90 books like Beautiful Thing

By Sonia Faleiro,

Here are 90 books that Beautiful Thing fans have personally recommended if you like Beautiful Thing. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Girl from Foreign

Zilka Joseph Author Of Sweet Malida: Memories of a Bene Israel Woman

From my list on the Jewish immigrant experience and Bene Israel culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Mumbai, lived in Kolkata for most of my life, and am an educator and poet who lives in the US. I am a Bene Israel Jew from India. As a child, I was fascinated by all kinds of literature, mythology, folktales, and stories. I have been influenced by everything around me. My passion for literature probably inspired me to become a teacher and later a writer who is constantly exploring, creating, re-imagining, and evolving. My books are about the immigrant experience, displacement, racism, women’s issues, nature, the animal kingdom, to name a few. But within these themes, I also explore identity and belonging, death, loss and recovery. 

Zilka's book list on the Jewish immigrant experience and Bene Israel culture

Zilka Joseph Why did Zilka love this book?

Sadia Shepard is the child of a white Protestant father from Colorado and a Muslim mother from Pakistan, who grew up outside Boston. In her visionary and moving memoir, she embarks on a search for her Bene Israel roots when her maternal grandmother, who she thought was a Muslim from Pakistan like everyone else in their family, tells her that her real name is Rachel Jacobs.

She hears about the Bene Israel community and reads about their origins. It's a fascinating account of a cross-cultural childhood, a journey to India to explore her grandmother’s family tree, discovering the secrets of her grandparents’ marriage, encountering the complicated history of India and Pakistan and the Partition, and at the same time, making sense of her complex influences and legacy. The author undertakes journeys on several levels that delve into her family history, her ancestors, her grandmother’s story, and her own identity.

What…

By Sadia Shepard,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Girl from Foreign as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A search for shipwrecked ancestors, forgotten histories, and a sense of home

Fascinating and intimate , The Girl from Foreign is one woman's search for ancient family secrets that leads to an adventure in far-off lands. Sadia Shepard, the daughter of a white Protestant from Colorado and a Muslim from Pakistan, was shocked to discover that her grandmother was a descendant of the Bene Israel, a tiny Jewish community shipwrecked in India two thousand years ago. After traveling to India to put the pieces of her family's past together, her quest for identity unlocks a myriad of profound religious and…


Book cover of Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture

Julia Schiavone Camacho Author Of Chinese Mexicans: Transpacific Migration and the Search for a Homeland, 1910-1960

From my list on Asian diasporas in the Americas with personal stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raised in a Mexican-Italian family, I grew up traveling across the Arizona-Sonora borderlands to visit my extended family. As a kid, I took for granted movement across boundaries and cultural and racial mixture, but eventually, I came to see it framed my experience and outlook. In researching the Chinese in northern Mexico, I learned that Mexican women and Chinese-Mexican children followed their expelled men, whether by force or choice, and I became enthralled. I had to find out how these families fared after crossing not just borders but oceans. My passion for reading about how the long presence of Asians in the Americas complicates our understanding of history has only deepened.

Julia's book list on Asian diasporas in the Americas with personal stories

Julia Schiavone Camacho Why did Julia love this book?

This book unfolds in a compelling, nonlinear manner, and crosses genres. A combination of biography and family memoir and journalistic and scholarly research, it traces overlapping stories as the author sets out to discover why her great-grandmother traveled from India to America as a “coolie” at the start of the twentieth century and how this migration shaped future generations. Beautifully written, the book raises thorny issues around gender, race, and nationality, offering insight into the wider journeys of Indian contract laborers to the Caribbean and beyond.

By Gaiutra Bahadur,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Coolie Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1903 a Brahmin woman sailed from India to Guyana as a 'coolie', the name the British gave to the million indentured labourers they recruited for sugar plantations worldwide after slavery ended. The woman, who claimed no husband, was pregnant and travelling alone. A century later, her great-granddaughter embarks on a journey into the past, hoping to solve a mystery: what made her leave her country? And had she also left behind a man? Gaiutra Bahadur, an American journalist, pursues traces of her great-grandmother over three continents. She also excavates the repressed history of some quarter of a million female…


Book cover of Four Years' Service in India (1853)

Andrew Otis Author Of Hicky's Bengal Gazette: The Untold Story of India's First Newspaper

From my list on non-fiction journalism and history in India.

Why am I passionate about this?

