Who doesn’t traveling to new places and discovering new cultures? My parents trained me at a young age to love the thrill of boarding an airplane to discover new corners of the world, so I’ve caught the travel bug for over twenty years now. I often like to combine my love of travel with my bookworm tendencies – and this marriage between adventure and literature is an extra-sweet one.
Whenever I have an upcoming trip, I select a few titles to read in preparation for the journey. I like to mix it up with both fiction and non-fiction choices. My dad and I are going to India this fall (!!!!!), a country I’ve been mildly obsessed over since I read my childhood copy of The Secret Garden, and I’ve started picking out a few books to read. Here is a sampling:
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
- According to the Hindustan Times: “The first Indian novel to win the Booker Prize, Roy’s only novel so far has sold more than six million copies. Set in Kerala, it is about family and social injustices, about relationships that cross lines and how things fall apart in the bargain.” Sounds deliciously intriguing.
- A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
- A love story, or the pursuit of love in 1950’s, newly independent India. The story centers around Lata and her mother Rupa as they search for a proper husband for Lata. Sweeping family saga, multiple families and generations, love and tragedy? Sign me up! As we saw in my last review, I’m quite the fan of those epic stories.
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
- Set in 1975 during a declared State of Emergency, another sweeping saga of four strangers being thrust together in one place. Goodreads describes this book as having the qualities and scope of a Dickens novel. My favorite book happens to be David Copperfield. I think I’m going to like Indian literature justtttt fine.
- A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
- A lady’s desire to escape the British paternalistic side of India and see the “real” India? An adventure that turns into drama? Yes please! It doesn’t hurt that this story was written by E.M. Forster, one of my favorite writers, or that I’ve always had a fascination with British imperialism in fiction since my first reading of “A Little Princess.”
- Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
- I have such a writer-crush on Jhumpa Lahiri! She is so articulate, graceful, and entrancing. This is a collection of stories that jump back and forth between India and America, connected by the idea of foreignness (whether by a physical or emotional isolation). It looks like a quick read, as well, especially compared to some of the other books on my list (I see you down there, 1000+ page “A Suitable Boy.”)
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
- The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a villager turned businessman. Exploring the depth of contradictions and complications of Indian society, this novel. The winner of the Man Booker prize and highly rated on Goodreads, it sounds like an entertaining and informative satire.
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
by Katherine Boo
- Katherine Boo is a Pulitzer-Prize winning writer, nbd. This narrative follows the strife Indian families undergo as they work towards a better life in a caste-centered society.
- India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy
by Ramachandra Guha
- India is the world’s largest, yet least likely democracy. This book delves into the political and social landscape of India after its independence and seeks to understand its success despite its wide array of language, economy, and culture.
- The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas
by Mahatma Gandhi, Louis Fischer (Editor)
- How can I go to India without learning more about the Father of India? In high school I watched the epic movie about his life, but I don’t remember much of the story. Can’t wait to learn more about his thoughts on politics, spirituality, and love.
I know it’ll be difficult to read ALL of these books before my trip, especially between all of my other books in my TBR pile, but a girl can dream, right?!