Did you know that Amitav Ghosh is a recipient of the Padma Shri Award? Amitav Ghosh books are popular in the category of literary fiction. Born in Kolkata, Ghosh went on to complete his schooling from Doon School, Dehradun and received his graduate degree from St. Stephens, Delhi. He also holds a doctorate degree from Oxford University. He landed his first job with Indian Express. Since then, he has been a visiting professor and faculty member of esteemed institutions like Queen’s College and Harvard University.
Furthermore, Amitav Ghosh has also won the Sahitya Akademi Award, Dan David Prize among others. He is the first writer to win the Jnanpith Award for his contribution to Literature. If all of this intrigues you to read his best works, then you are in the right place. We have compiled a list of best Amitav Ghosh books for you!
1. The Shadow Lines
Published in 2005, The Shadow Lines talks about memories or rather the imperfections surrounding it. Based on the lives of two families, one American, and one Indian. Their lives go on to connect with each other and their stories intertwine. It unfolds in comic yet tragic ways making the novel more interesting. We travel back and forth in time with our narrator who takes us back to the time of World War 2 and the partition of Bengal and then brings us back to the late twentieth century.
The book explores various themes such as history, time, politics, and so on. With every new event that takes place in the book, we get a new perspective. The narrative is simple yet unique. The story is real, innocent, and believable making this one of the best Amitav Ghosh books.
2. The Circle of Reason
The Circle of Reason is the first book by Amitav Ghosh. Much like the writings of Gabriel Garcia and Salman Rushdie, Ghosh weaves a world of magic with this book. The story revolves around the life of Nachiketa Bose aka Alu, an orphan. Alu is gifted with the sense of various languages and also is an excellent weaver. Things fall apart when he is falsely accused of terrorism and chased by an adamant cop named Jyoti Das. Alu is forced to move countries and continents to save himself.
This is one of the most unique of Amitav Ghosh books. Ghosh creates a beautiful and vivid world through his words. The characters are immensely appealing and honest. Ghosh takes into account numerous events that bring the twist and turn in the story.
3. The Glass Palace
Set across three countries: India, Burma, and Malaya, The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh is one of the best books on historical fiction to date. The story is centred around Rajkumar, an orphan who loses everything in the British Invasion of 1885 in Burma. Even the king and queen of Burma are forced out of their Glass Palace and exiled to India. We see Rajkumar befriend Dolly, a girl from the Burmese court. What follows is an astounding story of love, loss, wars, and colonialism.
The Glass Palace is a clear example of why Amitav Ghosh is a master storyteller. The description of the events is so vivid and detailed that it will leave you asking for more. Through the struggle of a family, Ghosh paints a wider picture of history.
4. The Hungry Tide
Published first in 2004, ‘The Hungry Tide’ is one of the best Amitav Ghosh books. The story starts when a marine biologist Piya Roy meets Kanai Dutt on a train ride to Sundarbans. The purpose of Piya’s visit is to discover a rare species of dolphins while Kanai is visiting his aunt. As the story progresses, Piya lands up on Lusibari Island. While at it, both get intrigued by the region’s past and start finding more about it.
The story explores various themes including conservation, history, ecology, politics, caste, literacy, and so on. The narrative flows like magic and takes you back and forth into the past and the present. The book provides an enthralling experience at its best.
5. The Calcutta Chromosome
The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh is the writer’s debut in the world of mystery and suspense. The story begins when Antar discovers an I.D. Card with the help of his smart computer. He discovers that the card belonged to a man named Murugan disappeared in the year 1995. With this, Antar is drawn to Murugan’s world who devoted his life trying to understand the transmission of malaria’s chromosome.
Yet again, like other Amitav Ghosh books, numerous themes are employed in the narrative like religion, medicine, mythology, and science. The narrative is never from a single perspective or person. All in all, an interesting and intriguing read. The experience is worth it.
