10 Best Books to Know About India

Love exploring India history? Want to know about Indian culture and traditions deeply?

India is a last of vast diversity and one of the few surviving ancient civilizations. It has a long history with a multitude of characters.  Anyone can easily be lost in its beauty and charm or repulsed by it but it is a fact that there is no other country like India. It is the second-most populous country in the world and there is no better way to learn about its diverse culture and complex history than to read about it.

Many great books have been written on India in the form of novels, poems, and historical texts, commentaries that reflect its rich and colourful history, culture, and traditions. India has a long and distinguished literary record. The first book of India was written as far back as 1500BC and its oral tradition is even older than that.

Whether you are looking for a comprehensive history of India or just want to know about the rich and complex civilization that flourished in the Indian subcontinent in bygone eras, you find plenty of good books to read. You could actually live your entire life here or read thousands of books and still not know India well.

Here we have rounded up a list of 10 best books to know India. Some are by Indian authors, and some are by foreigners who have spent a lot of time in India. 

10 Best Books to Know India

1 A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

The epic book, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is reminiscent of his style. This is one of the best books to know about India, it follows the lives of four characters and the terrible hardships they endure living through the 1970s emergency in India.

This is one of those books that are not easy to read as it forces you to confront the stark realities of poverty, casteism, cruelty, hunger, corruption, and sometimes just plain bad luck.

A Fine Balance book is bleak, but at the same time shines a light on the resilience of the human spirit. This book perfects if you want to learn about Indian society and culture, especially the most difficult aspects.

2 Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

In some ways, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is the fictional version of Freedom at Midnight. India got independence from the British colonial rule at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947.

This book is about the children born in India at the exact moment of independence, and superficially two of them- who are switched in the hospital and grow up with the wrong facility. This book is considered among the best books to know about India. It was been honoured with the Booker Prize, and then the Booker of Bookers.

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This is a big story, bawdy sprawling, maddening, magical. A movie was also made on this book by Deepak Mehta.

3 India After Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha

India After Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha

India After Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha is an extremely well-researched book. It is one of the best books to know about India especially if you want to look at India’s growth in modern time. The novel recounts the events that took place in India just after Independence.

In this book, you go on the journey of modern India, post-independence from British in 1947 up until the 1990s. You will see that India is struggling to maintain its democratic status, people are fighting because of the lingual differences and there are also people killing each other but at last, all come together for their own nation. Thoroughly covering India’s political history over the latter half of the 20th century, this book is an excellent primer for understanding the current economic and social realities of India.   

4 Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

One of the most famous books in India, Train to Pakistan shows the fictional town of Mano Majra. It captures the emotional and literal pain of partition. In this book, this fictional place is at the border of Pakistan and India.

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In this short book, you get to know most of the characters in the book; all of who come from different parts of the society. As one of the best books to know about India, the book by Khushwant Singh. It will also help you to understand the cultural and social structure of the society; that was found in the middle of Partition. It also helps you to understand the better the pain of the event; from the point of view of the masses.

5 Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru

Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru

Among the best books to know about India, Discovery of India is written by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Jawaharlal Nehru wrote this book when he was in Prison during 1942-1946. This book traces India’s history starting from the Indus Valley Civilization.

The novel brings a detailed account of the period ranging from the coming of the Aryans; to the establishment of the British Empire. This is recommended to read if you want to get a snapshot of India’s incredibly long past. This book was also produced as an award-winning television series by Shyam Benegal.

6 The White Tiger by Arvid Adiga

The White Tiger by Arvid Adiga

Another popular name in the list of Best books to know about India. The White Tiger by Arvid Adiga deals with the issues India faces mainly due to the class divide. In the novel, the writer explained the story of Balram; who travels to Delhi to be a driver for a rich man. And then eventually to Bangalore after murdering his boos and stealing money.

The book takes you through the issues of poverty in the nation from a more empathetic point of view. Moreover, it also shows other issues related to loyalty, poverty, and religion.

7 The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen

The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen

The Argumentative Indian is the collection of essays on Indian History by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen. This book is an essential read if you are seeking to understand the foundations of Indian Polity.

This novel is focused on the traditions of publishing debate or argumentation; as well as intellectual diversity in the Indian civilizations of the past. The author put forth his views on what will determine the success of the democracy of India. Overall, this is a great read and no doubt it is among the best books to know about India.

8 The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857 by William Dalrymple

The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857 by William Dalrymple

William Dalrymple is an award-winning historian as well as travel writing. His novel, The Last Mughal scripts a culturally diverse and rich society during the rule of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor. This book is like a comprehensive account of the years marked by the decline of the Mughal Empire and the emergence of the British Raj in India, and a perfect for the history lover.

In the year 1857, the first war against the British marked the end of the Mughal rule. The writer perfectly lists the matter in which these incidents unfolded the impact it had on India; both politically and culturally.

William’s writing style flair for capturing insights makes this novel a must-read; and stand among the best books to know about India.

9 The Great Indian Novel by Sashi Tharoor

The Great Indian Novel by Sashi Tharoor

The Great Indian Novel is a satirical novel by Shashi Tharoor and is considered as the best book to know about India. This is actually a fictional story that takes the story of Mahabharata, the epic of Hindu mythology and recasts and resets it in the context of the Indian Independence Movement and the first three decades post-independence.

In the novel, Sashi Tharoor has perfectly transformed figures from India history into characters from mythology and the mythical story of India and retold as a history of Indian independence and subsequent history, up through the 1980s.

10 India: A History by John Keay

India: A History by John Keay

Another amazing book to know about India, India: A History is a perfect read for anyone looking for a crash course on Indian history. In this novel, John Keay masterfully traced more than 5,000 years of civilization on the Indian subcontinent. An English journalist and author, John Keay is specialized in writing popular histories about India with a special focus on their colonization and exploration by Europeans.

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The story begins with the Harappa civilization and covers all major developments in South Asia until the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan. This book is considered by many as a perfect textbook for any students of India and one of the best books to know about India.

Last Verdict on the Best Books to Know about India

Understanding your country through books is the best- the internet is too scattered and undependable. Fortunately, there are more than enough authors willing to see the crevices of Indian history and culture and help us to know what’s been going on.

We hope you enjoyed this list of 10 best books to know about India. If you have any doubt or question do let us know in the comments below, we will be glad to hear from you. Also, comment if we have missed any important book name.

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