100 books like The Ramayana

By Valmiki, Arshia Sattar (translator),

Here are 100 books that The Ramayana fans have personally recommended if you like The Ramayana. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Beowulf

Why am I passionate about this?

To experience another's thoughts and emotions, one first has to feel them. Eyes, lips, tongue, and teeth are involved before the brain/heart can engage. Translation of poetry is the same. My mother has sung Chinese poetry to me since forever, and English poetry came alive for me through verse speaking. I studied and taught as I wrote for many years. I cannot say I find my way into every poem I come across, but the poems I translate are ones I know and love. That is why I am passionate about translation. For me, it is not a secondary experience but a primary, primal performance art!

Susan's book list on translated books that capture the magic of the original, making what’s unfamiliar, foreign or ancient, accessible

Susan Wan Dolling Why did Susan love this book?

That I would love a poem written/translated by Seamus Heaney did not come as a surprise to me, but that it is Beowulf, a poem/story steeped in the Germanic warrior culture and soaked in blood that enthralled me, did surprise me.

I do not remember the occasion that prompted my reading, but even as I opened the book to its Introduction, and read “...And now this is ‘an inheritance’ --/Upright, rudimentary, unshiftably planked/ In the long ago, yet willable forward...Again and again and again,” I could not put it down.

In fact, you might say, it is not the story but the voice of the poet and how he brought this ancient language and people back to life that compelled me to read on. Of course, the voice is that of the poet of “Digging,” as he traces his roots back to these unlikely ancestors.

By Seamus Heaney,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Beowulf as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Composed towards the end of the first millennium, the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf is one of the great Northern epics and a classic of European literature. In his new translation, Seamus Heaney has produced a work which is both true, line by line, to the original poem, and an expression, in its language and music, of something fundamental to his own creative gift.

The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on, physically and psychically exposed, in that exhausted aftermath. It is not hard to draw parallels between this story and the history of the…


Book cover of The Odyssey

Sylvia Kelso Author Of Everran's Bane

From my list on journeys in them.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, I wanted to be either a chook (chicken) farmer or an archaeologist. In high school, my Latin teacher gave me a copy of The Hobbit and changed my passion to travel, which, for Australians, mostly means, Overseas. In second year University, The Lord of the Rings cemented that longing, and I have "travelled" Overseas almost annually ever since. But a long research trip for a historical novel taught me that the best travel is a journey: travel with a purpose. And whether or not I'm on a plane, train, bus, or foot myself, some of my favourite reading has always been books with journeys at their heart. 

Sylvia's book list on journeys in them

Sylvia Kelso Why did Sylvia love this book?

Journeys are most often linear – Here to There – or circular – "There and Back Again." The Odyssey is actually a return leg in the most traumatic and perennial circular journey: going to war, and then, getting back. "Wily" (in modern terms, read, "sneaky," "trickster")  Odysseus left Troy a famous warrior, but takes seven years to get home. The fabulous episodes of that journey, the Cyclops, the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, Circe, and Calypso, the wreck in Phaeacia that leaves him bereft even of clothes, have grounded the Western imagination. But the concluding little things – the recognition scenes, the dog that dies, and the nurse who doesn't – push that epic past into a close, human Now.

By Homer, T.E. Shaw (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Odyssey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Homer's epic chronicle of the Greek hero Odysseus' journey home from the Trojan War has inspired  writers from Virgil to James Joyce. Odysseus  survives storm and shipwreck, the cave of the Cyclops  and the isle of Circe, the lure of the Sirens' song  and a trip to the Underworld, only to find his  most difficult challenge at home, where treacherous  suitors seek to steal his kingdom and his loyal  wife, Penelope. Favorite of the gods, Odysseus  embodies the energy, intellect, and resourcefulness  that were of highest value to the ancients and that  remain ideals in out time.

In this  new…


Book cover of The Nibelungenlied

Nicholas Jubber Author Of Epic Continent: Adventures in the Great Stories of Europe

From my list on the greatest epics from around the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nicholas Jubber has written for the Guardian, Irish Times and Telegraph, amongst other publications. He has won the Dolman Travel Book Award, for which he has been shortlisted three times, and his books have been picked by National Geographic, Wanderlust and the New York Times, amongst other publications, for their books of the year.

Nicholas' book list on the greatest epics from around the world

Nicholas Jubber Why did Nicholas love this book?