As the author of Hicky's Bengal Gazette: The Untold Story of India's First Newspaper I have great interest in journalism and history in the Indian subcontinent. There are relatively few books that explore these topics in a narrative nonfiction way. It is my hope that this shortlist will help readers find a few good books to start with.

Andrew's book list on non-fiction journalism and history in India

Andrew Otis Why did Andrew love this book?

Perhaps the most unusual book on the list. This book is a riveting, true account of a British soldier in India in 1847. It’s a first-person tale of Ryder’s life in the army, of endless marches, and moments of sheer terror. Most histories are written for, and by elites, but this story is written by a true subaltern – a very special thing! If you want to know what life was truly like for the average British soldier in the Raj, read this. Did I also mention it is a page-turner? I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down. (It’s also free online).

By John Ryder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Four Years' Service in India (1853) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a pre-1923 historical reproduction that was curated for quality. Quality assurance was conducted on each of these books in an attempt to remove books with imperfections introduced by the digitization process. Though we have made best efforts - the books may have occasional errors that do not impede the reading experience. We believe this work is culturally important and have elected to bring the book back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide.


Book cover of Curfewed Night

Andrew Otis Author Of Hicky's Bengal Gazette: The Untold Story of India's First Newspaper

From my list on non-fiction journalism and history in India.

Why am I passionate about this?

As the author of Hicky's Bengal Gazette: The Untold Story of India's First Newspaper I have great interest in journalism and history in the Indian subcontinent. There are relatively few books that explore these topics in a narrative nonfiction way. It is my hope that this shortlist will help readers find a few good books to start with.

Andrew's book list on non-fiction journalism and history in India

Andrew Otis Why did Andrew love this book?

An elegant first-person tale of loss and change in the Kashmir Valley. I compare this book to the feeling one gets when mist descends on a grey, foggy day, and old long-forgotten memories recur with a vengeance. Peer’s work is remarkable for his pristine and exact memory of events, starting in the troubled 1990s, and ending in 2005 with the forlorn hope of peace in Kashmir.

By Basharat Peer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Curfewed Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since 1989, when the separatist movement exploded in Kashmir, more than 70,000 people have been killed in the battle between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Born and raised in the war-torn region, Basharat Peer brings this little-known part of the world to life in haunting, vivid detail..

Peer reveals stories from his youth as well as gut-wrenching accounts of the many Kashmiris he met years later, as a reporter. He chronicles a young man’s initiation into a Pakistani training camp; a mother who watches as her son is forced to hold an exploding bomb; a poet who finds religion when…


Book cover of House of the Sun

Alison Jean Lester Author Of Lillian on Life

From my list on keeping it real about older women.

Why am I passionate about this?

Literary agents often say they are looking for books about ‘quirky’ female protagonists. I’m more entertained by female characters who feel real to me. When I write, I make myself uncomfortable a lot of the time, trying to express the many ways people both disguise and reveal the truth. I blame my devotion to my parents for this because when I left home in Massachusetts for college in the foreign land of Indiana, studied for a year in China, then studied in Italy, then worked in Taiwan, then moved to Japan, and later to Singapore, I wrote them copious descriptive, emotional letters. My parents are gone now, but in a way, I’m still doing that.

Alison's book list on keeping it real about older women

Alison Jean Lester Why did Alison love this book?

The main character in this novel is really a community – Hindu refugees who fled Pakistan for India at the time of Partition and ended up in a Bombay apartment block called Sadhbela. Many South Asian novels mix tragedy and comedy beautifully, and what I love about this one is how Chand mixes this cocktail within her female characters; as usual, there is more to laugh about in the older women than in the young. Like Gardam, Chand sneaks moving moments of self-awareness into her colourfully flawed protagonists. I’m particularly enamoured of illiterate, superstitious (but nonetheless married to a retired journalist) Mrs. Hathiramani. 

By Meira Chand,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked House of the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In March Saturn is coming into the House of the Sun. Saturn is strong and will bring trouble. [...] Wear a sapphire, then nothing can harm you, Bhai Sahib, the priest, warns Mrs Hathiramani, reading her horoscope in his temple on the second floor of Sadhbela, a Bombay apartment block.

