Last Updated 19/07/2021.
With your India trip still months off, what better way to indulge your love for a country and learn a little more about it than by getting lost in a great book. Travel books are a wonderful way to prepare for a trip or to learn more about a country without ever leaving your armchair. Learn about Indian culture, history and traditions with these amazing books about India. India and books about India are a particular love of mine. Here are some of my favourites, high-brow, funny, factual and fantasy, I hope you enjoy them too.
If you need our full India content archive, it’s here.
Best Books About India
Lonely Planet India (Travel Guide)
Yes, people read Lonely Planets for fun. I do.
I’ll read them from cover to cover before a trip, starting with the food, progressing to the pictures then reading in depth to plan where I want to go. These guides are pure escapism.
You can start learning the language, check out health requirements and get an idea of costs before you leave home. This is probably the most comprehensive book about India you could buy. We would always recommend taking on of these with you to India, but be warned, it’s a brick.
Are You Experienced?
This is one of those rare books that once started, I had to finish all in one go. I stayed up most of the night, pulled along by laughs and the adventures of backpackers making their way around India. Some want to find their spiritual selves, some are barely getting by and would really rather just go home. It’s fun, modern, a true reflection of the trials of Indian travel and a glorious caricature of the types of travellers you’ll meet on the road.
Travels on my Elephant
Travels on my elephant is a wonderful insight into the relationship between mahout and elephant.
If you’ve read this book, you’ll want to read the sequel Queen of the Elephants
Midnight’s Children: A Novel
Midnight’s Children is a controversial modern classic, part historical novel, part allegory, it deals with India’s transition from British rule to independence post partition.
City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi
By William Dalrymple
Dalrymple’s classic travelogue City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi, the characters this couple meet during their time in Delhi make fascinating reading.
Shantaram: A Novel
I must admit, I didn’t love this one and lost interest towards the end, but everyone else seems to love this book so I’m including Shantaram. It’s a look at the darker side of Indian city life, slums, crime, prison, jails, drugs and Mumbai. Written by an Australian man about his life in India after escaping prison in his home country.
The parts of the book dealing with life in Mumbai’s slums were fascinating.
Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire
Another book about the end of British rule in India and partition.
tells us what went on behind the scenes with the Nehrus and Mountbattens.
Autobiography of a Sadhu: A Journey into Mystic India
how a white westerner, became a holy man, a sadhu. A glimpse of mystical India.
Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi
A biography of this fascinating woman, sometimes described as India’s Maggie Thatcher.
gives us an insight into the extraordinary Nehru dynasty and growing up with Gandhi.
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure
This one has the best cover and is another fun read. A young woman returns to India, against her better judgement, almost dies and searches for the meaning of life and death through nightclubs, Bollywood and spirituality.
There are many more fabulous books on India, fiction and factual, these are just a few favourites. We hope you enjoy them and hope that one day you make it to India, it’s our favourite country to travel. Visit our India Travel Homepage here, to find all our India posts along with plenty of tips and information.