Recommended Books on India and South Asia


July 3, 2023

954. Books on  India & South Asia

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Further Reading:

Robert Arnett India Unveiled: Spirit, Tradition, People, 1997.

While this book is an older title, American Robert Arnett provides a balanced account of India, a huge geographical nation with an equally huge mix of cultures and landscapes from a foreigner’s perspective.

Siddhartha Deb The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India, 2011.

After his childhood and youth in India, Siddhartha Deb got his college education at Columbia University in the U.S. Six years later, he returned to India as an undercover reporter for The Guardian. In this book, he reveals what he found there.

Erik H. Erikson Gandhi’s Truth: On the Origins of Militant Nonviolence, 1969.

Erik Erikson, a renowned 20th-century psychoanalyst, studies Mahatma Gandhi and how he galvanized the Indian population, leading a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience against the British ruling class.

Suketu Mehta Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, 2005.

Bombay, now called Mumbai, is the second-largest city in India after Delhi. City native Mehta Suketu shares the beautiful and the ugly about Mumbai, from Bollywood to rival Muslim and Hindu gangs.

Anand Giridharadas India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking, 2011.

Anand Giridharadas, a child of Indian immigrants to the U.S., returned to India to discover the country of his ancestors. He encountered an India in transition, not the India of his grandparents. He shares the lives of the ordinary people he encounters to bring us a fresh portrait of India today.

Aanchal Malhotra Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory, 2017.

After gaining independence from British rule in 1947, India was divided into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. This period of extreme cultural upheaval forced many people to leave their homeland for one place or the other. By examining the materials they carried, oral historian Aanchal Malhotra tells stories about items such as a string of pearls or a notebook and what they reveal about the societies that disappeared forever.

Ahmed Rashid Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, 2008.

Pakistani reporter Ahmed Rashid looks at the role of the U.S. in Central Asia during the War on Terror. He presents the historical, political, and societal factors influencing leaders’ decisions. It criticizes the American and European inability to rebuild Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban and Al-Qaeda back into Pakistan.

Alex von Tunzelmann Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, 2007.

British historian and screenwriter Alex von Tunzelmann recreates the final days of the Raj and the birth of India as an independent nation.

Sonali Deraniyagala Wave, 2013.

Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, husband, and sons in the 2004 tsunami that swept through the Indian Ocean. In this memoir, she shares her memories of each, wishing to honor their lives while at the same time struggling not to become overwhelmed with grief.

For more information on the Further Reading section, see Further Reading: Start Here.

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