30 Indian Books One Should Read Before 30

Given the fact that I am a voracious reader and try and read almost anything and everything I can get my hands on, I often encounter a question from fellow readers “Suggest some good books to read”. When you have read so much it’s both difficult and easy to dole out suggestions extempore, easy because you can easily list out books which are worth reading as a suggestion and difficult because no matter what, you tend to miss an awesome recommendation.

So I decided to compile a list of some of the best reads which have an Indian connection i.e. the author is an Indian or the book is written on India. These are the books I have read over the years, have cherished the writing, the content and have recommended to people around me at one point or the other. The blurbs are not the reviews of the said books but just a broad indication on the subject of the book.

As with all lists, the disclaimer: This list is entirely based on personal judgment and preference and is not indicative of any other merit or demerit. There might be some very good books which I might have missed because I haven’t read them yet or for some other reasons. Also the Indian in the title is very loosely used term, the books or the authors would have some Indian connection. If you feel that a book that should have been a part of the list please feel free to add it in the comments section.

So here is the list of books-

1- A Suitable Boy By Vikram Seth – One of the most voluminous fiction novels I have ever read. A Story of four families in the post 1947 India, with the plot revolving around a mother searching a suitable boy for her daughter.

2- City of Djinns By William Dalrymple– One of the best books ever written on the city of Delhi, A book that will make you fall in love with the city and its history.

3- English, August: An Indian Story By Upamanyu Chatterjee – A fictional story of a civil servant which spans across his training and first posting in a small town.

4- Everybody Loves a Good Drought By P Sainath – A collection or reports from tour of author is some of the most poor parts of India. The author portrays a real picture of poverty and backwardness in the interior India.

5- Five Point Someone: What Not to Do at IIT By Chetan Bhagat – A fast paced read about the youngsters studying at one of the most prestigious institute. One of the books which hooked the India’s new generation back to reading.

6- Gitanjali By Pt. Rabindranath Tagore – A collection of poem by the Nobel Laureate must read.

7- In Spite of Gods By Edward Luce – A picture of the modern India through the eyes of a foreign journalist travelling all across.

8- India Unbound By Gurcharan Das – A book on the changes in India during the era of 1991 and the pre and post liberalization of policy of India.

9- Indian Controversies: Essays in Religion & Politics By Arun Shourie – A deep insight on the religion in India and politics played over it. The book covers a deep insight on the mistakes done during the time of Babri Masjid demolition and the political aspects of it.

10- Inheritance of Loss By Kiran Desai – The book is a fictional story of the retired Judge who is living alone in North East close to the Nepal border. The story progresses when his grand-daughter comes to live with him. The story covers how their life is intertwined between insurgencies, immigration and a lot more.

11- Interpreter of Maladies By Jhumpa Lahiri – A collection of nine short stories by the Indian American author. The stories are linked through a common thread of the immigration and tryst to protect the culture, religion and the identity.

12- Malgudi Days By R K Narayan – The book of tales from the fictional town of Malgudi, beautifully created and crafted by the author. Every story and character reflects a tale which would keep Malgudi in reader’s heart forever.

13- Maximum City: Bombay, Lost and Found By Suketu Mehta – One of the best, apt and most engaging account of the wonders of Mumbai. Suketu Mehta almost charts the moving portrait of the city of Bombay.

14- Midnight’s Children By Salman Rushdie – A brilliant tale set up in India around the time of independence and partition. The story is about the protagonist who has special powers because he was born right at the midnight hour and unites all other children born at midnight who are blessed with special power too.

15- My Experiments with Truth By Mahatma Gandhi – The autobiography of the father of the Nation.

16- Prince of Ayodhya By Ashok K Banker – This is the first part of the six book series where he depicts the tale of Ramayana. A modern version of the epic in which the tales of Rama, Laxman and Sita were told as a more humane characters, highlighting their emotional sides too.

17- Q & A By Vikas Swarup – A brilliant tale of a waiter winning the top prize in the general knowledge quiz show, the story of how he wins the show and finds love in his life.

18- Sea of Poppies By Amitav Ghosh – A fictional tale based in the era of Opium trade; and the opium wars on the banks of river ganges.

19- Shantaram By David Gregory Roberts – An account of the journey of an Australian prisoner who arrives in Mumbai. Gets involved with underworld, the war in Afghanistan and a lot more goes in the entire adventure.

