Shortlisting best books by Indian Authors is a humongous and complex task given that Indian novelists have been writing for centuries. It is a challenging task to pick out only 10 best books by Indian authors ever. This is an attempt to list best Indian novels ever written, and are worth investing every second of your time.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Largely held as one of the ‘best 100 books’ or ‘best books by Indian authors’ by critics, its place in Indian literary archive is indisputable. Vikram Seth took many years to pen his magnum opus, which also is a whopping 1400 page read. Don’t be fooled by its length. Having personally read it twice, I can assure it is a simple read with intriguing characters and plots that make time fly by. The larger plot of the book revolves around Rupa Mehra’s incorrigible effort to find a suitable boy for her daughter Lata. A non-complex story weaves together many characters that hold their own unique charisma. It is certain that the characters linger on your mind even when you are done with the book.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
This masterpiece by Arundhati Roy, also the winner of the Booker Prize in 1997, is a poignant tale of fraternal twins and their struggles in their journey. It has a political and social backdrop and focuses on how small things have large influences on our lives. It is a story of 7-year-old twins Estha and Rahel whose lives change one day in 1969, on the arrival of their cousin. The best thing about The God of Small Things is its ability to create intense imagery and narrative that would stay with you after a long time you put down the book. Undoubtedly, one of the best Indian novels ever, and a classic for generations to come.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Another Booker prize winner from India (2008), The White Tiger is best described as a novel that lit up the perspective of Indian mainland globally. Adiga vividly paints the protagonist Balram Halwai, who works as a driver with a rich urban man, and then steals his money to start his own business in Bangalore. Adiga explores the vulnerabilities of classes and personalities in his debut novel. Written with careful descriptions of economic disparities in India, it penetrates into the mind of a man. A simple read, The White Tiger deserves to be in the hall of fame of best Indian books.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Midnight’s Children doesn’t need an introduction and will definitely make it to every list of best books by Indian authors ever. A modern classic, Booker of Bookers, and perhaps the most popular work of the last century, it has exhilarated its readers all across the world. Story of Salim Sanhai, born on August 15, it travels through India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and back to India in its own idiosyncratic enchanting manner. Loved by critics globally, it is a masterpiece of magical realism, with its clever plot and larger than life characters. If there’s one book by an Indian author you should read, it would perhaps be Midnight’s Children.
A Fine Balance By Rohinton Mistry
India born Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry is perhaps best known for painting heart-wrenching pictures of modern India. A Fine Balance is a story of Ishvar and Omprakash, two low-caste tailors from Indian hinterland, who move to Bombay to work with Dina Dalal, a widow who runs her household hand to mouth and sews for a larger apparel company. However, the story is far more than that – it is a story that encapsulates the atrocities of Emergency, social discrimination in Indian rural villages, and the continuous struggle to eke income in the face of uncertainties.
The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor
Imagine Mahabharata blended with figures from the Indian freedom struggle. That’s The Great Indian Novel. Largely regarded as Tharoor’s best work, The Great Indian Novel draws parallels from the great Indian mythology with freedom fighters – Gandhi is Bhisma Pitama, Jinnah is Karna, etc. If you are fascinated with mythology, its enchanting stories of impossibilities, grab this magnum opus by Tharoor.
Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh
Amitav Ghosh is a contemporary Indian novelist, and largely regarded as one of the best Indian novelists. He has written a large anthology of work, but Shadow Lines remains a classic that defined his way of writing. Shadow Lines is a story of a young narrator of his life in then Calcutta and London, with non-linear storytelling format. It brings forth the ghosts of partition and philosophical and socio-cultural elements of society. Don’t miss this book by unarguably one of the best Indian authors to grace the country.
The Guide by RK Narayan
RK Narayan is immortalised in the Indian literary world for his large body of work. The Guide, published in 1958, is a story of Raju, a jovial guide, who corrupts because of his lust for money and then transforms himself into a spiritual guru. It is a coming of age Indian novel that makes for a unique narrative. The book was adapted into a film that starred Dev Anand, a classic in Indian film history. This book is for you if you would like to understand the transformation of a man from evil to mystical.
White Mughals by William Dalrymple
If there was a book on historical fiction that was to be read, it has to be White Mughals. Story of a Mughal Royal and British digintary. Don’t get scared by the thick tome of the book. Every word is worth its ink. Dalrymple, the magnificent writer that he is, weaves a heart-wrenching story that skirts around British occupation of India, Hyderabadi courts and tales of love and denial.
Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh
Many works have been done on the bloody partition. Train to Pakistan is a classic novel that narrates the story in a manner only Khushwant Singh can write. It re-lives the tension of partition and communal riots largely amongst the Sikhs and Muslims. Train to Pakistan delves into local nuances and nationwide riots. A relatively short read, it is definitely thick on intensity, making it our list of the best books by Indian authors.
Hope you enjoyed our specially curated list of best books by Indian authors. You can also check out our top picks from around the globe here.