A land of remarkable diversity – from ancient traditions and artistic heritage to magnificent landscapes and culinary creations – India will ignite your curiosity, shake your senses and warm your soul. (From Lonely Planet’s The World)
We stock a range of travel guides and maps for India, as well as selected books based in the country including fiction, travel writing, biographies, history, food and more. Here are our recommended books to read before you go.
Balram Halwai is the White Tiger - the smartest boy in his village. His family is too poor for him to afford for him to finish school and he has to work in a teashop, breaking coals and wiping tables. But Balram gets his break when a rich man hires him as a chauffeur, and takes him to live in Delhi. The city is a revelation. As he drives his master to shopping malls and call centres, Balram becomes increasingly aware of immense wealth and opportunity all around him, while knowing that he will never be able to gain access to that world. As Balram broods over his situation, he realizes that there is only one way he can become part of this glamorous new India - by murdering his master. The White Tiger presents a raw and unromanticised India, both thrilling and shocking
Set against a background of political turbulence in Kerala, Southern India, The God of Small Things tells the story of twins Esthappen and Rahel. Amongst the vats of banana jam and heaps of peppercorns in their grandmother's factory, they try to craft a childhood for themselves amidst what constitutes their family – their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist and bottom-pincher) and their avowed enemy Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grand-aunt).
Born at the stroke of midnight at the exact moment of India’s independence, Saleem Sinai is a special child. However, this coincidence of birth has consequences he is not prepared for: telepathic powers connect him with 1,000 other ‘midnight’s children’ all of whom are endowed with unusual gifts. Inextricably linked to his nation, Saleem’s story is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirrors the course of modern India at its most impossible and glorious.
When Adela Quested and her elderly companion Mrs Moore arrive in the Indian town of Chandrapore, they quickly feel trapped by its insular and prejudiced 'Anglo-Indian' community. Determined to escape the parochial English enclave and explore the 'real India', they seek the guidance of the charming and mercurial Dr Aziz, a cultivated Indian Muslim. But a mysterious incident occurs while they are exploring the Marabar caves with Aziz, and the well-respected doctor soon finds himself at the centre of a scandal that rouses violent passions among both the British and their Indian subjects. A masterly portrait of a society in the grip of imperialism, A Passage to India compellingly depicts the fate of individuals caught between the great political and cultural conflicts of the modern world.
Kipling's epic rendition of the imperial experience in India is also his greatest long work. Two men - Kim, a boy growing into early manhood and the lama, an old ascetic priest - are fired by a quest. Kim is white, a sahib, although born in India. While he wants to play the Great Game of Imperialism, he is also spiritually bound to the lama and he tries to reconcile these opposing strands, while the lama searches for redemption from the Wheel of Life. A celebration of their friendship in an often hostile environment, Kim captures the opulence of India's exotic landscape, overlaid by the uneasy presence of the British Raj.
Ram Mohammad Thomas has been arrested. For answering twelve questions correctly on Who Will Win A Billion? Because a poor orphan who has never gone to school cannot name the smallest planet in the solar system, or the plays of Shakespeare. Unless he has cheated. Reviewing TV footage of the show, Ram tells us how he won, and takes us on an amazing tour of his life. From the day he is rescued from a dustbin, to his encounter with a security-crazed Australian colonel, and a spell as an over-creative guide at the Taj Mahal, Ram's survival instincts are infallible. Stunning an audience of millions, he draws on a store of street wisdom and trivia to provide him with the essential keys, not only to the quiz show, but to life itself. Set in modern India, Q & A presents a kaleidoscopic vision of the struggle of good against evil, and what happens when one boy has no choice left in life but to survive.
Alive with the mayhem of the present and sparkling with William Dalrymple's irrepressible wit, City of Djinns is a fascinating portrait of a city. With an extraordinary array of characters, from elusive eunuchs to the last remnants of the Raj, this is a unique and dazzling feat of research. Over the course of a year Dalrymple comes to know the bewildering city intimately, and brilliantly conveys its magical nature, peeling back successive layers of history, and interlacing innumerable stories from Delhi's past and present.
Nine people, nine lives; each one taking a different religious path, each one an unforgettable story. William Dalrymple delves deep into the heart of a nation torn between the relentless onslaught of modernity and the ancient traditions that endure to this day.
A rollercoaster ride through a land of chaos and contradiction with a woman on a mission to save her soul, her love life – and her sanity.
When she was a child, Monisha Rajesh's family uprooted to Madras in the hope of making India their home, but soon returned to England with a bitter taste in their mouths. Two decades on, Monisha turns to a map of the Indian Railways and takes a page out of Jules Verne's classic tale, embarking on an adventure around India in 80 trains, covering 40,000km. Her journey takes her on toy trains, luxury trains, Mumbai's infamous commuter trains and even a hospital on wheels. Along the way she meets a kaleidoscope of characters and discovers why the railways are considered the lifeline that keeps the country's heart beating.
Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees 'a fortune beyond counting' in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood spent in rural poverty, has identified and alternative route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter – Annawadi's 'most-everything girl' – will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, such as Kalu, a 15-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves to be inching closer to the good lives and good times they call 'the full enjoy'. With intelligence, humour, and deep insight into what connects human beings in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the 21st century's hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.