How many of these 70 iconic Indian books have you read?
Curated by Chiki Sarkar
August 12, 2017
Poetry to popular fiction, history to economics, memoir to novel: Publisher Chiki Sarkar selects 70 books about the nation written in English post-independence.
(Read how she curated the list)
How many of these books have you read? Click, share and flaunt.
A note from Chiki Sarkar, publisher and founder of Juggernaut Books, on she how curated this reading list.
Lists are an impossible thing. They are always partial, bound to disappoint more than please, and yet they're seductive pive because of their imperfection. Who doesn't like passing along one of them and grumbling about it or nodding their head in approval at the odd right choice. When The Hindustan Times asked me to compile the 70 greatest books written in English post Independence, I decided to jump into the deep end.
What makes a great book? Is it a book that's historically important (eg the first memoir written by a dalit) or one that stands the test of time? Often a book is highly regarded at the time of publication but forgotten thereafter. Sashtibrata's My God Died Young caused a stir in the 60s but no one seems to remember it now. Should one put in books that have won major prizes, even if one disagrees with the verdict? And what about books that have won large readerships?
In the non-fiction category should one include works of great scholarship or find books that are meant for the general reader? Amartya Sen's most important work is strictly for the scholars. And where does one place great books on India which are written by non Indians--it would be pushy to include Naipaul as an Indian for example, but he might qualify as being a 'non-Indian' who happened to write great books on India. In fiction, not being able to include Indian languages hobbles any list. The fact that this list doesn't include a Krisna Sobti or Sundara Ramaswamy is I think its greatest flaw.
I consulted a diverse group of people for this list and came up with the following criteria apart from HT's own rule - that the books had to be written in English. The books on my list had to meet one or more of the following:
1. A book that had social impact (Created a debate, a new readership or won a major prize).
2. One that stands the test of time for its superb quality.
3. Books a general reader can read. The only scholarly books that have been included are ones that have changed the way we see the world.
4. A few extraordinary translations from Indian languages to English- where we are recognising the translation, not the work itself. In these books the translator rather than the author's name are mentioned front up.
5. Books by some foreigners on India of outstanding merit.
6. Only one book per author.