Among all the Indian authors, poets and novelists there have been, Vikram Seth is one of the most popular names. Many of his published works have won him great laurels as a writer including the Sahitya Academy Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, WH Smith Literary Award and Crossword Book Award. He has also been bestowed by the great Padma Shri by the Government of India for his contributions to the Indian English literature. The most popular Vikram Seth Books and Novels include ‘The Golden Gate’, ‘A Suitable Boy’ and ‘An Equal Music’.
When one deeply studies Vikram Seth Books in detail, it is noticeable that he is a very versatile writer who has written books in all genres and poetry for all age-groups. The language that he uses is clear, fun-filled, and also easily readable. He has also used irony in many places in different forms of his writing. Very often, his writings are found to be relatable with contemporary audiences. Most of the Vikram Seth books including poems and novels have helped him make a special place as a writer in the writing industry.
Vikram Seth Books- Novels and children fiction
The Golden Gate
The Golden Gate is the first novel ever written by Vikram Seth. The story of the book is set in San Francisco around the life of various fashionable young men with a well-paying job, popularly referred to as yuppies in today’s times. The book is written in verses and comprises of 590 sonnets in total. The story revolves around the romance between John Brown and Liz, who meet because of a newspaper advertisement and the shuffling that happens as the story progresses. The rhyme scheme of the sonnets makes it even more interesting to read the book. It was only after writing his first novel that Vikram Seth became a local interest and a household writer whose books people loved reading, whether in India or in the US. This book was many people’s journey into self-discovery and especially those who agreed with the notion that when a life is financially stable, the troubles of life start to revolve around romance, identity and self-actualization. The energy of the words is so captivating that it will definitely get you hooked to the story.
A Suitable Boy
This novel holds the record of being the longest English novel not just among the Vikram Seth books but also among all the novels ever published in the English language. This novel has everything that a good story could ask for; multiple plots with multiple characters, authentic drama, daughter-mother conflict, Hindu-Muslim conflict and a lot more. In this novel, Vikram Seth abandoned the regular poetry writing and took up a regular yet gripping novel writing approach. The saga of four families, set in the post-colonial era after India’s independence, is spread over a period of eighteen months. Seth has very well developed the character portrait of every character in the book. He has beautifully presented his point of view in a dry yet compassionate manner. The story revolves around the protagonist Lata and her three potential suitors. Various societal norms and behaviour of the people of those times that were influenced by the Britishers are very well exemplified in the book using the tools of tragedy and comedy. People who enjoy reading slow and light yet well-built stories will definitely enjoy this Vikram Seth Book.
An Equal Music
This book earned the writer Vikram Seth the Crossword Book Award for the category of ‘Fiction’ in 1999. The main character of this book is a violinist Michael Holme, who falls in love again with a lover from the past who is already married by now and is also a pianist. The story explores the turn their lives take after the affair and another secret that Michael learns about his lover. The writing in this book is very passionate and poetic as the events unfold in the beautiful settings in Vienna, Venice, and London. This particular piece of writing amongst all the Vikram Seth books was very well received by critics and readers alike. The element of music adds a unique value to the writing as one particular piece of music is continuously referred to in the story. It can very aptly be referred to as a lyrical tale full of passion and love and everyone who reads this book can draw references directly from the book about the same. The story is so powerful that it is bound to leave a deep impact on everyone.
Arion and the Dolphin
This book is a really unique piece of children’s fiction in the collection of the top Vikram Seth books. It might not be your usual picture book but it is a very interactive and attractive retelling of a popular Greek legend. While it may be a little intense for young audiences, people of any age can enjoy the plot of the story. The story revolves around a young and talented boy named Arion who is a musician. His journey to win a competition and lure a dolphin from the sea is depicted in the story. People who enjoy music as an escape to get out of every situation will definitely relate to this boy. The main message reflected in the story is how the elements of nature have so much to offer us and all we have to do is listen to them. Readers will feel a variety of emotions while going through this picture book.
Vikram Seth Books: Poetry
As the name and the cover suggests, this book is a combination of tales for children. The book was written in the year 1991 and is a collection of fables written as poems by the writer. The best part of this book is that it can be enjoyed by young children and grown-ups alike. The animal characters and the lessons conveyed by them carry some message for everyone. So even if you are an adult wondering whether you should read a children’s book, the answer is definitely a yes! Some critics even believe that this is one of the most innovative and creative books written by Seth. He has not only reworked around stories from all over the world including China, India, Greece, and Ukraine but has also created two very original tales of his own. The best part about these beastly tales is that you can keep going back to them again and again and you will always find something to relate to, that will definitely be of great help.
All You Who Sleep Tonight
Another great collection of poems by Vikram Seth. It deals with the idea of love and its variations. It talks about love in all forms, lost, experienced, deferred or cherished. The writer takes the readers on a journey to make them pass through a variety of scenarios, all filled with the love of one form or the other. If you enjoy deep, meaningful, and passionate poetry, this book will give you a rich and enhanced experience of the same. While reading, you can also observe that among all the Vikram Seth Books, he has been the most unafraid of exploring the feeling of love in this one. Read this for an elegant and meaningful rendezvous with love in the language of Seth.
