The best books on India 📚

Browse the best books on India as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

By Dervla Murphy

Why this book?

Utterly mad yet totally mesmerising, Murphy’s journey was an early inspiration to me in my bicycle-bound adventures. Packing a pistol and little else, she set off in 1963 and pedalled through a brutal European winter, over the Iron Curtain and across the Middle East and Afghanistan where she often disguised herself as a man to get by. In the mountains of northern Pakistan and India she traverses incredibly remote regions on broken trails and occasionally finds herself the guest of regal relics from bygone eras. Murphy’s no-nonsence prose and unembellished style should be a benchmark to all travel writers.

From the list:

The best solo adventure books

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Book cover of Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India

Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India

By Madhur Jaffrey

Why this book?

Growing up, my mom was often cooking something from one of Jaffrey’s brilliant cookbooks. Jaffrey’s memoir about her childhood in Delhi and Kampur is just as delicious. It begins on the high mango trees, where the older cousins and siblings climbed to pick and slice the juicy fruits and the younger kids dipped them into salt, red chilies, and smoky cumin. Elaborate meals were served for a boisterous extended family, presided over by the benevolent but moody patriarch Babaji. Jaffrey writes with insightful precision about the Hindu, Muslim, and British influences that shaped her country, and the devastation of partition…

From the list:

The best books that celebrate food

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Book cover of Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation

Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation

By Nandan Nilekani

Why this book?

It is a book on the history of modern India but told from the perspective of an entrepreneur and a business leader – and one of the architects of the IT revolution. It tells the story of ideas that dotted India’s transition from the era of socialism to that of liberalization and globalization, while highlighting successes and failures. It projects new ideas – technological as well as creative policy options - for meeting some of the pressing challenges of poverty, health, education, and economic growth. 

From the list:

The best books on the history of modern India

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Book cover of The Technological Indian

The Technological Indian

By Ross Bassett

Why this book?

Indian engineers and technologists are among the most sought-after globally, particularly from the elite Indian Institutes of Technology that were originally modeled after MIT. The book traces India’s engagement with MIT from the 1880s to 2000 through the story of Indians who went to MIT to study and their contributions to engineering and industry back in India. It is a fascinating account of a few elite engineers but woven into it is a social, political, economic, and cultural history of modern India. 

From the list:

The best books on the history of modern India

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Book cover of The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable

By Amitav Ghosh

Why this book?

In this beautifully written book, Ghosh tackles a central question that really motivates me. How do we describe the world we are changing? In answering this question, Ghosh ponders why climate change is so hard to explain; why it is so hard to write about in novels and fiction. For me, this book is a thought-provoking quest into both the need for evocative literature on this topic and the hazards of drifting into science fiction or being dismissed as alarmist non-fiction. But in his explanation of the challenges of communicating climate change, Ghosh gave me a stronger vocabulary for doing…
From the list:

The best books on understanding the future in a climate changed world

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Book cover of The Country of First Boys: And Other Essays

The Country of First Boys: And Other Essays

By Amartya Sen

Why this book?

Most people, I think, when they start to understand the world better, they start to see the endless ways that it could be improved. Some of us though, we get stuck in the ideas of improvement, and never figure out how to just get on with it.

Amartya Sen won a Nobel Prize and has other thought-provoking books. But I like this one. The Country of First Boys is a series of essays that are technically about various issues in India, but which are easily extrapolated to depressingly common situations in most other countries. Central to the essays is the…

From the list:

The best books for understanding the world we live in

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