The Greatest Indian Books of All Time

Click to learn how this list is calculated.

This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books in literature. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 210 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed literary works. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details about the selection process can be found on the rankings page.

Filter by: Genres Dates Countries

Genres

Countries

Indian

Add additional country filters

Date Range

Filter

Download

If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download
  1. 1. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

    The novel tells the story of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment when India gained its independence. As a result, he shares a mystical connection with other children born at the same time, all of whom possess unique, magical abilities. As Saleem grows up, his life mirrors the political and cultural changes happening in his country, from the partition of India and Pakistan, to the Bangladesh War of Independence. The story is a blend of historical fiction and magical realism, exploring themes of identity, fate, and the power of storytelling.

  2. 2. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

    This novel is a poignant tale of fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, who navigate through their childhood in Kerala, India, amidst a backdrop of political unrest and societal norms. The story, set in 1969, explores the complexities of their family's history and the tragic events that shape their lives. Their mother's transgression of caste and societal norms by having an affair with an untouchable leads to disastrous consequences, revealing the oppressive nature of the caste system and the destructive power of forbidden love. The novel also delves into themes of postcolonial identity, gender roles, and the lingering effects of trauma.

  3. 3. Mahabharata by Vyasa

    The book is an English translation of the ancient Indian epic, originally written in Sanskrit, which tells the story of a great war that took place between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. The narrative explores themes of duty, righteousness, and honor while also featuring a rich array of gods, goddesses, and supernatural beings. It is not only a tale of war and conflict, but also a profound philosophical and spiritual treatise, containing the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text of Hindu philosophy.

  4. 4. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

    Set in 1950s India, this epic novel follows the story of four families over a period of 18 months, focusing primarily on the young woman Lata and her mother's quest to find her a suitable husband. The narrative explores the political, social, and personal upheavals in a newly independent India, struggling with its own identity amidst the backdrop of a society grappling with religious tensions, land reforms, and the shaping of a modern democratic state. Lata's journey is an exploration of love, ambition, and the weight of familial duty.

  5. 5. Ramayana by Valmiki

    The book is an ancient Indian epic poem which follows the journey of Prince Rama as he embarks on a quest to rescue his beloved wife Sita from the clutches of Ravana, the demon king. The narrative explores themes of morality, dharma (duty/righteousness), and the struggle between good and evil. The story is not just about Rama's battle against Ravana, but also his spiritual journey and the importance of upholding one's duties and responsibilities.

  6. 6. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

    "A Fine Balance" is a poignant narrative set in India during the 1970s, a time of political turmoil and upheaval. The plot revolves around four diverse characters - a widow, a young student, and two tailors - who are brought together by fate. Through their interconnected lives, the book explores themes of caste, poverty, political corruption, and the human spirit's resilience. It offers a profound exploration of the delicate balance that sustains life amidst adversity.

  7. 7. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

    "The White Tiger" is a darkly humorous novel set in modern-day India that explores the country's class struggle through the eyes of an ambitious and cunning protagonist. Born in a poor village, he moves to Delhi to work as a chauffeur for a rich family. He eventually breaks free from his life of servitude by committing an act of shocking violence, and uses his newfound freedom to become a successful entrepreneur in Bangalore. The story, told through a series of letters written to the Chinese Premier, is a scathing critique of India's social and economic disparities, and the corruption that permeates all levels of society.

  8. 8. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

    This novel explores themes of love, loss, and the human struggle for identity amidst political unrest. Set in India during the Nepalese movement for an independent state, the narrative follows the lives of a retired judge living in the Himalayas, his granddaughter, and his cook. As the political situation worsens, each character must grapple with their own personal issues, including the judge's regret over his failed marriage and his granddaughter's struggle to find her place in the world. The cook, meanwhile, dreams of a better life for his son in the United States. The narrative weaves together these individual stories to create a poignant tapestry of human resilience in the face of adversity.

