The best books on Contemporary India, recommended by Kapil Komireddi

As the world’s biggest democracy, India could be an inspiring example of how a multiethnic, multilingual country with many different religions can come together to form a vibrant state with equality enshrined in its constitution. But all that is in danger of going down the drain, as the country transforms into a brutally exclusionary Hindu-supremacist state under the leadership of Narendra Modi, says Kapil Komireddi, essayist and author of Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India. Here, he talks us through how the country got to where it is now and recommends five books that present a “comprehensive picture” of contemporary India.

The best books on India, recommended by Pankaj Mishra

The world’s largest democracy isn’t something that has just materialised in the past 60 years, says the Indian essayist and novelist. He chooses books that illustrate India’s complex history and diverse society.

The best books on Gandhi, recommended by Ramachandra Guha

Gandhi’s peaceful resistance to British rule changed India and inspired freedom movements around the globe. But as well as being an inspiring leader, Gandhi was also a human being. Ramachandra Guha, author of a new two-part biography of Gandhi, introduces us to books that give a fuller picture of the man who came to be known as ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi.

The best books on The Mughal Empire, recommended by Richard M. Eaton

The Mughals ruled the Indian subcontinent for three centuries, a multicultural empire that brought together an extraordinary mix of Mongol, Islamic, Persian and Indian practices, religious beliefs and philosophies. Here, historian Richard M. Eaton, a professor at the University of Arizona, chooses some of the best scholarly works on the Mughals that shed new light on how the empire functioned.

The best books on Mumbai, recommended by Saumya Roy

It’s one of the most densely populated, vibrant cities in the world, combining enormous wealth with dire poverty. It’s India’s financial and commercial capital, home to the glamour of Bollywood and the movie industry, but it has somehow managed to defy modernization. Saumya Roy, journalist, author and co-founder of a nonprofit that made loans to the city’s poorest entrepreneurs, recommends her favourite books on Mumbai (aka Bombay).

The Best South Asian Novels in Translation, recommended by Jenny Bhatt

The writer and translator Jenny Bhatt selects five key works of South Asian literature, all historical novels available in English translation, that showcase the richness and diversity of the region’s lesser known languages: from a modernist classic decrying the depradations of the coal mining industry to a ‘loose, baggy monster’ of a Victorian novel exploring utopian ideals.

The best books on The Indian Economy, recommended by Kaushik Basu

Kaushik Basu, Professor of Economics at Cornell and former Chief Economist of the World Bank (2012-2016), says there’s a Gandhian way of evaluating society that takes account of both growth and inequality, and tells us why his job is an anthropologist’s dream come true. He picks the best books to understand India’s economy.

The Best Indian Novels of 2019, recommended by Rana Dasgupta

India has a thriving literary community working in 22 official languages plus English, says Rana Dasgupta, the literary director of the JCB Prize: a major award for the best new novel by an Indian author. Here, he talks us through their 2019 shortlist.

The best books on Indian Cricket, recommended by Prashant Kidambi

South Asia has become the beating heart of cricket, with wild enthusiasm for the game at every level of society. Historian Prashant Kidambi—whose book, Cricket Country, was shortlisted for the 2020 Wolfson History Prize—takes us through the history of cricket in India, from its traditional, colonial roots through to the colourful, frenetic national game of today.

The best books on India, recommended by Lord Meghnad Desai

Labour peer and professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, Meghnad Desai, marvels at the Indian people’s incredible tenacity for democracy and self-advancement since independence in 1947. He picks the best books on India.

The best books on Yoga, recommended by Liz Derow

Contrary to its popularization in Western culture, yoga isn’t just a form of fitness: its history is rooted in a long Hindu tradition shaped by great teachers in India. Here we have the best books for those who want to learn more about yoga, recommended by Liz Derow, a longtime practitioner and teacher of yoga in India and around the world.

The best books on Asia’s Rivers, recommended by Victor Mallet

Human history has been founded on the banks of great rivers – but in the East they are increasingly the focus of bitter international and environmental dispute, says Victor Mallet, the journalist and author of River of Life, River of Death. Here he selects five brilliant books that profile Asia’s most celebrated waterways.

The best books on India, recommended by Patrick French

The author of the acclaimed India: A Portrait takes us around the world’s largest democracy, from the dance bars of Bombay to Kerala crab curry on the Southwest coast. Patrick French picks the best books on India.