Many foreign authors have come to India, initially to travel or to write about her and after having fallen in love with her, have chosen to stay for either extended periods of time or indefinitely. Their writing highlights a side of India we often overlook because we find it usual. These novels by foreign authors will help you view India differently and give you a glimpse of India during various times in history. This list forms part of The Extraordinary Reading Challenge 2018.


The Room on the Roof

Ruskin Bond

Ruskin Bond’s first book, written when he was barely 17, is the tale of an orphaned boy, Rusty, who lives with his English guardian in Dehradun. Although encouraged to shun India, Rusty is fascinated by the festivals, the people, and the bazaar. After he runs away from home, his friends help him survive and even find a job.

Buy it here.



Gregory David Roberts

The story of a convicted Australian bank robber and heroin addict who escapes prison and eventually finds himself in India, this novel is an account of his days in the Bombay of the 1980s. Beautifully written, this novel based on true events is the story of one man’s search for meaning as he attempts to survive without a home, family, or identity, in a new country.

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Heat and Dust

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Winner of the Booker Prize in 1975, this books narrates the tale of Olivia, an Englishwoman who causes a scandal in the town of Satipur by falling in love with the Nawab, getting pregnant and aborting her child. Many years later, her step-granddaughter comes to India to find out the truth about Olivia and her life in 1920s India.

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Taslima Nasrin

Published in 1994, this book was banned in Bangladesh and caused Nasrin to flee her home country, which considered the book insulting to Islam. This is the story of a Hindu family living in Bangladesh whose life changes when the Babri Masjid is demolished and communal riots occur in Bangladesh.

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A Strange Kind of Paradise: India Through Foreign Eyes

Sam Miller

Miller explores India’s present and past through the eyes of a foreigner who has spent 25 years in India. The book spans centuries- discussing how everyone from the Greeks, Romans, Chinese to pop culture figures like Allen Ginsberg, the Beatles, and even Steve Jobs have viewed India.  Part travelogue, part scholarly exploration, this makes for one fascinating read.

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A History of India as it Happened: Not as it Has Been Written

Francois Gautier

Gautier makes a bold claim in this book- that this is the history of India as it happened. European colonisers wrote India’s early history with a view to ‘downsize, downgrade and postdate Indian civilization.’ However, even Indian historians have continued to endorse these theories. Gautier has ‘rewritten’ history as you have always known it to be. This book is likely to make you question everything you’ve thought of as the truth.

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The Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling

This classic is the beloved tale of a human child brought up by a pack of wolves and unaware of the world of men. With an unlikely group of friends which include Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear, Mowgli goes on many adventures which bring him face-to-face with his nemesis- Shere Khan the tiger.

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City of Djinns

William Dalrymple

Styled more as a novel than a travelogue, this lavish novel explores Delhi’s history while seeking its essence. Along the way, you’ll meet an eclectic cast of characters, from eunuchs to Sufis, and Persian scholars to taxi drivers. Perhaps, the most interesting part is Dalrymple’s exploration of the legend of the djinns, who will ensure that the city will rise every time its destroyed.

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Upcountry Tales: Once Upon a Time in the Heart of India

Mark Tully

This book is a collection of short stories set in the villages of eastern Uttar Pradesh during the second half of the 1980s. The stories feature an elderly Dalit who defies tradition, a clever farmer’s wife, a politician’s son, a policeman, and an agnostic monk. The stories are about the everyday unsung heroes we often overlook or undermine. Tully’s writing is warm, witty, and compassionate as he brings these stories to life and gives us a glimpse of life in rural north India.

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The Longest Race

Tom Alter

This is the story of the son of a watchman from the foothills of the Himalayas who accidentally discovers a passion and talent for long-distance running. Eventually, he is selected by a legendary Scottish coach and taken to Edinburgh for training. Although selected to participate in the Olympics, he gets embroiled in the politics of Indian sports, leading to him giving up running. Years later, he finds himself going back to it and learning about the resilience of the human spirit.

Buy it here.

Did you learn something new about India from reading these books? Which other books have you read which helped you see India in a different light? Share with us in the comments.

Devanshi Jain

Devanshi Jain

Devanshi has been reading ever since she can remember. What started off as an obsession with Enid Blyton, slowly morphed into a love for mystery and fantasy. Even her choice of career as a lawyer was heavily influenced by the works of Erle Stanley Gardner and John Grisham. After quitting law, and while backpacking around India, she read books on entrepreneurship, taught herself web design and delved into social media marketing. She doesn’t go anywhere without a book.

She is the founding editor of The Curious Reader. Read her articles here.