Best books from Indian States

Brooklyn magazine last month published an amazing map of USA with the best book from each of the states of USA. When I started the list, I was very happy as first first 2 states were Alabama and Alaska and their corresponding books were To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. My initial thought was that I am going to nail this list. That is what 2 out of 2 does to you. By the end of the list, I had only 5/50.

So, like a grumpy sub-continental, I decided to ditch the ‘American’ list and make my own list of the best books from Indian states. However, this is not the complete list, you can say just the first part. Again the list is in no order, like my blog, they are random.

1. Jammu and Kashmir: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rusdie :

To be honest, there is more Mumbai than Kashmir in this masterpiece but it is anything but the best version of Kashmir, Kashmir of 1915, just woken up from the Mughal dream.

The Magical Midnights Children
The Magical Midnights Children

2. Uttarakhand : The Room on the roof by Ruskin Bond

There are many reasons to include this book on the list. First of all, it is the first published literary work of the legendary Ruskin Bond (ok, i think so its enough to sell this book, no?). He was 17 when he wrote this book. It was set in Dehradun, and his love for the nature and the hills were evident in the book.

The Room on the Roof
The Room on the Roof

3. Telangana: The White Mughals by William Dylarmple

White Mughals is the narrative history by famous Scottish goatherd of India, William Dylarmple. It is a tragic love story between a White officer of British East India and Hyderabadi noble women.

The true Dilliwallah , William Dylarmple
The true Dilliwallah , William Dylarmple

4. Delhi: The White Tiger by Aravinda Adiga

This Booker’s prize winner shows the difference between 2 Indias: one, that is shining, ready to conquer the world, and another, is the India that is crippled by darkness.

[Bonus Read: Delhi Books ]

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

5. Kerala : God of Small things by by Arundathi Roy

Ok, we have another Booker’s winner. Set in Kerala, this book takes you the wetlands of Kerala in middle of so-called revolution and the centurion conflicts.

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

6. West Bengal: Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Picking the best book from this state was particularly difficult because honestly, this state is the literary capital of India. While most of the books from the state is based in Kolkata, this one is at the foot of Himalayas, in Darjeeling (oh, it is also a Booker Prize winner )

Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

7. Rajasthan: Cuckord by Kiran Nagarkar

Its a historic fiction based on the era of Mewad prince of Chittor Maharaj Kumar and his wife whose character is inspired by cult figure in Hindu devotional circles called Mira Bai.

[Bonus Read: Book Review of Cuckold]

Book Cover: Cuckold
Book Cover: Cuckold

8. Punjab: Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

This book is based on ugly partition of Punjab between 2 newly independent nations, India and Pakistan.

[Bonus Read: The Khushwant Singh I Knew ]

Khushwant Singh joke books

9. Maharastra: Shantaram by Geogory David RobertsΒ 

Spite of many books based in Mumbai, both by Indian and foreign authors, I choose Shantaram to represent this state.Many critic believes it is just a glorified view of Mumbai from a hippie in Colaba but still, it remains one of the most entertaining books from the region.

[Bonus Read: Bombay Books ]

Book cover: The Shantaram
Book cover: The Shantaram

10. Karnataka: Swami and Friends by R K Narayan

R K Narayan can walk into any list and increase its bar and frankly, I could have picked any of his books, but the fictional village in the Mysore has always awestruck me, so Swami and Friends is representing both Karnataka and Malgudi here.

Adventures of Swami and his Friends
Adventures of Swami and his Friends

Help me make this list better. Please let me know your favorite books from the states that are (so far) left out from this list. I will include them in the next part.

23 thoughts on “Best books from Indian States

  1. ok my score only 1 out of 10 (The white tiger) … But for sure I am going to complete this list, after I finish google story, adultery and the namesake. Though I have started “god of small things” (which i know I have to return you) couple of time but couldn’t finish.

    Thanks for the post. and happy diwali πŸ™‚


    1. Thank you for your comment.
      Well, White Tiger shows the PoV of a villager with lot of social and political satire in it. The language does not have that ‘classic’ edge that Bookers generally have but I am personally impressed by the book. Also the book scores high on entertainment quotient (since the book was a bestseller and won major award, I guess I should not be the only one saying so)

      However, lets agree to disagree on White Tiger. I am glad you approve my other 9 selections πŸ™‚


  2. I am surprised how you left out Jhumpa from West Bengal :-O I understand she writes for the diaspora. . .but I think there is more Bengal in her books than in Inheritance of Loss (the author is also not Bengali!)

    And Mumbai for me would be. . .Em and the Big Hoom πŸ™‚ or Serious Men. . .

    Kerala was spot on!

    Chennai / Tamil Nadu would be Illicit Happiness of Other people (lots of cultural nuances in that book!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bengal was always suppose to give me a selection headache because so many good books are from there. I score Inheritance above Lowland and Namesake (Short stories were not based in Bengal at all)

      Again, in case of Shantaram, I have a special connect with the book and there is also rural Maharastra in the book unlike Em and the Big Hoom, which is mostly confined in the apartment in Bombay.

      For Tamil Nadu, I am selecting The Man Who Knew the Infinity (Rural Tamil Nadu, old Madras, real Tamilian culture, religious connect and the genius) and my second favorite is The Smile of Murugun.

      Any suggestion for North-East ?


  3. I too scored 2/2 on the American lista s you told us the name of only two books. On the Indian scene I have not Cuckload, The White Mughals, The train to Pakistan and Midnight’s Children. Lovely list.


  4. Very interesting compilation! I thoroughly enjoyed Arundhati, while Desai was ho-hum. Kiran was a whole new premise, but I wish he had shortened it. Arvinda was bullshit.
    And of course, Malgudi remains a childhood haunt.
    I would recommend Shyamchi Aai, a Marathi book by Sane Guruji on his childhood at Konkan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually thought of you when thinking about Maharastra. My knowledge of Indian writing is so limited to writing in English that I am oblivious about the majority of Indian writing. Even Kiran’s book,from what I have heard, was better in Marathi (obviously with better editing).

      Arvinda does not gets your nod too 😦 I enjoyed that book a lot.

      For my part 2, can I include Shyamchi Aai for Goa ? I had picked Jerry Pinto’s Refection in water.


  5. First thing- its a brilliant idea of book per states .. i too had compiled a list as books from A_Z places inspired by ‘books per state’ at goodreads and the A-Z challenges at write tribe.

    My list is quite long and I am including only those which I have read personally… But I guess this initiative of yours is even better as its essentially Indian and more informative about us.

    Loved it Avi and loved the selection also …

    My list shares with yours –
    Shantaram for Bombay , Malgudi days for Malgudi (though its a fictional place ), White Tigers for Gurgaon/NCR U.P,God of small things for Kerela and Ruskin Bond for Dehradun -Mussoorrie .
    Hope it will be as good as yours πŸ™‚


    1. Thank you for the awesome comment. I am really glad that our lists have a lot in common.
      I have read most of the books included so far in the list (part 1 and part 2) .

      Also, I really appreciate your encouragement for the initiative . Do let me know your suggestions for the remaining states .


  6. Just came to this list through TSBCReadsIndia – have read them all. Of course, my choices may differ – definitely Sankar for West Bengal!


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