Background reading for India trip?

Old Jul 24th, 2003, 06:52 PM
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Background reading for India trip?

We are in the very early stages of planning a trip to India for 2004. Can anyone recommend some good books to provide an intro to the geography, history, and most importantly the culture(s) of the country? Thank you.
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Old Jul 24th, 2003, 11:37 PM
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There was just a recent thread on this, which I cannot locate using the search function; so I have include my contribution to it below and in the following message.

Have a great trip!

If you can't find a book mentioned below on line or in your bookstore, you will find most of them in bookshops in India so you can wait until you get there. Airports usually have a least one bookshop, most hotels also have good bookstores, esp. the Sheraton in Delhi and the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur.


Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children. A classic, it follows several Indian families starting with the date Indian gained its independence from Britain, at midnight in August 1947. You will learn a lot about Indian history and culture. Kind of like a Michener novel.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust, Out of India, How if Became a Holy Mother (the last is short stories.) Mrs. Jhabvala is a European who married an Indian and lived in India for 40 years. She is a great story teller and again you will gain an insight into Indian life and culture. She has written many other books, the first two novels are my favorite and the latter is a great collection of short stories about life in India.

MM Kaye, The Far Pavilions. Great love story between a Hindu princess and a British soldier set in a Rajasthan-like kingdom in the foot-hills of the Himalayas in late 19th century. She has written several other books, this is my favorite about India.

Rudyard Kipling, Plain Tales from the Hills, Kim, Jungle Book; many other novels. Classic novels by the English author. Many are set in what is now Pakistan, but still interesting as the country and people of Rajasthan are similar, expect for their religion.

R.K. Narayan, The English Teacher, or any book, especially the 12 novels based in a town he created called Malgudi. Funny and poignant.

Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance, Tales from Firozha Baag. He is a young Indian writer, I really enjoy him. I believe this was on the US bestseller list for a while, definitely was in the UK

Arundhati Roy , God of Small Things. Great book by a modern woman writer, set in South India so it may give you a little flavour of Sir Lanka. I believe this was on the US bestseller list for a while, definitely was in the UK

Rabindranath Tagore, The Post Office, any collection of his poems. He was primarily a poet, but wrote some novels, the Post Office is his best known and is wonderful. He is very beloved in India, esp in Calcutta/Bengal where he is from. If you can read and quote him, you will impress many Indians?.

Vikrem Seth, A Suitable Boy. This is one of my favorite books, but it is about 1,000 pages, so you have to be dedicated. Funny, sad, touching story about an Indian girl in 1960's India whose mother is determined to find her the right husband. This was on the US bestseller list in 1993.

Paul Scott , The Raj Quartet. Again, one of my favorite books, but it is in 4 volumes so it is not for everyone. The first volume would be good if that is all you want to commit to. It is the story of an English family living in a hill station in north Indian before and during WWII. You will learn a lot about the British rule in India, good and bad.

Non-Fiction to follow in next message. . .
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Old Jul 24th, 2003, 11:38 PM
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V.S. Naipaul, India A Wounded Civilization, Among the Believers. A brilliant thinker and writer, he poses questions about Indian life and culture as well as the worlds major religions and their role in modern culture.

Gayatri Devi, A Princess Remembers. This is the autobiography of the third and favorite wife of the late Maharajah of Jaipur. She was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. When Jackie Kennedy went to India in 1961 or so, she stayed with the Princess and in the pictures, Jackie looks dowdy compared to her. She was from a royal family in east India. She led a very interesting life, met all kinds of leaders. It is really fun to read her book while in Jaipur, esp if you stay at the Rambagh Palace, which was her home. It is kind of startling to look up for your reading and imagine what the palace look like, where the women's quarter was, etc This book may not be available outside of India, but you can definitely but it in India, esp in Jaipur.

Mark Tully, No Full Stops in India, Heart of India. He was the BBC correspondent in India for about 20 years. Very interesting insight into Indian life and culture.

Ann Morrow, Maharajahs of India. This is from 1986 and may be out of print, again you may find it in Indian book shops. It gives fascinating details about the lives of the fabulously wealthy maharajas of India, who lost their power in and most of their wealth in 1974.

Elisabeth Bumiller, May you Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons. She is a former journalist with the Washington Post who lived in India for a few years. The book is a description of women's lives in India.

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Old Jul 27th, 2003, 07:14 AM
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now that is what I call a seriously good reading list!!
Paul Scott, Arundhati Roy, Rohinton Mistry - fabulous. ditto "May you be the mother of a 100 sons", and VS Naipaul - to his oeuvre add "India - a million mutinies now".
The only addition that comes to mind is: "Freedom at Midnight" by Dominque Lapierre & (I forget!!).
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Old Oct 5th, 2003, 11:44 PM
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