Around the world in books: Five books from Indian authors

The month of May is often an opportunity to celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander people and their heritage. In America the month is called Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and in Canada it’s called Asian Heritage Month. For this month, I’ll be sharing books by Asian authors.

Have you ever wanted to visit India? Here’s your chance to visit India through reading!

As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to visit India. I haven’t had the chance yet, but I know one day I will end up going. But until that time I will continue reading books from India to learn more about the country and it’s culture.

Interestingly, English is the second official language of India, with Hindi being the first official language. There are also an additional 22 scheduled languages considered official languages for use in government proceedings. These 22 languages are either widely spoken or considered an official language at a state-level.

India has a very diverse language landscape. There are 122 major languages, with an additional 1,599 used in India. In the 2018 census, there was a total of 19,569 unique mother tongues listed on the census. But a vast majority, 96.71%, of the population have one of the scheduled languages as their mother tongue (Source).

Since there are so many languages used within India, you’ll notice that Indian literature spans many languages. Many Indian authors also write books in English. You’ll see a similar diversity in the books listed below.

I believe this also poses unique accessibility barriers for Indian literature. Books written in English are easily accessible to the rest of the English speaking world, but often times the lesser known languages may have difficulty getting translated.

Photo by Debashis RC Biswas on Unsplash

Five books from Indian authors

Here’s a list of five books with Indian authors.

  1. The Crooked Line: Terhi Lakir by Ismat Chughtai (1944) – translated from Urdu
  2. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (1997) – written in English
  3. Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (2008) – written in English
  4. Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree (2018) – translated from Hindi
  5. Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi (2019) – written in English

They are listed in order of when they were published. Keep reading to find out more about each one.

The Crooked Line: Terhi Lakir (1944)

by Ismat Chughtai, translated from Urdu by Tahira Naqvi

  • Year Published: 1944 (English version in 1995)
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, lgbtqia+, emotional, reflective, slow-paced
  • Importance: An influential work of Urdu fiction from a feminist writer of that time


In India’s colonial past, in a time of political and social revolution, Ismat Chughtai masterfully unfolds her magna opusThe Crooked Line: the semi-autobiographical tale of a fiery-spirited, middle-class Muslim girl bent on exploring the shape and nature of consuming desire. Writing with the same honesty and passion as her scandalous short-story, “The Quilt,” Chughtai exposes the complex relationships developed between women living and working in relative seclusion, and the intellectual and emotional contradictions lying in the heart of a rebellious country on the brink of independence from the British Raj and ultimately Partition.


The God of Small Things (1997)

by Arundhati Roy, written in English

  • Year Published: 1997
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, classics, historical, literary, emotional, reflective, sad, slow-paced
  • Importance: Winner of the Booker Prize in 1997, and the Dublin Literary Award Nominee in 1999


Compared favorably to the works of Faulkner and Dickens, Arundhati Roy’s debut novel is a modern classic that has been read and loved worldwide. Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama, it is the story of an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevokably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest. Lush, lyrical, and unnerving, The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated.


Sea of Poppies (2008)

by Amitav Ghosh, written in English

  • Year Published: 2008
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, historical, literary, adventurous, challenging, medium-paced
  • Importance: Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008
  • Part of the Ibis trilogy


At the heart of this vibrant saga is a vast ship, the Ibis. Her destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean shortly before the outbreak of the Opium Wars in China. In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners on board, from a bankrupt raja to a widowed tribeswoman, from a mulatto American freedman to a free-spirited French orphan. As their old family ties are washed away, they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais, or ship-brothers. The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the exotic backstreets of Canton.


Tomb of Sand (2018)

by Geetanjali Shree, translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell

  • Year Published: 2018
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, literary, emotional, mysterious, reflective, medium-paced
  • Language: Hindi
  • Importance: Winner of International Book Prize in 2022


An eighty-year-old woman slips into a deep depression at the death of her husband, then resurfaces to gain a new lease on life. Her determination to fly in the face of convention – including striking up a friendship with a hijra (trans) woman – confuses her bohemian daughter, who is used to thinking of herself as the more ‘modern’ of the two.

At the older woman’s insistence they travel back to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, a feminist.

Rather than respond to tragedy with seriousness, Geetanjali Shree’s playful tone and exuberant wordplay results in a book that is engaging, funny, and utterly original, at the same time as being an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries, or genders.


Burnt Sugar (2019)

by Avni Doshi, written in English

  • Year Published: 2019
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, contemporary, literary, dark, emotional, reflective, slow-paced
  • Importance: Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize
  • Originally published in India under the title Girl in White Cotton


In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her loveless marriage to join an ashram, endured a brief stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents), and spent years chasing after a dishevelled, homeless ‘artist’ – all with her young child in tow. Now she is forgetting things, mixing up her maid’s wages and leaving the gas on all night, and her grown-up daughter is faced with the task of caring for a woman who never cared for her.

This is a love story and a story about betrayal. But not between lovers – between mother and daughter. Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Burnt Sugar unpicks the slippery, choking cord of memory and myth that binds two women together, making and unmaking them endlessly.


Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books written by Indian authors.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. If you have a favourite book written by an Indian author, please feel free to share it in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of the book?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

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