20- Spouse: The Truth About Marriage By Shobha De – The Indian version of the Men are from Mars and Woman are from Venus. A very good book to read for some practical and insightful advice on how to sustain an Indian marriage.

21- Such a Long Journey By Rohinton Mistry – A novel set in Bombay of 1971 where the protagonist is a government clerk. Struggling against the poverty, and the hope diminishes when the eldest son of the family refuses to join the prestigious IIT.

22- Tales of the Open Road By Ruskin Bond – A travelogue of India by Ruskin Bond covering which has not been covered by any author.

23- The Argumentative Indian By Amartya Sen – A series of essays by the Nobel Laureate which depicts the rise of the contemporary India as a tradition and history of the argumentative aspect of our culture.

24- The Great Indian Novel By Shashi Tharoor – A satirical and fictional take on the Independence movement of India and the couple decades following it, casting the shadow of The Mahabharata.

25- The High Performance Entrepreneur By Subroto Bagchi – Tenets from a successful entrepreneur for identifying and developing the entrepreneur in oneself.

26- The Japanese Wife By Kunal Basu – A collection of Short stories of varying themes and interests but a treat to read

27- The Palace of Illusions By Chitra Banerjee Divakurni – A book setup in the backdrop of Mahabharata bringing out the feminine point of view.

28- Train To Pakistan By Khushwant Singh – An account of the horror and torture that was inflicted on the common man during the partition.

29- We The People By Nani A Palkhivala – A back to reality read touching the realms of what has happened in India and how the people and constitution have contributed to it

30- The White Tiger By Arvind Adiga – A satirical novel based on a theme which provides a contrast between the contemporary India rising as a global economic superpower and a harsh reality working class struggling with poverty.

98 comments on “30 Indian Books One Should Read Before 30”

    • Prats Reply

      @Ruchira: Indeed that is a fabulous book… Apart from Tales from an open road, I love Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra from Ruskin Bond too 🙂

  1. Smita Reply

    Thats some comprehensive list & shows our choices are different 🙂 my scores is 9 (own but yet to read) 6 (read). As Poonam has said on twitter you can expect me to add some masala stuff in here 😉 but yes off hand one book that I would add will be Riot by Shashi Tharoor, Arranged Marriage by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, many more from Ruskin Bond. But then that would be my list hehehe…

    • Prats Reply

      @Smita: yes I agree but I chose not repeat authors.. So I keep the list with more variance 🙂 but I know its difficult to take pic of these authors..I had a tough time too 🙂

    • Monika Reply

      riot is lying on my side table but somehow one book or the other is coming and interrutping its reading 🙂

      must pick up arranged marriage too

  2. Deeps Reply

    Thank you thank you for the recommendations, Prats. Some of them have been in my must read list for a while.

    I’ve read Palace of Illusions and would totally recommend too. Five Point someone was a different story though..I couldnt even finish it. It was that bad for me :D. I liked CB’s Two States though.

    I have about 5 books in my shelf waiting to be read, of which The Suitable Boy is right on top. Will be starting it right after I’ve finished reading ‘The Patron Saints of Liars’ by Anna Patchett. Will let you know how the book fared for me 🙂

    • Prats Reply

      @Harsha: That was the entire point of making this list. You can now always refer to this list when you want to buy some.

    • Prats Reply

      @Monika: I really think it should be there…. It is one book which brought a major change in the way we Indians Read and it also produced a new breed of Indian authors.

      • Chirag De Reply

        @ Monika : What makes you doubt that ‘5 point someone’ should have been here or not ? It is a book that brought a revolution in the boring lives of millions of readers.Before it,novels were only written and meant to chase awards.’5 point someone’ broke this monotony and gave the readers a new lease of life from the boring English literature novels,most of which needed a dictionary by the side.’5 point someone’ was meant to reach everybody unlike the other novels which targetted only a specific group.That’s the reason it was a ‘blockbuster’ and a ‘bestseller’ even yrs after its publication.It has influenced more people than any other novel.That’s why Chetan Bhagat was also selected as one of the 100 most infuential people in the world by the prestigious ‘Time magazine.’

