post colonial literature. However, these best novels by Indian authors bear witness to the fact that there is much more to Indian writing than post-colonialism. The books are being called the best Indian novels to read because they represent Indian culture and ethnicity in their unique ways.
This list of must read Indian books is very important for every Indian who wants to call himself or herself 'well-read'. You may be well-educated in English; but you cannot be called 'well-read' unless you have read these best novels by Indian authors. This not merely an exercise in reading but also a way in which you know your own roots.
So here the 20 best English novels by Indian authors that have been hand-picked by Boldsky.
Midnight's Children: Salman Rushdie
Controversies apart, 'Midnight's Children' is Salman Rushdie's best work so far. It is one of the first novels that explored magical realism so beautifully over 3 generations. Two babies born at the wake of midnight when India awoke to freedom are the main characters of this novel.
The God Of Small Things: Arundhati Roy
We loved Arundhati Roy's first novel so much that the second one never came! 'The God Of Small Things' is a story of identical twins separated at birth. There is satire in the plot and enough freshness of language to hold you on till the end.
The Inheritance Of Loss: Kiran Desai
Is culture really as deep rooted as we think or is it just skin deep like everything else? Kiran Desai's award winning book talk about this theme of living between the East and the West. She also shows how easily people reject their own culture to 'fit in'.
Shadow Lines: Amitav Ghosh
You must read Amitav Ghosh's 'Shadow Lines' for its narrative style as much as you read it for the history. The protagonist is very interesting because he remembers places more than he remembers people or what they said. It is one of the best post colonial novels that has ever been written.
Guide: R K Narayan
The journey of a tourist guide to becoming a spiritual guru and his tryst with a much married woman who wants to be a dancer. That is the novel that has given Bollywood its biggest-ever hit. However, the original novel by the creator of 'Swami and his Friends' is also a must-read.
The Namesake: Jhumpa Lahiri
When your 'namesake' for the person you are named after starts affecting your life, you start having twin identities. This novel beautifully depicts how Bengalis live with the duel identities of the pet names and their real names in the backdrop of an immigrant American life.
Fasting, Feasting: Anita Desai
The male child is still the preferred child in India. And Anita Desai has the skill to bring message through with utter sublets. The story revolves around Uma who is a worthless child and the hankers for a male child who comes in the form of her brother Arun.
The Cuckold: Kiran Nagrkar
The mythical story told from the point of view of Maharana Pratap, the never talked about husband of Mira Bai. The Indian saint Mira Bai was said to be in love with Lord Krishna. How hard was it for an Indian husband from the Middle Ages to understand this divine love affair?
Autobiography Of An Unknown Indian: Nirad C. Chaudhuri
This book gives a very personal account of an unknown man's life lost in the massive city of Calcutta. The novel describes the exit of the British from India and talks about it affecting an average Indian person's life.
A Bend In The River: V S Naipaul
The subject of the Indian diaspora that exists in other countries, especially in Africa is rarely touched. Nobel prize winner, V S Naipaul has touched upon this subject in this controversial novel.
The Palace Of Illusions: Chitra Banerjee Divakauri
Draupadi was the mythical Indian woman who was born from the fire, had 5 husbands and was held responsible for most destructive wars in India. What if the story of Mahabharat was told from the point of view of this phenomenal woman?
Untouchable: Mulk Raj Anand
The caste system is not just something we read about in books. It is still very much a living thing in India. And Mulk Raj Anand brings it to life by describing one day in the like of a young 'untouchable' boy.
A Fine Balance: Rohinton Mistry
Describing the life and times of the Emergency when four characters from different social backgrounds come together form the plot of the novel. A rare novel that talks about this time when India seized to be a democratic country.
The Hungry Tide: Amitav Ghosh
If you visit the Sunderbans after reading this novel, you will feel like you know each bend in the river and every island in the archipelago. A beautiful example of life on these strange and dark delta islands, Amitav Ghosh's 'The Hungry Tide' is a must read.
A Suitable Boy: Vikram Seth
How is an Indian arranged marriage literally 'arranged'? In the answer to this question, you will have to read an entire novel from Vikram Seth.
The Indian Novel: Shashi Tharoor
The Mahabharat is the greatest Indian epic ever written. And Shashi Tharoor re-tells the story of Mahabharat by placing it in the context of Indian politics and the freedom struggle. Excellent piece of satire.
The Night Train At Doeli & Other Stories: Ruskin Bond
Ruskin Bond is one of the best Indian authors who writes about the great Himalayan ranges and the small hamlets in it. You miss out a large cultural element of Indian literature if you don't read Ruskin Bond's works.
Heat & Dust: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
When a foreigner comes to India to look for her roots, what doe she find? In the heat and dust of India, there are a million unknown stories waiting to be told.
The Shiva Trology: Amish
Lord Shiva, Neelkanth; was he a God or a living idol? This novel trilogy claims that Shiva was actually a man who lived many centuries back. He grew to the status of a God by his deeds.
The White Tiger: Aravinda Adiga
The class struggle in India is funnier than the class struggle that brought about the worker's revolution! Just read what Book Prize Winner, Aravinda Adiga has to say about it.