Dark and violent, this twelfth-century tale of love and revenge is a compelling vision of medieval values, combining many of the tropes of later pseudo-medieval sagas – treasure, gory battles, a cloak of invisibility, sexual deception and a dragon – with the spiritual angst that the later tales miss. From Siegfried’s brief encounter with a scaly beast to the fire-and-blood blitzkrieg of the climax – a ferocious battle in the hall of Attila the Hun – the story is told with breathless passion. Whether it glamourises war, or warns against its cost, is a matter of enduring debate. The tale has certainly had its share of cranky fans, from the silent movie filmmaker Fritz Lang to Heinrich Himmler, a testament to its provocative power.

Which version to read? The Penguin edition, translated by A.T. Hatto and published in 1965, offers a very readable prose version that captures the tale’s fiery…

By Unknown, A.T. Hatto (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Written by an unknown author in the twelfth century, this powerful tale of murder and revenge reaches back to the earliest epochs of German antiquity, transforming centuries-old legend into a masterpiece of chivalric drama. Siegfried, a great prince of the Netherlands, wins the hand of the beautiful princess Kriemhild of Burgundy, by aiding her brother Gunther in his struggle to seduce a powerful Icelandic Queen. But the two women quarrel, and Siegfried is ultimately destroyed by those he trusts the most. Comparable in scope to the Iliad, this skilfully crafted work combines the fragments of half-forgotten myths to create one…


Book cover of Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings

Nicholas Jubber Author Of Epic Continent: Adventures in the Great Stories of Europe

From my list on the greatest epics from around the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nicholas Jubber has written for the Guardian, Irish Times and Telegraph, amongst other publications. He has won the Dolman Travel Book Award, for which he has been shortlisted three times, and his books have been picked by National Geographic, Wanderlust and the New York Times, amongst other publications, for their books of the year.

Nicholas' book list on the greatest epics from around the world

Nicholas Jubber Why did Nicholas love this book?

Thousands of years and fifty reigns are dramatised in this chronicle of sixty thousand verses. Set down in the eleventh century by an engagingly grumpy Persian poet who enjoyed the odd cup of wine and fretted about his finances. In the process, he saved (as some would have it) the Persian language and culture. The resonance of his tales has endured down the centuries: traveling in Iran, I met artists who used the story of a snake-shouldered tyrant who gobbles the brains of young men as a parable for the inter-generational tensions of the mullahcracy and the trauma of the Iran-Iraq War; whilst the romance of a beautiful long-haired princess and her tower-climbing lover is the earliest recorded iteration of ‘Rapunzel’.

Which version to read: The nineteenth-century Warner brothers produced an atmospheric full translation, but for a more modern abridgment, I’d recommend The Epic of the Kings, translated by Reuben…

By Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Reuben Levy (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

....


Book cover of Kaikeyi

Judith Lindbergh Author Of Akmaral

From my list on historical fiction with eponymous titles.

Why am I passionate about this?

When we authors name our characters, we gift them with meaning—a single word that somehow encompasses everything they will experience on the page. The name of my heroine, Akmaral, hails from Kazakhstan and means “white deer.” It resounds with the sound of hooves on the ancient Central Asian steppes and the deep connection to the natural world of the nomadic people who once lived there. Names bear unconscious expectations—hopes for strength and wisdom, dreams of triumph, beauty, and love. I hope that someday, hearing “Akmaral” will bring to mind vast, windswept steppes and a strong woman on horseback, head held high, contemplating her journey from warrior to leader.

Judith's book list on historical fiction with eponymous titles

Judith Lindbergh Why did Judith love this book?

I read the Ramayana many years ago, but I didn’t even remember Kaikeyi, which just goes to show why we really need Vaishnavi Patel’s reimagining of her life. Kaikeyi is more than the mother of Rama. In Patel’s novel, she is a powerful warrior. The chariot battle scene from early in the novel still stays vivid in my mind. Nonetheless, the reality of being a royal consort pressured to conform eventually puts Kaikeyi in her place. When she rebels, she is shunned and even vilified.

I loved rediscovering Hindu mythology while unearthing new dimensions and depth to this misjudged, maligned female progenitor of a major faith. Why are women always pushed to the side?

By Vaishnavi Patel,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Kaikeyi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB PICK • "MYTHIC RETELLING AT ITS BEST." (R. F. Kuang, author of Babel)

“With a graceful, measured elegance” (New York Times), this lyrical novel reimagines the life of the infamous queen from the ancient epic the Ramayana, giving voice to an extraordinary woman determined to leave her mark in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.

I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.

