1.The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts
The Mountain Shadow, the hotly anticipated follow-up to Roberts’s publishing sensation Shantaram is due out in October, so if you’ve not read the 2003 novel, now is your chance. The page-turning thriller, inspired by the writer’s own experiences living in the Mumbai slums, is one of the few books that manages to capture the overwhelmingly multi-sensory experience of living in India.
2.The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
This Man Booker prize-winner is set in India’s southern state Kerala, away from the glamour of Deli and Mumbai. The densely descriptive novel follows the the childhood experiences of fraternal twins, commenting as much on human nature as it does on Indian politics, religion and the caste system.
3. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Set during “The Emergency”, a period of civil unrest when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, A Fine Balance is written with beautifully controlled prose. The novel interweaves India’s political turmoil into the lives of its four central characters – to devastating effect.
4. Nine Lives by William Dalrymple
This fascinating non-fiction book tells the stories of nine Indians following different religions. Acclaimed historian Dalrymple met them all to write this absorbing account, which begins with a Jain nun who decides to fast to death after her friend and fellow nun passes away.
5. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Rushdie’s Man Booker prize-winning novel is set against the backdrop of Indian partition, using a dose of magical realism to tell the story of a boy born at the exact moment when India became independent of British rule in 1947. This sprawling, kaleidoscopic account of India is a true post-modern classic.
6. Around India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh
Monisha Rajesh takes a leaf out of Jules Verne’s classic tale in this travelogue about India’s famous railways. The Norfolk-born author, who lived in India for two years as a child, covered 40,000km on a quest to rediscover the country that had become a stranger to her.
7. 2 States: The Story of My Marriage by Chetan Bhagat
This best-selling novel in India follows two MBA students from opposing cultural background who decide to get married against their parents’ wishes. 2 States is an enjoyable read, offering a perceptive account of generational clashes in contemporary India.
8. Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph
British author Anjali Joseph’s debut novel explores what it is like to be homosexual in India, which is still a largely taboo subject in many parts of the country. The story follows a sexually uncertain 19-year-old student growing up in Mumbai, who has a relationship with a boy at college.
9. Those Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chuhan
If you’re looking for something a bit lighter than a Man Booker winner, try this fun piece of Indian popular fiction. Set in a posh neighbourhood in Delhi, the story follows the eccentricities of a retired Supreme Court judge and his five daughters
10. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Another epic, this 1,349 page novel probably isn’t for your suitcase – but it is one of the most acclaimed pieces of fiction about India. At its core the novel is a love story about Lata and her mother’s attempts to find her a husband, set against the backdrop of a newly independent post-partition India.