Through a Foreigner’s Eyes and Words: 10 Books on India That Provide a New Perspective

Many foreigners have written about India – a land so diverse, chaotic and hard to define that most Indians feel they haven’t done justice to the subject. But, here’s a look at books by some foreigners, many of whom call India home now and some who have travelled here extensively, who give us a beautiful perspective on our own country.

1. City Of Djinns: A Year in Delhi, by William Dalrymple

First published by Penguin Books in 1993.

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This book helps you delve deeper into Delhi’s history. It’s a colourful book with vibrant characters. A blend of research and adventure make it an engaging read.

2. Kim, by Rudyard Kiping

First published by McClure’s magazine and MacMillan & Co. in 1901

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The British Raj, India’s startling landscape, a collision of different worlds – Kim is all this and much more. It’s a beautiful story of friendship and traces the story of two men, a white boy and an old priest, and the connection they have.

3. Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo

First published by Random House in 2012

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Your heart will break a little as you go through the stories of people in a bustling metropolis, unforgettable characters trying to find better lives in the chaos. There is a lot of reportage in this book and it isn’t slow at all. You’ll be hooked!

4. India’s Unending Journey, by Mark Tully

First published by Rider in 2007

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Mark Tully’s gem focuses on India’s tryst with tradition and modernity. Tully was born in India and studied in Britain, thanks to which his diverse experiences have shaped his unique perspective. He gives a lot of food for thought, especially in terms of India’s journey being our journey, striving towards a better future.

5. A Passage To India, by E.M Forster

First published by Edward Arnold in 1924.

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A fascinating plot, A Passage to India is hard to put down. The book begins in Chandrapore and examines complex issues in a unique manner. Its characters are caught between imperialism and a mixture of political and cultural conflicts in the modern world. This book is a satisfying read, guaranteed to give you some insights into both India and the human mind.

6. India: A Portrait, by Patrick French

First published by Knopf in 2010.

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Patrick French combines a larger narrative with stories to spin a rich story that seeks to look at India’s massive potential. India’s political, economic and social complexities are at the forefront in this book, which tries to answer many questions that have hounded us for years in a compelling manner.

7. Freedom At Midnight, by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre

First published by Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd in 1975.

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A thrilling tale, Freedom At Midnight is a work of non-fiction that tracks down events around the time of the Partition and Indian independence between 1947 and 1948. The people that make an appearance in this saga include Lord Mountbatten, Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and Jawaharlal Nehru.

8. Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse

First published by New Directions in 1922.

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This novel is about a young man who decides to leave his life and family behind for a spiritual awakening. It sees the protagonist go through a number of conflicts and his quest for wisdom and understanding. It’s a classic tale, much-loved and revered among bibliophiles.

9. City Of Joy, by Dominque Lapierre

First published by Arrow in 1985.

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This book was made into a film starring Patrick Swayze. It’s an uplifting tale about an American doctor who came to India and found a spiritual awakening within himself, on Calcutta’s wildly chaotic streets.

10. India: A Million Mutinies Now, by V.S Naipaul

First published by Heinemann in 1990.

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Naipaul is of Indian heritage but was born in Trinidad where he grew up. He discovered that his roots really defined him and made him who he was. He went on to write this book, passionately depicting a country he returns to with his arresting narrative.

Featured Image Source: Zastavki

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