Books to read before traveling to India

The time has finally come.  Our  trip to India is right around the corner.  I can’t believe it!  I suspect the time will really fly, and before I know it, I will be getting on that airplane.

But before I go, I have a lot of reading to get through.  When I traveled to Europe, I did some preparatory reading (see my Italy Recommendation here), but I didn’t feel as urgent about it as I do now.  India is so far away from my own life experience that to really get the most out of the trip I want to be prepared as much as possible.  Luckily, since I am going with a faculty group from a University,  we will be meeting several times a month to discuss assigned readings.  In addition to the assigned readings, I have put together a book list for myself.  Here is the end result.  I hope to make it through this list by the time we go this Spring.  I hope I can do it!

1.  India: a History, by John Keay: a narrative history known for its readability.

2.  The Illustrated World’s Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions, by Huston Smith: beautifully written, mystical, respectful approach to religion.

3.  The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War, translated by Barbara Stoler Miller: classic Indian Epic poem.

4.  The Ramayana: a Shortened Modern Prose Version of the India Epic, by R.K. Narayan: most famous and most influential ancient text of all time.

5.  Partitions, by Amit Majmudar: novel told from the perspective of one already passed on about India’s traumatic partition.

6.  Sister India, by Peggy Payne: murder mystery novel told from the perspective of an English Innkeeper in Varanasi.

7.  Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie: classic “fairy tale, political satire, and meditation” set in the time of Indian independence from British rule.

8.  Sister of My Heart, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: the story of two cousins and their lives of growth and heartbreak.

I also recently read a biography about Ghandi, and followed that up by watching the epic movie that swept the Oscars many years back.  Both were amazing.

We just ordered Lagaan; we have heard this is one of the best Bollywood movies.

I will let you know how these all turn out.  Please–I would love to hear from you.  Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?  And more importantly, is there anything I should add to this list?

Well, gotta go.  You know, I have reading to do!


13 thoughts on “Books to read before traveling to India

  1. Sister of My Heart and Midnight Children both look really wonderful. Hopefully, at some point in my life I will travel to India and will read all of these books beforehand.

  2. I found John Keay’s book India: A History very helpful in setting the background for our travels through India. Whilst reading it, I kept trying to remember what was happening in Europe at the same time and to connect the two. I also read some of the William Dalyrimple books whilst on the road and thoroughly enjoyed them. Have a great trip.

    • Good to know. The book is slightly daunting–I usually prefer fiction but that is not always the best way. I really want to understand the country more, so I am glad it was relevant to your travel. I need to go back through your blog and revisit your India posts!

  3. Have an amazing time, I’m sure you’ll love India. Good idea reading books before hand, I wish I would’ve done that before I went on my trip in 2008 🙂 My boyfriend’s friend from Delhi recommended reading “Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure.” Check it out, its apparently pretty funny and from a westerner’s perspective of India.

  4. I love that youout together these book lists. I think I will start on the Italy books incase we move to London next and then work my way through your India books. Keep putting these lists together 🙂

  5. Wow, I didn’t realize you were going to India along with Uncle Bryce! That will be an awesome experience. I can’t wait to read your report about it. And I wish I could sample the food along with you! Do you have to get a bunch of vaccinations before going?
    The only 3rd world experience I’ve had was going to Egypt, and Aaron and I agree that that was by far our most memorable trip.
    When do you leave and for how long?

    • Yes, I am so excited and grateful the University and my family are allowing me this opportunity! My Sister in Law is coming from Kansas City hold down the fort while we are gone! I think it will be very memorable. I am hoping I can do some blogging from the road, but that will all depend on my internet access!

  6. Pingback: Roots of American History: Reading for a Boston Trip–10 Recommendations | The Traveling Humanist

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