  9. 9. Family Life by Akhil Sharma

    Family Life is a poignant, semi-autobiographical novel that follows the experiences of an Indian family that immigrates to America in the late 1970s. Their dream of a better life is shattered when the older son suffers a terrible accident that leaves him brain-damaged. The story is narrated by the younger son, who struggles with the pressures of his parents' expectations, the trauma of his brother's condition, and the cultural dislocation of being an immigrant in America. The novel explores themes of family, love, loss, and the immigrant experience.

  10. 10. Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand

    "Untouchable" is a novel that explores a day in the life of a young Indian man, Bakha, who belongs to the lowest caste, the Untouchables. The narrative follows Bakha's experiences of extreme discrimination and humiliation as he performs his job as a latrine cleaner. Despite the harsh realities of his life, Bakha dreams of a better future and is fascinated by the modern world and British rule. The novel provides a poignant critique of the caste system and the social inequalities in India.

  11. 11. Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

    "Clear Light of Day" is a novel set in Old Delhi, which explores the dynamics of the Das family. The story shifts back and forth in time, reflecting on the lives of siblings Bim, Raja, Baba, and Tara, and their relationships with each other and their aunts. The narrative delves into themes of memory, time, and decay, as well as the political upheaval of the Partition of India. The novel is a poignant study of family relationships, personal change, and loss.

  12. 12. Upanishads by Hindu scripture

    The book is a comprehensive compilation of ancient Hindu scriptures known as the Upanishads, which are fundamental to understanding the core philosophies of Hinduism. The text delves into profound spiritual teachings and philosophical dialogues about the nature of reality, the self, and the universe, providing invaluable insights into concepts such as karma, reincarnation, moksha, and the ultimate truth of existence. It serves as a guide to spiritual enlightenment and self-realization, offering timeless wisdom for introspection and personal growth.

  13. 13. The Recognition of Sakuntala by Kālidāsa

    "The Recognition of Sakuntala" is an ancient Indian play that tells the story of a beautiful woman named Sakuntala who lives in a hermitage and falls in love with King Dushyant. After a series of misunderstandings and a curse that causes the king to forget Sakuntala, the two are eventually reunited when a fisherman finds the royal signet ring that Dushyant gave Sakuntala, leading to her recognition. The play is a classic example of the Indian dramatic tradition, with its mix of romance, comedy, and elements of the supernatural.

  14. 14. The Guide by R. K. Narayan

    "The Guide" follows the life of Raju, a corrupt tour guide who, through a series of events, ends up in prison, and later becomes a spiritual guide. After his release from prison, Raju is mistaken for a holy man by villagers and gets involved in resolving a drought problem by fasting. The novel explores themes of life, death, and redemption, as well as the complex nature of human relationships and the power of belief.

  15. 15. Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

    "Nectar in a Sieve" is a tale of an Indian peasant woman named Rukmani who endures the hardships of rural poverty, natural disasters, and personal tragedy, while trying to raise her children and maintain her marriage. The book explores themes of love, hope, and the strength of the human spirit against the backdrop of a rapidly changing India. Despite the constant struggles, Rukmani never loses her faith and hope, symbolizing the resilience and strength of ordinary people in the face of adversity.

  16. 16. Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore

    This novel is a political and philosophical exploration set in early 20th century India during the country's struggle for independence. It revolves around three main characters: a nobleman, his wife, and his friend, a fervent nationalist. The story unfolds as the wife, initially confined to the inner quarters of their home, begins to question her societal boundaries and the idea of nationalism after meeting her husband's friend. The narrative delves into the complexities of love, freedom, and the concept of home and world, set against the backdrop of the Swadeshi movement, a part of the Indian independence movement against British rule.