Forty years before, at the time of Partition, the residents of Sadhbela were Hindu refugees from the rival towns of Rohri and Sukkur. In Sadhbela now these Sindhi exiles live as one family, fortunes drastically changed. Before blown out of the House of the Sun in a monsoon squall, the…


Book cover of Bombay Monsoon

D.J. Adamson Author Of Admit to Mayhem

From my list on mystery and thriller you’ll read the entire weekend.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father estranged himself from his sister because she was an alcoholic. I never met my aunt. However, when looking for a strong character for my Lilian Dove Mystery Series, I decided this aunt was a good mentoring character. Fictionally, I gave my aunt sobriety, but her recovery is not so much from drinking as it is recovering from the past to take on life anew. The mysteries Lillian Dove becomes involved her help her see how to do this. And first, she needs to learn to admit life is full of mayhem. Small-town Iowa amateur sleuth who ends up owning a liquor store.

D.J.'s book list on mystery and thriller you’ll read the entire weekend

D.J. Adamson Why did D.J. love this book?

Bombay Monsoon, first book in the new Emergency Series, delivers Ziskin’s talent for blending literary techniques and believable characters while taking the reader on an intense ride.

Journalist Danny Jacobs, young and anxious to make his mark, hasn’t been in Bombay long when he is caught up into intrigue, romance, and danger. Set in India during 1975 when India was shaken with political unrest after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergence, Zisken weaves cultural adjustment along with crime and romance.

The book written by Zisken is an impressive page-turner, thanks to his meticulous attention to detail and insightful knowledge of India.

By James W. Ziskin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bombay Monsoon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The last thing Danny wants to see published is his obituary

The year is 1975. Danny Jacobs is an ambitious, young American journalist who's just arrived in Bombay for a new assignment. He's soon caught up in the chaos of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's domestic "Emergency."

Willy Smets is Danny's enigmatic expat neighbor. He's a charming man, but with suspicious connections. As a monsoon drenches Bombay, Danny falls hard for Sushmita, Smets's beguiling and clever lover-and the infatuation is mutual.

"The Emergency," a virtual coup by the prime minister, is only the first twist in the high-stakes drama of Danny's…


Book cover of Family Matters

Thrity Umrigar Author Of Honor

From my list on set in Bombay.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in Bombay until I was 21. During my teenage years I had a love-hate relationship with the city, mostly noticing its poverty, the pollution, and the crowds. But as a writer, I have come to love the city for its resilience, its sweet toughness, its heartbreaking beauty. I love reading books by other writers that are set in this endlessly fascinating metropolis of 22 million, each with their own story to tell, stories that float in the air in front of us, ready to be plucked and set on paper. 

Thrity's book list on set in Bombay

Thrity Umrigar Why did Thrity love this book?

Rohinton Mistry’s masterwork Family Matters is as precise and delicate and realistic as Rushdie’s work is fantastical and flamboyant, a whisper instead of a shout. This book has a special resonance for me because the main characters are Parsi, a small, unique community in India, followers of the Zoroastrian faith that I was raised in. Mistry’s canvas is deceptively small and domestic—the squabbles of a family over caregiving and physical space—but this belies the emotional power of this moving novel. This is a 19th-century novel transposed to 21st-century India.

By Rohinton Mistry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Family Matters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rohinton Mistry’s enthralling novel is at once a domestic drama and an intently observed portrait of present-day Bombay in all its vitality and corruption. At the age of seventy-nine, Nariman Vakeel, already suffering from Parkinson’s disease, breaks an ankle and finds himself wholly dependent on his family. His step-children, Coomy and Jal, have a spacious apartment (in the inaptly named Chateau Felicity), but are too squeamish and resentful to tend to his physical needs.

Nariman must now turn to his younger daughter, Roxana, her husband, Yezad, and their two sons, who share a small, crowded home. Their decision will test…


Book cover of My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking

Darra Goldstein Author Of Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore

From my list on cookbooks for armchair travelers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been thinking and writing about food ever since I spent a year in the Soviet Union many decades ago and discovered that food is a wonderfully immediate way to enter into another culture. My first cookbook led to a stint as a spokesperson for Stolichnaya vodka when it was first introduced to the US—a fascinating exercise in cross-cultural communication during the Cold War. In 2001 I founded Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, which deepened my interest in culinary cultures around the world. Cookbooks aren't just about recipes. For me, the best ones include personal stories and history that transport you to other realms.

Darra's book list on cookbooks for armchair travelers

Darra Goldstein Why did Darra love this book?

