Books based in India written by Foreign Authors #3B1G

Books based in India written by Foreign Authors #3B1G

copy-of-3-booksWe read a lot of books about India and written by Indian authors. It gives us a familiarity which no one can match as our English usage and phrases are very Indianised.  It is the kind of comfort which can be provided under a warm blanket in your bed.

I also love to read books based in India or about India written by foreign authors.  It gives a fresh perspective.  Many things which we take for granted are highlighted by them.

Of the books I have selected here,  it is only the ones I have read.  I know that there are some other excellent books too like ‘A Passage to India‘ by E. M. Forster and ‘The Hindu‘ and other books by Wendy Donniger.  The first one is lying on my bookshelf and the other one I have read half.  I will get to reading them one day for sure,  maybe when the ARCs stop coming.  Or when I do not want to read anymore ARCs.

The three books here I have read and loved.  They have left a deep impact as I can still recall them.


Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

This gargantuan book of close to 1000 pages is a favourite as it is set in the city of Mumbai.  Lin,  an Australian prisoner,  escapes from his prison in Australia and reaches Mumbai.  How and why is a long story which I will not mention here.  It is about Lin discovering Mumbai and its people.  In due course, he becomes a Mumbaikar,  speaks Hindi and Marathi.  He gets into the Mumbai underworld and is comfortable in his crime filled life.  This book has a few good characters.  The best being Khan who mentors and grooms Lin to become his man.  Khan is a criminal with a moral.  And Lin looks upto him as a father.  If this book ever becomes a movie,  I want Amitabh Bachchan to play the role of Khan.  No one else can match it.

The book also talks about Mumbai and its idiosyncracies.  Since, I am from Mumbai,  the places and attitudes are very familiar,  not the crime scene though.  Read it.  It has a slow start but then it pulls you in at about 150 pages.

The Australian author,  Gregory David Roberts, has said that the book is autobiographical.  But,  I am a bit unsure about that as the guy is lucky too many times.

Nine Lives by William Dalrymple

Nine Lives is a non-fiction book.  It is about nine different people who seek spirituality and God by their own means.  Most of the customs, he has mentioned were unfamiliar to me. There is the story of a woman Jain monk, a woman Tantric, a woman Sufi dancer and more . The book is extremely well-researched and well-written.  I chose this book as I have not read his other books which are even more popular.

William Dalrymple is a Scottish historian and writer, art historian and curator, as well as a prominent broadcaster and critic.  He lives near Delhi with his family and runs a farm.  I also love to read his write-ups on Indian history.  He is also one of the founders of the annual Jaipur Literary Festival which completes 10 years in 2017.  Follow his twitter account @DalrympleWill for some excellent history lessons.

Freedom At Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins

I read this book when I was in college or even before that.  It was a hardcover book owned by my friend’s father.  My friend recommended it to me.  And she told me to read only one chapter in a day.  She also told me to take a gap day before going on to the next chapter.  Though I do not remember much of it,  I still remember the way the book made me feel.  It was different from what was taught in our history books at school.  And now,  I am skeptical about the history textbooks of today.  It is an excellent non-fiction book and must-read for history lovers,  especially Indian.  It is about the last year of India’s Independence and partition from a non-Indian, unbiased point of view.  I should read it again I think.

Dominique Lapierre is a French author and Larry Collins is American.  Both of them became friends instantly when they met in the military.  They also ended up working for the same newspaper.  They had to compete for their stories to get published by the paper.  So, they decided to join forces and tell a big story.  The result is a number of books authored by the two of them.  Is Paris Burning?, O Jerusalem are some of their other bestsellers written together.


Let me know of similar books which I can bookmark for future reads.

14 thoughts on “Books based in India written by Foreign Authors #3B1G

  1. I’ve only read Shantaram from this list, probably because I don’t read a lot of non-fiction (and yes, I too believe that Shantaram is not entirely autobiographical; parts of it may definitely be fiction). I’ve heard a lot about Dalrymple’s books though…

    1. Dalrymple is pure history. I love his books. Of late, I am reading a lot of non-fiction and am liking it. Try it out.

  2. Fun to read – I remember I read Shantaram before I moved to Mumbai – what a story:-) I liked the first part the most, went a bit too cowboylike for me later in the story…. 🙂 Another one is Behind the beautiful forevers – Katherine Boo. Sad one though…. I loved Maximum city – bombay lost and found- but thats by suketu mehta…

    1. I will look up Behind the Beautiful Forevers. What a lovely title. I have funnily not read Maximum City yet. Need to rectify that. Thanks Eli.

  3. I have always felt that people who do not connect themselves with the soil would not be able to catch the right essence and ground realities. I do love Shantaram and have wondered how it was possible for the author to make this mumbaikar story line work for him. I still am wondering!!!

    1. Thanks Menaka. But we get an other point of view of things we take for granted. In Shantaram, the story gets fictionalized. But what he wrote in Mumbai was excellent and shows he knows the place well.

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