So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only…


Book cover of Ramayana: Divine Loophole

Norm Konyu Author Of The Junction

From my list on illustrated books for ‘grown-ups’.

Why am I passionate about this?

At some point in our tweens, we learn that picture books are for children, and comic books are for nerds. I personally never heard it spoken aloud. It was more that thinly disguised looks of disapproval from adults delivered the message. As a graphic novelist, it sometimes feels like an uphill battle. I find pushing a reluctant ‘grown-up’ straight to graphic novels is perhaps a step too far. A start is an illustrated book. No speech bubbles. No comic book panels. Just illustrations supporting text, and text supporting illustrations. And sometimes, just sometimes, this opens the door to graphic novels.

Norm's book list on illustrated books for ‘grown-ups’

Norm Konyu Why did Norm love this book?

As an animator, I first knew of Sanjay Patel through his work at Pixar before discovering his book, Ramayana, a virtual explosion of colour and sharply-edged design, exploring traditional tales from Hindu Mythology through anything but traditional means. Would I have read these tales without the artwork dragging me in? Probably not. But I’m so glad they did, opening my eyes to a whole new world of folklore I was unaware of.

By Sanjay Patel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A 21st century retelling of a 2500-year old story

One of Hindu mythology's best-loved and most enduring tales gets a modern touch: Artist and veteran Pixar animator Sanjay Patel lends a lush, whimsical illustration style and lighthearted voice to one of Hindu mythology's best-loved and most enduring tales. Teeming with powerful deities, love-struck monsters, flying monkey gods, magic weapons, demon armies, and divine love, Ramayana: Divine Loophole tells the story of Rama, a god-turned-prince, and his quest to rescue his wife Sita after she is kidnapped by a demon king.

* Illustrated tale features over 100 colorful full-spread illustrations, a…


Book cover of Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress

Payal Doshi Author Of Rea and the Blood of the Nectar (The Chronicles of Astranthia, Book 1)

From my list on children’s fantasy with South Asian representation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born and raised in Mumbai, India, and as a kid I loved to read. But I never saw myself—an Indian girl like me—represented in children’s books before. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I began writing my first novel at age 23. When I did, I wrote the entire first draft with white characters and set it in a western country. I believed my Indian culture and my experience as an Indian kid was not worth writing about. I was so wrong! Now, with the novels I write, I’m passionate about representation, especially South Asian representation because all kids deserve to see themselves and their cultures in the books they read.

Payal's book list on children’s fantasy with South Asian representation

Payal Doshi Why did Payal love this book?

I absolutely adore stories where a seemingly innocuous vacation turns on its heels into a gripping, out-of-this-world adventure. And this book is exactly that! When Ash (Ashoka) Mistry, an Indian mythology geek who lives in England, visits his aunt and uncle in Varanasi, the holy city of the Ganges in India, strange occurrences begin to happen, and Ash discovers that heroes and monsters of Indian myths have come back to life. Top that up with one character wanting to bring back Ravana, the demon king with ten heads and the ultimate essence of evil, and you have an adventure that’s got you at the edge of your seat!

By Sarwat Chadda,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Breathtaking action adventure for 8 to 12-year-olds. Ash Mistry, reluctant hero, faces ancient demons... and comes into an astonishing, magical inheritance.

Varanasi: holy city of the Ganges.

In this land of ancient temples, incense and snake charmers...

Where the monsters and heroes of the past come to life...

One slightly geeky boy from our time... IS GOING TO KICK SOME DEMONS BACK TO HELL.

Ash Mistry hates India. Which is a problem since his uncle has brought him and his annoying younger sister Lucky there to take up a dream job with the mysterious Lord Savage. But Ash immediately suspects…


Book cover of Where the Gods Dwell: Thirteen Temples and Their (Hi)stories

Sylvia Vetta Author Of Sculpting the Elephant

From my list on India recovering its past.

Why am I passionate about this?

Thanks to access to a good community library, I developed an interest in history from the age of seven. My interest in India grew when I married Indian-born Atam Vetta. After teaching, I set up a business and was director of Oxford Antiques Centre. In 1998, while chair of the Thames Valley Art and Antique Dealers Association, I was invited to become the art and antiques writer for The Oxford Times. That was how my freelance writing career began but since 2016 I have concentrated on writing fiction and poetry but make occasional contributions to The Madras Courier.

Sylvia's book list on India recovering its past

Sylvia Vetta Why did Sylvia love this book?