The Countdown is one of the early works in the category of Amitav Ghosh books. Published in 1999, Countdown is an account of various people affected or involved in the nuclear tests that took place in Pokaran, Rajasthan. This non-fiction book gives a brief insight on Indo-Pak relations, politics, and so on. Since the book is a collection of interviews of people, it makes for an interesting read. Different perspectives presented on the same topic open doors for new thoughts and feelings.
Though a very short read, this book still manages to hold a tight grip on the readers throughout. Countdown also clears many misconceptions that we have about Indo-Pak relations. Through the stories of various politicians, activists, and common citizens of the country, Ghosh seizes to bring his events to life. This is a must-read for anyone who is interested in history.
7. In An Antique Land
In an Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh is said to be one of the most well written of Amitav Ghosh books. The book takes into account the journey of the author himself who is in search of a nameless Indian slave who travelled to the Middle East. Somehow, he finds himself in a small village of Egypt and hence, has to co-exist with the natives there. He truly makes you see, feel, and imagine the world through his eyes.
This book by Amitav Ghosh makes for an excellent travelogue. It is interesting, entertaining as well as equally informative. It tells you a lot about the culture, language, and customs that prevail in a native town of Egypt. In an Antique Land is recommended to everyone who is interested to know about different geographies, cultures, and people.
8. Sea of Poppies
First published in 2008, Sea of Poppies is the first book in the Ibis Trilogy. This trilogy is said to be the best of Amitav Ghosh books. This book by Amitav Ghosh is centred around a vast ship named the Ibis. The ship is caught in a violent storm in the Indian ocean before it reaches the shore. The time period is before the outbreak of the Opium Wars in China. Numerous people come together unexpectedly on the ship and a new series of stories unfold.
The way Ghosh deals with history in this novel is highly commendable. Sea of Poppies consists of both suspense and satire. He has beautifully recreated the hardships that people had to face in the early 19th Century through his writing. The historic details in this book make for an interesting and knowledgeable read!
9. Gun Island
Gun Island is one of the latest publications in Amitav Ghosh books. It was published in 2019. The story revolves around the life of Deen Dutta, a Bengali who resides in New York. He is a dealer of rare books. His old beliefs start shifting, making room for doubt in his mind which forces him to embark on an exquisite journey from India to Los Angeles to Venice. His life turns upside down when it interlinks with Piya, Rafi, Tipu, and Cinta.
Gun Island transcends time and space. The reader feels that the adventure that Deen has embarked on is played live in front of their eyes. The book deals with numerous aspects like magic, history, myth, reality, and folklore. The description found in the book is vivid and poignant. It keeps you intrigued from beginning to end.
10. River of Smoke
River of Smoke is the second book of the Ibis Trilogy. The Ibis trilogy is the most famous of Amitav Ghosh books. Following the events of Sea of Poppies, the travellers onboard of the massive ship, The Ibis reach the crowded harbours of China after facing tremendous trouble in the sea. We discover that smuggling of items including opium and tea goes on at full swing even after the Emperor’s efforts to stop them. The fate of the travellers intertwines to create an iconic story.
This story by Amitav Ghosh is a clear example of why he is a master of storytelling. Through the pages of the book, Ghosh takes you back in history to the time of Opium trade. The story of River of Smoke is narrated with the utmost details. The last book of the trilogy is titled “Flood of Fire.”
11. Flood of Fire
Flood of Fire is the last book in the Ibis Trilogy. First published in 2015, it follows the story of the second book and gives readers the much-needed end to the trilogy. The story takes a dramatic turn when we see travellers travel in the midst of the First Opium War. The travellers are diverse in nature and yet share a similar fate as they travel through the war.
Though the book only covers the Opium War precisely, the readers will have a closure on the characters of the story since The Sea of Poppies. Ghosh has researched thoroughly about the emergence of the war and the same can be seen in his work. Every character’s story is immensely enjoyable. The Ibis trilogy is highly recommended!
You can also check out similar books by Indian authors.