Until picking up this book I knew nothing about Parsi food, a distinctive way of cooking practiced by the descendants of the Zoroastrians who fled Persia for India around the 8th century. And what a cuisine it is! This book engages all your senses, immersing you in the aromas, colors, and tastes of Parsi kitchens. Niloufer King's descriptions are beguiling, her language deft as she evokes dishes like the "wobbly" cauliflower custard of her childhood and its "trembling delicacy," or a hot green chutney that is "raucous" rather than refined. King brings family and friends to life through anecdotes that reveal the long history and continuing evolution of this distinctive manner of cooking.

By Niloufer Ichaporia King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Bombay Kitchen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Persians of antiquity were renowned for their lavish cuisine and their never-ceasing fascination with the exotic. These traits still find expression in the cooking of India's rapidly dwindling Parsi population - descendants of Zoroastrians who fled Persia after the Sassanian empire fell to the invading Arabs. The first book published in the United States on Parsi food written by a Parsi, this beautiful volume includes 165 recipes and makes one of India's most remarkable regional cuisines accessible to Westerners. In an intimate narrative rich with personal experience, the author leads readers into a world of new ideas, tastes, ingredients,…


Book cover of The Bombay Prince

Nev March Author Of Murder in Old Bombay

From my list on India blending history with gripping mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived the first 24 years of my life in Mumbai and traveled to many parts of India. I’ve had close friends of every community and religion and been fascinated by the incredible diversity. By studying historical crimes and how they were reported and investigated, I learned a great deal about the norms of Indian culture. Reading (and writing) historical mysteries allowed me to dive into past eras and immerse myself in the tumultuous events that have shaped our world today. While I’m obsessed with the turn of the 20th century, mysteries in later years also delight me. Enjoy this selection of mysteries set in India that reveal the inner workings of its diverse culture.

Nev's book list on India blending history with gripping mysteries

Nev March Why did Nev love this book?

A young woman is found dead only a few yards behind the stands where hundreds of students gathered to watch the Prince of Wales’ parade on his 1922 visit to Bombay. When lawyer Pervin Mistry realizes it’s the same woman who consulted her only days ago, she’s driven by guilt and determined to help the Parsi family through the awful process of the coroner's inquiry.

I started this book with a whole host of questions, which grew more dire as the number of suspects rose. Finely etched characters abound. Pervin is torn between a natural patriotism and desire to see justice and her own family’s interests. As she learns more, she realizes that the young female student has a sort of dangerous honesty (a term the author Sujata Massey used when I interviewed her) which complicates matters and shows the difficulty of being a dutiful daughter while staying true to…

By Sujata Massey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Bombay Prince as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bombay’s first female lawyer, Perveen Mistry, is compelled to bring justice to the family of a murdered female Parsi student just as Bombay’s streets erupt in riots to protest British colonial rule. Sujata Massey is back with this third installment to the Agatha and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning series set in 1920s Bombay.

November 1921. Edward VIII, Prince of Wales and future ruler of India, is arriving in Bombay to begin a fourmonth tour. The Indian subcontinent is chafing under British rule, and Bombay solicitor Perveen Mistry isn’t surprised when local unrest over the royal arrival spirals into riots. But…


Book cover of Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Mara Kardas-Nelson Author Of We Are Not Able to Live in the Sky: The Seductive Promise of Microfinance

From my list on understand our unequal world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about inequality in international development, American communities, environmental movements, and workplaces. I’ve been doing this reporting for over a decade. I’ve also worked in global health, an experience that has given me a first-hand glimpse into the depths and texture of inequality we have manufactured in our current world, including within the organizations and movements that purportedly challenge such global inequality. As a reader, I’m equally passionate about immersive nonfiction and fiction. I’ll dive into anything that’s driven by a good story.

Mara's book list on understand our unequal world

Mara Kardas-Nelson Why did Mara love this book?

I first read this book over a decade ago, and it has remained one of my favorites ever since. It is moving and exquisitely written, offering a close view of a community living on the edge of one of India’s biggest cities and exploring what it means to live on the cusp of wealth but mired in poverty.

Mostly, it is deeply human and a real page-turner. I expect this will remain my Holy Grail of writing and storytelling for a long time.

By Katherine Boo,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Behind the Beautiful Forevers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NAMED ONE OF TIME’S TEN BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE DECADE

“Inspiring . . . extraordinary . . . [Katherine Boo] shows us how people in the most desperate circumstances can find the resilience to hang on to their humanity. Just as important, she makes us care.”—People

“A tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece.”—Judges, PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award 

ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times • The Washington Post • O: The Oprah Magazine • USA Today •…


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