It’s no wonder that the breath-taking India, with its varied treasures of history, mythology, geography, anthropology, religion and tradition has evoked vast literature from not just within but also without. Here is a list of our favourite books, fiction as well as non fiction, that view India through the prism of foreigners. So if are looking to read best books about India written by foreign authors check these books.
Best Books About India Written By Foreign Authors:
India: A History by John Keay
This book is an odyssey through three millenniums of Indian history. It chronicles the Indian experience right from the emergence of the Indus valley civilization to the contemporary events that have shaped history. With rich insights in culture, religion and society, what this book details is not merely events that took place in the past, but the creation of a nation by virtue of these events.
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
In this philosophical, ageless book, German author Hesse enshrines the spiritual journey of his protagonist, Siddhartha. Born to a Brahmin and initiated into the Brahminical spiritual world at an early age, Siddhartha finds no peace following his father’s path. He sets out to discover the Ultimate on his own. In the process, he turns to Samanas, courtesans, and even the Buddha to seek fulfillment. But he achieves none. Finally, from an average boatman, through the language of the river, he learns the ultimate secrets of life. This book is full of Indian philosophy, perhaps more distilled than many Indians could ever understand.
A Passage to India by E M Forster
Two English women arrive at a small town in India. Here, seek the help of an Indian Muslim doctor to explore it. Finding himself in the clutches of a scandal, Dr Aziz unravels a narrative that is as lyrical as it is engaging. This book is a rich portrait of imperial India.
A Storm of Songs by John Stratton Hawley
One of the most prominent and defining historical legacies of India is its heritage of the Bhakti movement. This was a devotional awakening that spread through the consciousness of India. Poet-sages from all across the country – north, south, east and west partook of the nectar of spirituality. In their wake, they left us with songs of indescribable beauty. Hawley, in this book, whose title is derived from Nobel laureate Tagore’s poem on Ravidas, attempts to unravel this very history.
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
At the fulcrum of this book are two men – a young white boy and an old Indian ascetic. The white boy straddles two cultures, attempting to unite them into one cord of seamless harmony. Meanwhile, the ascetic dreams of escape from the wheel of time and its countless reiterations.
Ka by Roberto Calasso
India is the land of infinitesimal gods, and a tremendous religious, spiritual and mythological heritage. In this ambitious book, Calasso picks apart the colourful threads of mythology that weave this complex narrative. And thus, an enormous pantheon comes undone. With myths ranging from Shiva’s skull to snake’s forked tongues, his understanding spans all geography and history of India.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
This mammoth epic of a book tells the story of an Australian robber and drug addict who escapes prison and finds himself in Bombay of the 1990s. As he attempts to make sense of his new life and camouflage with the world around, a poignant story of love, loss and culture ensues.
Upcountry Tales by Mark Tully
Tully’s incisive look at the heart of Indian society manifests as tender yet brilliant short stories. From a rebel Dalit and agnostic monk to a shrewd agrarian-ess and politician’s son, this book probes into Indianness from myriad, overlooked perspectives.
A Strange Kind of Paradise by Sam Miller
From the viewpoint of a foreigner living in India for 25 years, we take a look at India in a global context. We view India as a rich, thriving, indispensable microcosm of a globus. This book is written in the style of a travelogue but with the expertise of a scholarly work. Additionally, it spans generations, exploring what everyone from Chinese pop culture to Steve Jobs thinks of India.