Three Chinese Poets
This Vikram Seth Book brings to you the work of some of the most renowned writers and poets from China. Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu are the three Chinese poets and their work including multiple pieces of poetry has been translated by Seth into English in this book. The three contemporary poets belonged to the T’ang Dynasty in China and while we understand that the translation may not be the best reflection of their work, Seth has done an excellent job by keeping the meaning and spirit of the poetry intact. The mastery of the words is clearly visible in each of Vikram Seth books and this one is no exception. Seth’s versatility as a writer is clearly visible as each of his attempts of writing is different from the previous one.
This is the first set of poems ever written by the writer. Originally these poems were hand-printed by the writer’s workshop in Calcutta. As his reputation as a writer grew, these poems were later published as a volume. Even though the readers may find this book to be a less polished version of Vikram Seth’s writings, this is definitely another enchanting piece of magic in the collection that is Vikram Seth’s books. Read it for some interesting rhyming couplets and light-hearted poetry. A poem from the collection that went on to become very popular and was even used by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in the class 10th curriculum was ‘The Frog and The Nightingale’.
This is another great collection of poems by Vikram Seth which speak directly to the soul. In this collection, Seth writes about the shifting nature of the changing seasons and notes down his observations about changes in lives as he wanders about the summer passing by. When you read this collection of poetry, you will feel like you are meditating on a peaceful summer morning one moment and feel a heavy blow of sadness at the other moment. The range of emotions explored in the poems is wide and intensive.
The Humble Administrator’s Garden
In his lifetime, Vikram Seth has explored three cultures in-depth, which include India, China, and California. In this compilation of poems, he again talks about and reflects on these three cultures. The sections in the book are named on the basis of things most commonly found in the gardens of these three cultures like Neem, Wutong, and Live-Oak. Within these categories as well, he writes about the various things that can be found in a garden in each culture, some literally, while others, metaphorically.
Vikram Seth Books Non-fiction
The book ‘Two lives’ is the second piece of non-fiction by Vikram Seth. It can be considered as a memorial of two extremely extraordinary lives, as the name already suggests. Vikram Seth stayed with his uncle Shanti and aunt Henny when he was only seventeen years old. The stay left a great impression on the mind of Seth when he realised that his uncle and aunt were an extraordinary couple. Shanti left for Europe to study and was later accepted into a dental school in Berlin. That’s where he met Henny. The book explores their journey together throughout the years. It must have been a great challenge for Seth to understand Henny’s journey as when he started writing this memoir, she was already dead and Shanti was not in good health.
This book is more than just a long-lasting love affair. It is a story of friendship, survival and existence. It is an intricate exploration of the ups and downs faced by this couple due to a visible ethnic division. The story of their marriage and the events thereafter have been very beautifully woven together by Vikram Seth. He has managed to make the love story of these two lives immortal and forever etched into our memories.
The Rivered Earth
This gem is one of those Vikram Seth Books that very beautifully explores his diversity as a writer and author. In addition to writing novels, stories and poems, Seth has beautifully expressed the art of writing four libretti which are clearly inspired by his personal and literary experiences. The four songs in the book are titled ‘Time of War’, ‘Shared Ground’, ‘The Traveller’ and ‘Seven elements. He has also described the journey of working with a music composer. These songs are filled with hope and energy and will make you travel through time and space and divulge into a deeper self.
If you wish to understand music without actually listening to it, this book is your best bet. It will leave you yearning for the musical version of the songs in a CD. The book travels across the world, through India, China, and England, and explores elements of themes like love, friendship, literature, history, and sometimes even drama. It also reflects all forms that the author has taken and the cherry on the cake is the calligraphy by the author that is also a part of the book. Whether it is a piece of poetry with a live pulse or a music piece waiting to be performed, we will leave it up to you to decide!
From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sinkiang and Tibet
Vikram Seth studied in China at the Nanjing University for about 2 years. In 1981, he returned to Delhi for a summer break. This book is an account of his hitchhiking experience from China to India through Sinkiang and Tibet. During his travel, he used various unconventional modes of transportation like trucks. The journal he kept throughout the journey and the photographs he clicked were the sources of information for him and also a great help in writing the book. This book led him to receive one of the most prestigious awards in Britain in the category of travel writing, which is the ‘Thomas Cook Travel Book Award’ in the year 1983.
One can only imagine the discipline and the desire to share experiences with the world that made Seth write this book in such a short period of time. The book has a beautiful and poetic description of the many wonderful natural sights that he came across and the amazing people he met during his journey. Raw, relatable and relishable are the words one can use to aptly describe this book. It is also a detailed description of his encounter with China as a country and the various attributes of the people in China that make them so warm and welcoming. Having successfully written a travelogue, Seth once again proved his prowess as a writer.
This is our list of the top Vikram Seth Books that you should read to understand the voice of the writer. To read a book by Vikram Seth is like entering a different world through the mind of the writer. And to be honest, each book is a different mind altogether. If you are a beginner and wish to explore more books by Indian authors, Vikram Seth books are sure to leave a great impact on your mind. They are also like them gems that are only waiting to be discovered. So what are you waiting for? Grab your copies now and get started.