5 Indian Authors in English You Should Read

We all know our Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh, but there are some Indian authors who seem to have escaped the limelight in spite of being great writers. We hunted down a few authors on Worth a Read’s(WaR) recommendations list.

kiran_nagarkar1) Kiran Nagarkar is surprisingly not read to the extent to which he should be. Nagarkar is an Indian novelist, drama and film critic and screenwriter. Plus he is bilingual- he writes in both Marathi and English. He has been awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, described as the ‘highest tribute Germany can pay to individuals’.

He has also been awarded India’s most prestigious literary award, the Sahitya Akademi Award for the novel Cuckold. This book set in the early sixteenth century in the Rajput kingdom of Mewar is a story about battles, feudalism and love.

A book of his that was featured on WaR recommendations was God’s Little Soldier, a saga sprawling from Mumbai to California. Nagarkar takes fundamentalism by the bones and creates a timely epic that leaves you breathless. Read a detailed review here: https://wortharead.pub/2015/04/01/book-of-the-month-gods-little-soldier-by-kiran-nagarkar/

Nagarkar dabbles in a variety of genres and there seems to be no topic he is unable to address. Take his humor driven Ravan and Eddie and The Extras.


2) Chetan Raj Shrestha is an architect. He lives in Sydney. His debut work of fiction, The King’s Harvest, won the Tata Literature Live! First Book Award 2013.

The King’s Harvest is a beautifully created book and the novellas in the book revolve around Sikkim. One story An Open-and-Shut Case is a thriller. A woman has hacked her husband into forty seven pieces and confesses at the station. It’s a pretty simple case to shut, but there is more to it than meets the eye. The King’s Harvest is a different kind of story about a man who journeys to visit his king to give him a share of his harvest. Shrestha’s writing is magical and literary. Read the review of the book here: https://wortharead.pub/2016/04/11/book-of-the-month-the-kings-harvest-by-chetan-raj-shreshtha/


3) Manu Joseph is becoming a fast favorite in reader circles in India. Former editor of OPEN magazine and columnist for The International New York Times and The Hindustan Times, this Chevening scholar from Kerala raced into the literary scene with his book Serious Men, a witty and comic take on a father-son adventure.

His second novel The Illicit Happiness of Other People is again a look at the father-son relationship. This time a father tries to understand why his son committed suicide. The book deals with many ideas, the thin line between clarity and sanity and the juxtaposition of homor and tragedy, being some of them. Read the exhaustive review here: https://wortharead.pub/2016/08/23/book-of-the-month-the-illicit-happiness-of-other-people-by-manu-joseph/


4) Upamanyu Chatterjee is an Indian Civil Servant from Bengal who weaves in his fiction and essays literary prose that is reminsiscent of authors like Kafka and Camus and a keen observation of present day India. Chatterjee has produced noteable short stories. His best selling work which catapulted him to the hall of fame was English, August, published in 1988.  The book can evoke a variety of reactions- you could hate the protagonist, a drunk, stoned Westernized individual stuck in rural India or you could pity him. A detailed review here: https://wortharead.pub/2016/02/04/book-of-the-month-english-august-by-upamanyu-chatterjee/

In 2009, he was awarded Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in recognition of his ‘exemplary contribution to contemporary literature’. He has also been awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award for The Mammaries of the Welfare State. His novel Way To Go was shortlisted for The Hindu Best Fiction Award in 2010.


5) Perumal Murugan is a Tamil writer and scholar but some of his works are available in translation. Murugan was in the news last year as he was under attack for the publication of his novel Madhurobhagan, later translated as One Part Woman. An emotional Murugan promised not to wield his pen henceforth. In 2016, the Madras High Court quashed those charges and the writer has decided to write again.

The controversial story centers on the need to have children and how a couple go to great length to fulfill this need.  They find solace in a deity but part of their solace lies in having consensual sex with another partner in order to conceive. The story touches on marriage, social taboos and sexual mores, and though it is set in a distant past, it tells a story still very relevant in India now.

