The best books that merge genres and writing styles

Who am I?

I love reading history that is told in an experimental, interesting manner – history merged with travel, fiction, magical realism, etc. I began my writing career as a travel writer, bringing together history with travel but increasingly I have begun to experiment more. My book Walking with Nanak brings together 4 genres. One intellectual question that I have pursued through my writing is challenging modern notions of national, religious, and ethnic identities. I see my writing style as an extension of that pursuit, breaking away from the neat compartmentalization of genres. 


I wrote...

Walking with Nanak

By Haroon Khalid,

Book cover of Walking with Nanak

What is my book about?

Walking with Nanak is an experimental book that brings together different narratives, genres, and writing styles, including fiction, history, magical realism, and poetry. It is a book that traces the story of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, the story of the author and his discovery of Guru Nanak’s legacy, the story of Sikh Gurus, the evolution of Sikh history, and finally the poetry and hagiography of Guru Nanak.  

The books I picked & why

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City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi

By William Dalrymple,

Book cover of City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi

Why this book?

This book introduced a whole new way of travel and history writing for me. It beautifully merges the experiences of the author, his interactions with people, and the history of the city he is engaged with. I loved how he used everyday conversations and experiences to link it back to historical moments and told a chronological story of an amazing city. The book is important to me because it also taught me that travel writing can happen within one’s home and one’s own city. One doesn’t need to travel hundreds of miles, in a foreign country, to engage in travel writing. It helped me conceptualize travel writing in a new way.


Shame On Me: A Memoir of Race And Belonging

By Tessa McWatt,

Book cover of Shame On Me: A Memoir of Race And Belonging

Why this book?

This book is also a fascinating and completely new way of telling history, merging travel writing with personal family history. The author in this remarkable book travels through her own body to talk about the history of her family, and her own story – a story that is connected with the broader stories of colonization, post-colonialism, racism, capitalism, and many other macro, structural issues.


Delhi: A Novel

By Khushwant Singh,

Book cover of Delhi: A Novel

Why this book?

I loved this book because this was the first time I came across history in this way. Of course, historical fiction has a long history but this book moves away from that tradition and tells a story of a city in a manner that is somewhere between history and historical fiction, creating a genre of its own. The book is riveting and true to a lot of fascinating historical detail. 


In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler's Tale

By Amitav Ghosh,

Book cover of In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler's Tale

Why this book?

While this may not be Amitav Ghosh’s best work, it is perhaps his most experimental writing in which he brings together his non-fiction travel writing with historical fiction of a subject he was researching as a PhD student. The book opened my eyes to the possibility that two genres can live together in one book, and if merged well can tell a beautiful, fascinating, and complete story.


Haroun and the Sea of Stories

By Salman Rushdie,

Book cover of Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Why this book?

There is the genre of magical realism and then there is Salman Rushdie’s magical realism. Salman takes the ordinariness of reality and transforms it into magic, beautifully using his language. Haroun and the sea of stories is my favourite work of the author in which he uses language, to create a wonderful world of magic. I particularly enjoyed this work because it opened up a whole world of possibilities for me, showing me how to use language in a creative way, in which multiple meanings can be created. Reality and magic beautifully come together in this amazing book!


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