  17. 17. Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

    "Heat and Dust" is a novel set in two different time periods in India, exploring themes of colonialism, gender roles, and cultural clash. The story alternates between the 1920s, following the scandalous life of Olivia, an English colonial wife who falls in love with an Indian prince, and the 1970s, where her step-granddaughter journeys to India to uncover the truth about Olivia's life and her own identity. The narrative exposes the complexities of love, culture, and identity in the context of British colonial rule and post-colonial India.

  18. 18. All about H. Hatterr by G. V. Desani

    This novel is a unique blend of Eastern philosophy and Western literary technique, following the adventures of its protagonist, a British-educated Indian everyman, as he navigates the complexities of life. The narrative is filled with humor, satire, and linguistic playfulness, as the protagonist interacts with various eccentric characters and experiences numerous absurd situations. The book is a critique of both British colonialism and traditional Indian society, offering a distinctive and insightful perspective on the human condition.

  19. 19. The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh

    "The Shadow Lines" is a novel that explores themes of memory, family, and national identity through the eyes of a young boy and his experiences growing up in Calcutta, India. The narrative is framed by two major historical events: the 1964 Dhaka Riots and the 1942 World War II. The protagonist's relationships with his family and his personal experiences are juxtaposed with these events, highlighting the complexities of identity, memory, and the lasting impacts of historical events on individual lives. The novel also delves into the arbitrary nature of national borders and the shadow lines they draw between people and their histories.

  20. 20. The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

    This book is a satirical take on Indian politics and history, cleverly intertwined with characters and events from the epic Mahabharata. The narrative presents a parallel between the two, with the characters in the novel mirroring significant figures from India's political scene during the Independence and post-Independence era. The book is a humorous yet thought-provoking critique of Indian society and politics, offering a unique blend of myth, history, and satire.

  21. 21. Memories of Rain by Sunetra Gupta

    The novel explores the crumbling marriage of a Bengali woman and her Greek husband. The narrative alternates between Kolkata, India, and London, England, and spans over a decade, capturing the protagonist's emotional turmoil, her struggle to reconcile her Indian heritage with her Western lifestyle, and her eventual decision to leave her unfaithful husband. The novel is rich in poetic language and imagery, and it delves deep into themes of identity, cultural displacement, and the complexities of love and betrayal.

  22. 22. Holder of the World: A Novel by Bharati Mukherjee

    The novel explores the life of Hannah Easton, a woman born in 17th century Salem, who gets married to a British adventurer and travels to India. In India, she becomes the concubine of a local ruler and takes on the name "The Holder of the World". The story is narrated by a 20th-century woman who discovers Hannah's story through a virtual reality device. The narrative weaves together the historical and the contemporary, the East and the West, and the real and the virtual, to create a rich tapestry of a woman's life and the cultural clashes she experiences.

  23. 23. Satyagraha in South Africa by Gandhi

    This book is a personal account of the author's experiences during the Indian struggle for civil rights in South Africa. It details the development and implementation of the concept of Satyagraha, or non-violent resistance, as a means of combating social injustice. The book provides a unique insight into the author's philosophies and strategies of peaceful protest, including his belief in the power of truth and the necessity of self-sacrifice in the fight against oppression.

  24. 24. The English Teacher by R. K. Narayan

    The book revolves around an English teacher living in India who is struggling with the death of his wife. After her passing, he begins to communicate with her through a medium, which brings him peace and helps him cope with his loss. The novel explores themes of love, loss, and the spiritual connection between the living and the dead. It also delves into the protagonist's journey of self-discovery and his eventual acceptance of his wife's death.

  25. 25. Vendor Of Sweeets by R. K. Narayan

    The book centers around Jagan, a sweet vendor in India who lives by the principles of Gandhi, and his relationship with his westernized son, Mali. Despite Jagan's efforts to provide a traditional upbringing, Mali rejects his father's values and moves to America to pursue a career in writing. The novel explores the generational and cultural clashes between father and son, as Jagan struggles to understand his son's choices and the tension between tradition and modernity in post-colonial India.

Download

If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download