Travel Advice: Books to Read About India

Doing some reading before you go overseas helps to give you a real sense of what the culture like in your destination country will be like, this is especially true for India where there is a plethora of books out there to help you get a real idea of what Indian culture is like. We have put together a selection of books that have been read and recommended by past volunteers below.

A God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

This book won the Booker Prize in 1997, and is set in Kerala. It is a great one to read to give you a real understanding of what life in Kerala was like in the 60’s and what it is like today. The book is about two twins (Rahel & Estha) and describes ¬†how small things affect people’s lives and the paths that they take. The book gives an insight into the dowry system, the history of Kerala and the caste system.

White Tiger, Aravind Adiga

This book also won the Man Booker Prize in 2008 and is another great book that gives readers an insight into class struggle, corruption and the caste system in India. The book is the story of Balram Halwai who had to quit school in order to help pay for his cousins dowry, this eventually sees him move to New Delhi where he takes actions to better himself and move up in Indian society, and how he copes with the consequences of his actions.

india trainAround India in 80 Trains, Monsiha Rajesh

A great book for volunteers who are planning on doing some travelling after their project, this book is the true story of Monisha who leaves Sheffield to return to her home country 20 years after leaving, she heads for Madras and makes it her mission to travel around India in 80 trains. From commuter trains in Mumbai to a hospital train that travels around helping those who can’t reach hospitals, Monisha gets to know parts of India rarely visited by tourists.

Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts

This is a book widely read by travellers of India, it is the story of a convicted bank robber who escapes prison in Australia and seeks refuge in Mumbai, India. The book is based on events that happened in the authors life.  Lindsay (the main character) makes friends with a local named Prakabar, after a robbery Lindsay is forced to live in a slum in Mumbai, and the book is the story of what happens as a result of various actions which see him land up in a prison in India and work for the Afghan mafia.

A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth

This is one of the longest books published in the English language so it a bit hefty to take with you, but it is worth a read at some point. It is the story of four families and based around a mother is searching for a suitable boy for her daughter to marry, set in the 1950s. Don’t let the length put you off!

There are many other books out there set in India, but these are a few recommendations that we have received from past volunteers. If you have a recommendation that you would like us to add to the list just e-mail Lauren (lauren.pluss@vesl.org).

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