Read the review here: https://wortharead.pub/2016/06/17/book-of-the-month-one-part-woman-by-perumal-murugan/

Slums, Swans and the story of Dr. Sen @ BYOB Party in February, 2016 (Part 1)

It was the eighth anniversary of Pothi.com, the company that Jaya and Abhaya first founded. Last year at approximately the same time, we had our very first book party. The rules are still the same. Unlike conventional book club meets, we don’t discuss only one book. Everyone who comes over talks about a book that they like, and if it’s fiction no spoliers please!

ravan and eddieShruti Garodia, a content writer who has frequented several of our parties, talked about Jaya’s favorite author Kiran Nagarkar’s books.  Ravan and Eddie is a book that she really liked. This book has two sequels: The Extras and Rest in Peace.  Nagarkar explores the lives of slum dwellers, and goes beyond the stereotype. “What’s amazing is how he sustains his idea throughout all his volumes. He understands the essence of people who live in the slums. They are not appalled by their lives as we would be by bad sanitation and lack of basic things. There are no existential questions for them,” Shruti said.

life is an attitudeBaraa Al Mansour, a writer from Syria, who is also doing her PhD in horticulture, likes books that explore philosophy. Life is an Attitude-How to grow forever Better is a book that helped her understand more about the power of self-observation. “When we observe our thoughts, we gain control over our lives and we can separate ourselves from external circumstances.” This statement led to a debate on the efficacy of mindfulness. Have the experts got it wrong again?

notes from undergroundNitin Shukla works as  Application Developer at Maxim Integrated Inc.  He used to live in Delhi and has now moved to Bangalore where books have turned out to be his best friend.  A book that influnced him greatly was Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. “ The book is all about finding patterns and it urges you to go after reasons,intuition, cause and effect.” Another writer he discovered who used the premise of reason excessively well was Dostoevsky. He had been reading Notes from Underground. Jaya advised him to read another reason-obsessed Russian writer, Tolstoy’s  War and Peace. The conversation meandered to Kabir, the Periodic Table and the Russian book festival in Jaipur, with a treasure trove of great science books, a reason for many to celebrate at the party.

the curious case of binayak senSudharsan from Vantage Circle  read The Curious Case of Dr. Binayak Sen by Dilip D Souza, award winning writer and journalist. The book shocked Sudharshan and he recommended that everyone who had a conscience read it.  The book is about Dr, Binayak Sen who is a pediatrician, public health activist  and civil rights activist. He has been accused of sedition and is currently under life imprisonment. Dilip D’Souza has charted out the trajectory of the fall of an individual and the failure of the system. The questions that were discussed were existential in nature. Why is taking a stand wrong? What is the plight of a journalist who dares to tell the truth? Why should one have to take sides when it is impossible and is there more grey than black and white? Why has sensationalism and propoganda replaced the obvious truth?

More books and their readers in Part 2.

Short Book Review: The Extras by Kiran Nagarkar

The ExtrasSBR: Although I am a die-hard fan of the author, this book just doesn’t work. It is the sequel of brilliant and hilarious Ravan And Eddie. The former was absurd, funny and hard-hitting, as it traced the childhood of two boys residing in the same chawl in Mumbai but separated by their floors, religion and ‘family feud’! The Extras takes us into their adulthood, but fails to keep up the absurdity quotient and jarringly alternates between being bawdy plus funny and being overly reflective plus serious, the latter becoming more common as the book progresses. I like what the author has to say about the life, the movies, (the) God and everything else well enough. But he thrusts his thoughts in the mouths of characters and in the situations where they don’t fit. The tone of the book has become a confused mish-mash of the two earlier brilliant books by him – the first being the already mentioned prequel Ravan and Eddie and the second the expansive saga called God’s Little Soldier.

To read or not to read: Read Ravan and Eddie. This book can be skipped. Or for completely different works of genius from the same author, read Cuckold or God’s Little Soldier.