If you already know a lot about India and are interested in an unusual insight into the role of temples in the history, culture, architecture, and myths of the subcontinent, then this is for you. It will also introduce you to thirteen writers who include journalists, academics, and authors. Each one was asked to write about one temple, recounting its origins and the mythology and history surrounding it. It’s beautifully illustrated by Mistunee Choudhury. You can enhance the experience by googling the locations. It has introduced me to some must-see places to go on my want to visit list. I visited the unforgettable temples of Khajuraho and they appear in my own book.

By Manu S. Pillai,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The great temples of the Indian subcontinent are uniquely fascinating spaces. Steeped in mythology and history, they are windows into a complex, often contrary culture. Where the Gods Dwell delves into the ‘(hi)stories’—history and mythology—of thirteen architectural marvels that have inspired awe, and not only in the hearts of the faithful.

Every essay in this book is an intriguing mix of historical detail, mythological narrative and architectural commentary, supplementing and complementing each other to tell a story that is more than the sum of its parts. From Pashupatinath in Nepal to the Nallur Kandaswamy in Sri Lanka, the Kamakhya in…


Book cover of Running in the Family

J. Nicole Jones Author Of Low Country: A Memoir

From my list on voice-driven, suck-you-in narrations: both memoir and fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writers often get labeled as either nonfiction or fiction writers. In grad school, it was very difficult to study across genres, which I found very frustrating: To me, the most important thing about a book has always been the voice. A novel? A memoir? Essays? Stories? Don’t pin me down, just give me something with a voice that propels me forward, that is unique and sparkling and unputdownable. When I find books with voices so singular and propulsive, I return to them over and over. 

J.'s book list on voice-driven, suck-you-in narrations: both memoir and fiction

J. Nicole Jones Why did J. love this book?

A dizzying, intoxicating, completely engrossing memoir by another poet, who’s most famous as the author of The English PatientI always feel a little tipsy, in the best way, reading this one.

Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka and sets out as an adult from Canada to discover the mysteries left behind by eccentric, long-lost family members in a land he loves. Newspaper articles, pictures, ghost stories, and poetry comprise this one-of-a-kind narration. When his brother pleads with him to get this family history right, you feel the weight of the request as heavy as a summer rain. 

By Michael Ondaatje,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the late 1970s Ondaatje returned to his native island of Sri Lanka. As he records his journey through the drug-like heat and intoxicating fragrances of that "pendant off the ear of India, " Ondaatje simultaneously retraces the baroque mythology of his Dutch-Ceylonese family. An inspired travel narrative and family memoir by an exceptional writer.


Book cover of The Lotus and the Artichoke: Vegan Recipes from World Adventures

Wendy Werneth Author Of Veggie Planet: Uncover the Vegan Treasures Hiding in Your Favorite World Cuisines

From my list on vegan travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been living a semi-nomadic lifestyle and traveling the globe for all my adult life, and travel has truly shaped who I am. In 2014, when I learned about the many advantages of a vegan lifestyle for my health, the planet, and the animals, I felt compelled to make the change. There was one thing holding me back, though, which was the fear that being vegan would ruin travel. Fortunately, I gave it a trial run anyway during a three-week trip to Greece and discovered that being vegan actually made traveling even more fun! Ever since, I’ve been sharing my global vegan discoveries on my website, the Nomadic Vegan.

Wendy's book list on vegan travel

Wendy Werneth Why did Wendy love this book?

Justin Moore, the creator of the Lotus and the Artichoke website and recipe book series, has spent years traveling the globe and joining locals in their kitchens, learning directly from them how to prepare their traditional dishes. All in vegan versions, of course!

This is the book that kicked off the series of cookbooks back in 2012, and it offers a great overview of delicious, authentic vegan dishes from around the world. If you’re interested in a specific cuisine, you may also want to check out Justin’s vegan recipe books on Mexican, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Indian and Ethiopian cuisines.

He’s currently crowdfunding an update to the original book too, so keep an eye out for it when it hits the shelves!

By Justin Moore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Escape into other culinary worlds with 100+ delicious vegan recipes inspired by my many years of travel & adventures in nearly 40 countries! Discover delicious Indo-Chinese dishes (mostly unknown outside India; beloved among Indians and backpackers), incredible Indian feasts, Chinese and Southeast Asian treats and wonders, Italian, French, German and other exciting European vegan variations and converted classics. You’ll find super tasty African medleys from the North, West and East, All-American go-to greats and family favorites, seductive sweets from around the world, and a variety of super-charged salads.


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