R. K. Narayan is the founder of early Indian literature in English. Narayan is popular for his work on the charming fictional town named Malgudi on the banks of river Sarayu. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan and the Sahitya Academy Award for this exemplary work. Jhumpa Lahiri says reading stories written by Narayan is like eating a box of chocolates. So, here is a list of the 10 best books by R. K. Narayan. Keep reading!

Malgudi Days

10 Best Books by R. K. Narayan - Malgudi Days
10 Best Books by R. K. Narayan – Malgudi Days

Malgudi Days portrays R.K. Narayan’s imagination. This fictional city is full of colors, revealing human experience in India and its true essence. In Malgudi, most people are scared by unemployment and illiteracy. It has stories of all, a gatekeeper, an astrologer, and a young man who is yeaning to pass an examination. There are animals such as a forlorn dog who befriends a blind man and a ferocious tiger. Often the characters did not get what they desire, this keeps the reader continue reading as to what happens to the next character.

My Dateless Diary

My Dateless Diary
My Dateless Diary

Every R. K. Narayan fan must read this. It is a compilation of short writing of the writer’s experience in the USA. He went to America in his fifties on a Rockefeller foundation and this book is an account of that visit. Narayan wrote one of his popular works The Guide while he was in America. This book offers a good reflection of his viewpoint of the American civilization and their culture.

The Guide

Top 10 Books by R. K. Narayan - The Guide
Top 10 Books by R. K. Narayan – The Guide

The Guide focuses on a former India corrupt tourist guide named Raju. Just released from prison Raju seeks refuge in a vacant temple. He is mistaken as a holy man. Raju plays the assumed role so well. God himself intervenes to put Raju’s newfound sacredness to the test. This book won Narayan the National Prize of the Indian Literary Academy.

The Dark Room

The Dark Room
The Dark Room

The title of the book suggests a metaphor for the marital experience of women. The story primarily focuses on the sensitive and intelligent Savitri. She is burdened with an unfaithful unsupportive husband and three insensitive children whom she loves unconditionally. It shows how patriarchal men damages family and the upbringing of children. The story accurately presents how women and children have to take permission from men before taking any action. Unfortunately, the notion that “women must be taught their place” is still very much prevalent.

Swami and Friends

10 Best Books by R. K. Narayan - Swami and Friends
10 Best Books by R. K. Narayan – Swami and Friends

Swami is the story of 10-year-old Swami. The story involves Swami from the fictional town of Malgudi, his father, and his three friends. The innocence of Swami and his friends is heart-touching. The primary theme of this story is relationships. It focuses on Swami’s relationship with his half hero half disciplinarian father, doting but confused grandmother, and with other adults such as doctors, teachers, and more. Each chapter of this deals with a new schoolboy, exams, holidays, political protests, riots, and more.

The Painter of Signs

The Painter of Signs
The Painter of Signs

For the sign painter named Raman life is a satisfying routine. He is a man of rational and simple ways who lives with his pious aunt and prides himself on his creativity. But, all of that changes when Raman meets independent young Daisy who wished to bring birth control to the area. Raman finds himself smitten with this unfathomable love and soon realizes that life is not just a routine.

Waiting for the Mahatma

Top 10 Books by R. K. Narayan - Waiting for the Mahatma
Top 10 Books by R. K. Narayan – Waiting for the Mahatma

This story is a remarkable insight into the rise of Indian nationalism as witnessed by the two primary characters of the book, Sriram and Bharati. The evolution of Sriram into his manhood is bewildering for him. He worships the witty, infuriating, and wonderful Bharati. Bharati’s loyalty first belongs to Mahatma. On the other hand, though Sriram is inspired by Gandhi, he gets easily influenced by the patriots such as a terrorist named Jagadish.

The Bachelor of Arts

The Bachelor of Arts
The Bachelor of Arts

The Bachelor of Arts is about the young days of a Brahmin man named Chandran. The story takes us through his flirting with asceticism, his love for a girl, college life, then his evolution through marriage and employment. Each character is brilliantly portrayed – the humorous and friendly British Principal, the crazy nationalist poet, and Chandran’s father’s obsession with the garden flowers.

The Vendor of Sweets

10 Best Books by R. K. Narayan - The Vendor of Sweets
10 Best Books by R. K. Narayan – The Vendor of Sweets

The story is loosely about old India versus the new India. It also has the conflict between Eastern and Western culture as presented between two generations. This story is about a sweet shopper whose life revolves around Gandhiji’s teachings, Bhagavad Gita, and his son. Jagan is a widower. His son goes off to America for a few years to become a writer. He comes back with a business scheme and a Korean-American woman. His son will be the cause of a lot of trouble in Jagan’s life.

The English Teacher

The English Teacher
Top 10 Books by R. K. Narayan – The English Teacher

Krishna is an English teacher in the fictional town of Malgudi. He is bothered by the feeling that is perhaps doing the wrong work. His life is nonetheless content as his wife and young daughter waits for him outside the house every afternoon. After his wife’s death, he gets perplexed and devastated. It is then he comes to realize what he wants to do in life. This will change his life forever.

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