  3. Monika Reply

    actually seeing this I am tempted to make a list of my own just that i have no time these days

    let me see if i can do it 🙂

    • Prats Reply

      @IHM: I have read it, but honestly speaking I was bored by its slow pace and could never finish it (This I am speaking around 10 yrs back may be at that point of time the 18 yr old me didn’t have the maturity to understand it )

    • Rpr21 Reply

      i agree. i kept waiting for god of small things to show up on the list but it never did! i mean ofcourse personal preferences, yes but i find it surprising prats that you found the pace of god of small things slow, but you read through midnights children! But i love that prince of ayodhya is included 😀

    • Prats Reply

      @Meira: Lollzz so I believe you are going to blame me for the some added books that you got and have not read them yet 😛

  4. Smitha Reply

    Great, varied list.. Although, Five point someone would not classify for me.. And Amitav Ghosh’s writings – I feel his older works like ‘The Glass Palace’ are much better reads that ‘The Sea of Poppies’. I would also add Ramchandra Guha’s India after Gandhi. I loved the perspective this book gave on Indian History after independence.

    • Prats Reply

      @Smitha: I was so tempted to add multiple books from the same Author but then decided against it to maintain the variety in the list.

  5. Pallavi Reply

    Great list, but when I saw Chetan Bhagat and Adiga there, I felt awful!!!! They don’t qualify to be writers, Prats 🙂 They sort of lower the standards so much, I feel even I can write and publish a book!!!
    I especially liked A Suitable Boy, I think despite the volume, it was a very good read, throwing light on culture, the locale, etc….
    Btw, Prats, thanks for your vote on Indiblogger (http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=34664) I think I saw your profile there 🙂

    • Prats Reply

      @Pallavi: Well,
      CB- I believe he deserves an honorable mention in contemporary Indian writing, he is the one which introduced this new genre to India writing and actually brought this writing to masses at lower price point.

      Adiga- I simply loved his narratives in the book, if for nothing else I would keep his book for the beautiful narration.

  6. momofrs Reply

    Egad !!
    Only 4 out of 30 😥 ….my record is really bad!!

    Thanks for the list Prats…..I’m now hunting for books in that order 😀

  7. deepti Reply

    ok…der aaye durust aaye…i loved this post of yours….:)….simply super…i havent read most of them, but i have a special inclnation twrds books about India/ of Indian authors….so i am going to follow this list now…:)

  8. Psych Babbler Reply

    Nice list…have read a few of them. By the way, Rohinton Mistry’s ‘A Fine Balance’ is another must-read imho. One of my favourite books by far!

    • Prats Reply

      @Psych Babbler: I was stuck between the two too….But some how I liked the other one better and now that the Thackery Jr. jr. has banned it in India it might become difficult to obtain book 🙁

  9. shantimoy Reply

    its very true books like white tiger, a fine balance, two states are no must-read.

  10. prachi Reply

    I’ve read all chetan bhagat’s 5 books and found worth reading,Only books I Could complete in single sitting(obviously one by one),otherwise i’m a novice reader, I must start with this list.

    • Prats Reply

      @Prachi: I think you mean all the 4 books, he is a fast paced story teller. Some of these books are classics and might be heavy in content or belong to the non-fiction genre. So dip stick before you start reading.

  11. prachi Reply

    Prats, Thanks for correction….WELL WHAT IF I LOOK FOR YOUR KIND SUGGESTION TO START WITH?

    • Prats Reply

      @Prachi: Assuming you read all 4 CB’s books and liked them you can start with the following-
      – Q & A
      – English August
      – Maximum City
      – Interpreter of Maladies
      – Train to Pakistan

      From the list above. You can also read the following-
      – The Inscrutable Americans
      – Mediocre But Arrogant
      – Love Life & All That Jazz
      – Almost Single

      And you might also like my books- Urban Shots and Down The Road.

  12. prachi Reply

    tHNAKS dEAR…(hOPE yOU wUN’T mIND)…oK fINE, wOULD lIKE tO shARE tHAT i pLAY wITH wORDS (sMALL sMALL tHINGS, sTORIES, tHUGHTS, iNCIDENTS) sO wELL, bUT nEVER pUBLISH aNYWHERE..wHAT tO sAY?

  13. ritu Reply

    I HV READ VERY FEW OF THEM BT 4 SURE NOTE DOWN THIS LIST FOR FUTURE.BT ONE MORE BOOK SHOULD BE ADDED IN IT i.e.”I TOO HAD A LOVE STORY” BY RAVINDER SINGH

    • nilesh Reply

      i think this list cannot be completed unless you put Life is what you make it by Preeti Shenoy.

  14. Nilesh Reply

    Hi… Ritu
    The Guide is all about a guide namely Raju. he loves a wife of sumone else who loves dancing and how he made her a gr8 dancer.
    then after he was imprisoned for two years for a forgery but at the end it was puzzled whether he died or not.
    But all in one its a gud book with a simple language.

    Thanx Nilesh

  15. Ani Reply

    Plz tell me a good book, after reading tat i should feel inspired in life like not me only having problem’s nd other’s too having it

  16. Nilesh Reply

    Hello Ani…..
    You can also go for “life is what u make it” by Preeti Shenoy

  17. pravin Reply

    I’m not a great reader,but this list is amazing andvery helpful for me.thank for that….out of this i’veread 6 novels and in future i will follow this list!
    The novel i lyk most is “death of vishnu”
    Thanks!!

    • ritu Reply

      hi imran,
      acc. 2 me d best luv stry book is “i too had a luv story” by RAVINDER SINGH

    • neetu Reply

      *i too had a….
      *2 states
      *can love happen twice
      *anything for u mam & many more……..

  18. sunil Reply

    hi everyone this might be really good platform to get more books information as i guess. This post is really awesome you’ve read may be all books mentioned above but i think you have not heard about South Asia Book Store having wide rage of Indian book, Indian story books and more just about India… i really getting more discount cause i’m regular reader of Indian books.

    Thanks for this beautiful post

  19. sunil Reply

    I’ve read only three books of them, but i didn’t enjoy to read them as well as you people commenting here

  20. Archana Reply

    Just came across this blog .Nice list.
    I would like to add a few more :

    1.Jaya
    2.Chanakya’s Chant
    3.Immortals of Meluha
    4.Secret of Nagas
    5.Riddles in Hinduism

  21. Ravi Reply

    Nice list….only read few books a long way to go…..Some are saying above why you have added CB’s “Five point someone” but frankly I started reading novels from that book only 🙂

  22. Padmini Supriya Jha Reply

    Thanks , really i want to read some good books . From 30 i have read 3 books only . i will read rest of them….. And definitely Ruskin bond’s …

  23. Shanaya Reply

    loved ur list…have read quite a few…I totally love Chetan Bhagat Books ,am an ardent fan ,coz of it’s simple language …his impeccable style of presenting an incident,his minute detailing..his sense of humour and his description abt the girl (the protaganist wld be in love with …) .I too loved Spouse ..-frm Shobha De…she’s very refined and brilliant vocabulary and choice of words…I liked I too had a love story …
    I guess Books are the BEST things to invest ur time…wld love to get more of such lists..thanks dear

  24. abhishek dubey Reply

    i appreciate the list. thanx a lot. i like to read books.. plz suggest me some more

  25. Prabhat Kumar Reply

    It’s very embarrassing for me that I have read only three novels out of the given list. Hope to read a few mores……….Overall it’s a very useful list for literature lovers, especially for me because I am a very slow reader……..

  26. TS Reply

    Thanks for this listPrats.
    I’m going to start slow… perhaps with 2 books i narrowed down to..
    Could any of you share with me, E-books for the following please?
    A Suitable Boy – Seth, Vikram
    Interpreter of Maladies – Lahiri, Jhumpa
    I will give my email address if any of you have them..

    Thanks a ton

  27. Vishnu H Prasad Reply

    Wonderful compilation..I have made a mental note to finish the ones I haven’t already. Here is my list of 10 book on India. Some of them do overlap 🙂

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  29. Ganesh Reply

    Hi friends.. I hav red some of cb”s book.,pls list some inspirational books like you can win, the monk who sold his Ferrari by robin sharma, really an outstanding book,am a new reader .help me to read some very good books and interesting books first.

  30. Ganesh Reply

    Friends I wanna join readers club so that I can able to know some good books to read

  31. abhishek kumar Reply

    it was heartbreaking to find no hindi novels.
    renu, premchand, bharti, nirala, they deserved some attention wen the talk is about INDIAN BOOKS.

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